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G20 protests: how mayhem was plotted in dingy pub cellar
A disjointed band of middle-class academics, squatters and students is behind the plans to bring "mayhem" to the streets of London as world leaders gather for the G20 summit.
By Kurt Jones
Details of the anti-capitalist protests, which police fear could turn violent, were thrashed out in a clandestine meeting in a dingy pub cellar last Sunday organised by Chris Knight, who has since been suspended from his job as a university professor over comments that bankers would be "hanging from lampposts".
Prof Knight, 66, is the leader of a group calling itself G20 Meltdown, an umbrella organisation for the radicals who will descend on London to "storm the banks".
The white-haired veteran of Labour's long defunct Militant Tendency reportedly told one interviewer this week that "if they want violence, they'll get it", but last week's meeting, which was attended by an undercover Daily Telegraph reporter, veered wildly from the sinister to the farcical.
Alongside Prof Knight were Marina Pepper, a former soft porn model turned Liberal Democrat Councillor, and Camilla Power, a lecturer who works with Prof Knight at the University of East London's anthropology department.
Whilst the radical intellectuals present at the meeting are unlikely to be the ones wielding bricks if the protests turn to violence, they are fully aware that their marches could become a focus for hardline anarchist groups intent on smashing property or clashing with police.
Websites run by agitators such as the incongruously-named Wombles are abuzz with talk of the G20 Meltdown event, with thinly-veiled threats of violence and pictures of men wielding guns and sticks.
Police believe anarchists who have helped spark riots at previous international summits will descend on London and attach themselves, unannounced, to Prof Knight's protest.
"People are angry," Prof Knight announced gruffly as he convened the meeting. "The public will surprise us on the day."
Sitting behind a desk piled high with thousands of fake anti-capitalist bank notes which he intends to distribute outside the Bank of England on April 1, he made it clear to his cohorts that the ultimate aim of the protests was "to overthrow capitalism".
The main object of the meeting, he said, was to arrange "Phase two" of the protests which will begin today – forcing London businesses to switch off their lights at 8.30pm to mark Earth Hour, an international energy-saving switch-off.
Protesters would fan out across London, he envisaged, to target landmark commercial buildings and, if necessary, entering them to switch off the lights themselves.
But after listing Canary Wharf and the BT Tower, Prof Knight appeared to run out of ideas.
Prof Knight, who believes the world will abolish international borders and become a single country by June of this year, often went off on baffling tangents, at one point calling for the Bank of England to be converted into a state-run brothel.
Ms Power, meanwhile, complained about the difficulty of making enough ghoulish costumes in time for the marches on April 1, which will feature four separate columns of protesters converging on the Bank of England and marching behind four home-made horsemen of the apocalypse.
"I've gone on to some zombie websites to try and rustle up some interest," she said, "but you can never be sure if they are the type of people to turn up on the day."
Two teenagers from Bristol passed round a photo of a giant Monopoly board they were making to bring to the protests, while someone else showed off pictures of a giant anaconda they intended to bring to the "green" procession.
Mrs Pepper fretted over how to make sure everyone was provided with cups of tea on the day, eventually offering to bring her own kettle.
Fewer than 15 people were in the room beneath the Foundry Pub in Shoreditch, east London, and they included representatives of an arts group planning to stage a silent dance outside the Bank of England, and others who intended to drive a tank into the City.
Details of the meeting had been kept secret, but the Telegraph's reporter was invited along after attending a meeting at a squat in Whitechapel, east London, the previous week, where Mrs Pepper addressed a group of students and squatters, mostly from overseas, including Kurds and Poles.
Some feared being deported and others already had convictions and feared a jail sentence if caught.
Prof Knight said after the meeting that: "If Gordon Brown deploys his riot police, or sends in his agents provocateurs to start trouble as an excuse to attack us, all hell will break loose."
His supporters have tried to dismiss his comments as tongue-in-cheek, but police remain convinced that a hard core of anarchists will try to hijack the protests today, regardless of what Prof Knight has to say.