WHEN 35 Greenpeace protesters stormed the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) yesterday they had planned the operation in great detail.
What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement.
“We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow boy spivs. Total thugs,” one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. “I’ve never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.”
Another said: “I took on a Texan Swat team at Esso last year and they were angels compared with this lot.” Behind him, on the balcony of the pub opposite the IPE, a bleary-eyed trader, pint in hand, yelled: “Sod off, Swampy.”
Greenpeace had hoped to paralyse oil trading at the exchange in the City near Tower Bridge on the day that the Kyoto Protocol came into force. “The Kyoto Protocol has modest aims to improve the climate and we need huge aims,” a spokesman said.
Protesters conceded that mounting the operation after lunch may not have been the best plan. “The violence was instant,” Jon Beresford, 39, an electrical engineer from Nottingham, said.
“They grabbed us and started kicking and punching. Then when we were on the floor they tried to push huge filing cabinets on top of us to crush us.”
They made their way to the trading floor, blowing whistles and sounding fog horns, encountering little resistance from security guards. Rape alarms were tied to helium balloons to float to the ceiling and create noise out of reach. The IPE conducts “open outcry” trading where deals are shouted across the pit. By making so much noise, the protesters hoped to paralyse trading.
But they were set upon by traders, most of whom were under the age of 25. “They were kicking and punching men and women indiscriminately,” a photographer said. “It was really ugly, but Greenpeace did not fight back.”
Mr Beresford said: “They followed the guys into the lobby and kept kicking and punching them there. They literally kicked them on to the pavement.”