Bankers and other City workers have, according to the Evening Standard, been told to dress down on 1 April to avoid being targeted by protesters on Financial Fools’ Day. Apparently, some companies are also telling employees to avoid the corporate dress-down uniform. It should be obvious that chinos and loafers make you look as much like a banker as a pin-striped suit does but British executives have long struggled with dress down days so it’s worth spelling out the new rules.
But I’m not sure how much of this is necessary. I’ve been around long enough to have seen a few of these anti-capitalist demos, as they have become known. While the protesters may be noisy and the more violent ones have attacked property in the past, I’ve never known them to pick on passers by. Whatever their motives, most of the protesters are idealists and random attacks on individuals are not their style. A person walking through the City in a suit is not necessarily a banker or even anyone connected with the banks. Most of the protesters know that. I may end up having to eat my words but I would be surprised if anyone is attacked just because they look a bit corporate.
Apart from the protesters, though, the people who will really be having a ball next week are the heads of security at the City’s large corporate buildings. Many of them are ex-army or ex-police and often they tend to feel ignored and undervalued for much of the year. But next week will be their time in the sun. During the last major protest, I remember our security staff mounting a military style operation. They had set up communications with the police and with other security officers in other firms. They had a map on the wall where they plotted the movements of various protesters. As I stood talking to one of the guards in reception, on his radio he was getting regular updates on where the protesters were. I remember him telling me that McDonald’s on Holborn had been trashed. It was all very impressive. No doubt the security staff at all the major London offices are already preparing for war. They will probably enjoy themselves as much as the protesters.
In my experience, these anti-City protests are never as bad as they are hyped up to be. I expect there will be a lot of noise next week and some isolated violent incidents but I would be surprised if the mayhem gleefully predicted by the media actually comes to pass.
That said, I’m going to miss it all anyway as I will be out of town for much of next week. If I were going into the City, though, I might err on the side of caution and leave the suit in the wardrobe.