British Police Saturday prevented anti-capitalist activists from occupying the London Stock Exchange (LSE), they said.
Several hundred protesters, who had organised the event online, were bidding to replicate the huge demonstrations which have been taking place in New York’s Wall Street.
But police cordoned off Paternoster Square, where the Stock Exchange is located, as several hundred supporters of the Occupy London Stock Exchange movement tried to march in from adjacent St Paul’s Cathedral. A notice was put up stating that the square is private property and access would be restricted.
Police said a High Court injunction had been taken out to prevent members of the public from accessing the square.
A spokesman for the protesters said: “We are doing this to challenge the bankers and the financial institutions which recklessly gambled our economy. This occupation and 20 other occupations all around the UK have been directly inspired by what’s happening all across America and especially Wall Street.”
The spokesman added that the protesters’ intentions were to gain access to Paternoster Square, where they planned to hold an assembly to decide the nature of the occupation in the heart of London’s financial district.
Activists carried banners with slogans such as “We are the 99%” and “Bankers got a bailout, we got sold out”.
After the attempt to occupy Paternoster Square failed, protesters returned to their previous position in front of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Police confirmed they had made one arrest. Later, a Scotland Yard spokesman said two arrests had been made for assaults on police officers.
After protesters returned to St Paul’s Churchyard, the square in front of the cathedral, police prevented more people trying to join the protest by cutting off access points. Several hundred protesters congregated behind the police lines and heckled officers for not allowing anyone through.
Police at the scene denied that a “kettling”, cornering protesters, technique had been put in place to close protesters in and said they were free to leave the square.
An assembly took placed during which the protesters discussed their further course of action.
Well-known activists including Julian Assange were among the protesters. Assange, creator of the Wikileaks website, addressed the crowds on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. A rumour had previously gone round on Twitter that he had been arrested.
A spokeswoman for the protesters confirmed that he had been challenged by police for wearing a mask as he walked to the protest.
She said: “As I understand it, Julian initially refused to take the mask off. Police detained him for 15 minutes before letting him go. “He then gave a speech in which he talked about Wikileaks, police oppression and the current economic situation.”