Anti-Capitalist Event in London Turns Violent

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

London ( - An anti-capitalist demonstration in central London turned ugly Monday, with some protestors trashing a McDonald's restaurant and hurling projectiles at police after a weekend of otherwise peaceful events marking May Day.

Riot police sealed off the Whitehall area - where many British government ministries are located - as rioters wearing scarves or masks used bricks, hammers and batons to smash the windows of the McDonalds restaurant, sprayed graffiti, and pulled down its sign.

Seven people were arrested, and at least one police officer was injured.

The violence culminated four days of demonstrations over the bank holiday weekend, focusing on global capitalism, environmental concerns, new anti-terrorism legislation and "real democracy."

Earlier, the May Day event saw thousands of people fill Parliament Square. Some began to dig up areas of the square and plant seeds in what organizers called a "guerrilla gardening" exercise.

The idea was for campaigners symbolically to return urban areas to nature, and many came armed with seeds, plants and gardening equipment.

Most of the participants were peaceful, and a carnival atmosphere prevailed.

Police presence was substantial amid fears of violence similar to that experienced during protests last year in the city's financial district, and again in Seattle earlier this year.

Last year's May Day demonstrations saw more than $3 million worth of property damage. Organizers this year billed the event as a carnival and anti-capitalist celebration, not a protest.

In a statement issued earlier, Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative Party spokesman on London, warned the public to stay away from central London.

He accused Ken Livingstone - the maverick left-wing lawmaker who is the favorite to be elected London's mayor on Thursday - of sympathizing with the anti-capitalists' agenda.

"If elected, Livingstone will make London the riot capital of the developed world," Jenkin said. "Livingstone's anti-capitalism would destroy the capital and destroy the prosperity of the greatest city in the world."

Livingstone was expelled from the ruling Labor Party after declaring he would run as an independent candidate for mayor of London, against the official Labor candidate and several other contenders.

May Day saw violence erupt in Germany as well. In Berlin clashes broke out between far-right and far-left groups, while leftist protestors battled police in Hamburg.

Pope John Paul II told a May Day service that "globalization of finance, of the economy, of commerce and of work should never be allowed to violate the dignity and centrality of the human person or the democracy of peoples."

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow