Image: Protesters in London have tea
Akira Suemori  /  AP
Demonstrators against the G20 gather to have a cup of tea in front of the Bank of England in central London on Tuesday. World leaders will gather for a meeting on the global financial crisis in London on Thursday.
updated 3/31/2009 11:51:06 AM ET 2009-03-31T15:51:06

Protesters sat down for tea, cake and cookies outside the Bank of England on Tuesday, a genteel start to what they vow will be a noisy, angry reception for President Barack Obama and other leaders attending the G-20 summit.

The handful of demonstrators said they hoped many more would join them Wednesday, which has been dubbed "Financial Fools Day" by demonstrators.

"I think thousands of people are going to come onto the streets," said Marina Pepper, 41, a former model turned politician and environmental campaigner. "Bring your own tea."

The summit will try to hammer out a coordinated response to the global recession.

'Unprecedented' security challenge
Police have said they face an "unprecedented" security challenge from the presence of a score of world leaders alongside thousands of anti-capitalist, environmental and other demonstrators protesting the impact of the economic meltdown.

The London Chamber of Commerce has advised workers in the financial district to wear casual clothing or consider working from home to avoid demonstrators' ire.

Many said they would comply, swapping suits for jeans and sneakers.

"We'll dress casually. We don't want people spraying our suits with paint," said Andrew Crawford, 39, who works for a financial training company near the Bank of England.

Police, worried by the ever-present threat of terrorist attack as well as by the protests, say they will have thousands of officers on duty, some armed with stun guns. Patrol boats will ply the River Thames and divers will scour the water for bombs.

'No violence can be tolerated'
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday that the police "will act very quickly if there is any threat to property or people."

"No violence can be tolerated, no intimidation of people is allowed," Brown told breakfast television program GMTV.

Protesters say police are exaggerating the potential for violence. "It's a party, not a riot," said one sign at Tuesday's demonstration.

On Saturday, some 35,000 people marched through London to demand jobs, economic justice and environmental accountability. Police made one arrest.

Police say the majority of protesters will be peaceful, but they are concerned about the actions of small groups.

They fear scenes like those seen at May Day anti-globalization protests in 2000 and 2001, when small groups of anarchists broke away from peaceful marches, smashing shop windows and daubing graffiti on war memorials.

Five arrested in Plymouth
On Monday police arrested five people in Plymouth , southwest England, under anti-terrorism legislation after discovering imitation firearms, fireworks and what they called "political literature" in an apartment. Law enforcement officials said officers were investigating whether the group planned to target the summit.

On Wednesday, demonstrators from a group called G-20 Meltdown plan to converge from four London subway stations on the imposing edifice of the Bank of England, led by multicolored figures representing four horsemen of the economic apocalypse — war, climate chaos, financial crimes and "land enclosures and borders."

Not all bankers were hostile to the protests.

"There could be a lot of us bankers in there as well," said Paul Bellamy, 43, who works for an Islamic bank in the City. "Ninety percent of us are just normal people."

More on G20

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Video: Obama heads to London for G-20

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