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Police arrest 50 people in London during protest described as “anti-capitalist” by computer hacking group ‘Anonymous’

The actions were part of its annual “Million Mask March,” with a broad theme of opposition to “corruption, censorship, inequality and war”

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An effigy of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is burned as part of Bonfire Night celebrations in Edenbridge, England, Nov. 5, 2016. VOA
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Washington, November 6, 2016: British police arrested nearly 50 people in London Saturday during a protest they described as “anti-capitalist,” organized by the computer hacking group known as Anonymous.

A similar demonstration in Washington, said to be “anti-corruption,” resulted in two arrests for defacing or damaging public property.

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The Anonymous group said the actions were part of its annual “Million Mask March,” with a broad theme of opposition to “corruption, censorship, inequality and war.” Scattered reports of small-scale demonstrations in other cities have appeared on social media.

Many demonstrators were disguised as Guy Fawkes, wearing masks with a stylized image of the 17th-century revolutionary who plotted to blow up the British Parliament. Anonymous has adopted the Guy Fawkes visage, which first appeared in the cult film V for Vendetta, as a symbol of its anti-establishment stance.

Britons traditionally remember Guy Fawkes each year on November 5, known as Bonfire Night, by celebrations in towns and cities throughout the country, usually with large public bonfires commemorating the foiled Gunpowder Plot in 1605.

London crowd spreads

The largest crowd for Saturday’s Million Mask March demonstration was in London. The Independent newspaper said several thousand people turned out in central London and began marching toward Trafalgar Square, ignoring restrictions imposed on the event. London police had issued a public warning beforehand that “masked criminals seeking to run amok” were expected.

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The march began peacefully, with the crowd chanting “Whose streets? Our streets,” and “One solution: revolution” as police officers walked beside the protesters.

When the crowd reached Trafalgar Square, fireworks were set off, several demonstrators climbed onto the base of a tall stone column that honors the British naval hero Lord Nelson, and others split off in groups marching along routes that had not been approved by police.

Officers wearing protective helmets and carrying riot gear moved into the crowd, demanding that protesters remove their masks and identify themselves, and detaining those who refused. By late evening, 47 people had been arrested — many for drug offenses, others for obstruction, criminal damage and other infractions.

Incidents in U.S.

In Washington, meanwhile, police reported protesters spray-painted graffiti at FBI headquarters, midway between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, as well as at the nearby Trump International Hotel. A city police car was damaged at some point, and two men were arrested.

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In what appeared to be an unconnected incident, the U.S. Secret Service said officers arrested a man who was walking near the White House carrying a firearm. The executive mansion was briefly placed on lockdown, but President Barack Obama was not present at the time.

Obama was enjoying the sunny autumn afternoon by playing golf at the time at an Air Force base outside Washington, when the security incident occurred downtown. (VOA)

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World’s Anti-Corruption Day

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges "to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide."

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Bulgarian anti-corruption protesters march during a demonstration in downtown Sofia, VOA

Corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations, which is marking International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday.

“Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune,” the United Nations said.

The cost of $2.6 trillion represents more than 5 percent of global GDP.

The world body said that $1 trillion of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes.

Patricia Moreira, the managing director of Transparency International, told VOA that about a quarter of the world’s population has paid a bribe when trying to access a public service over the past year, according to data from the Global Corruption Barometer.

Moreira said it is important to have such a day as International Anti-Corruption Day because it provides “a really tremendous opportunity to focus attention precisely on the challenge that is posed by corruption around the world.”

Journalist, Anti-Corruption
An activist places candles and flowers on the Great Siege monument, after rebuilding a makeshift memorial to assassinated anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta. VOA

Anti-corruption commitments

To mark the day, the United States called on all countries to implement their international anti-corruption commitments including through the U.N. Convention against Corruption.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, as well as undermines economic growth, the rule of law and democracy.

“Ultimately, it endangers our national security. That is why, as we look ahead to International Anticorruption Day on Dec. 9, we pledge to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide,” the statement said.

Moreira said that data about worldwide corruption can make the phenomena understandable but still not necessarily “close to our lives.” For that, we need to hear everyday stories about people impacted by corruption and understand that it “is about our daily lives,” she added.

She said those most impacted by corruption are “the most vulnerable people — so it’s usually women, it’s usually poor people, the most marginalized people in the world.”

Anti-Corruption
Anna Hazare raised his voice against corruption and went ahead with his hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Development Program notes that in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

What can be done to fight corruption?

The United Nations designated Dec. 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day in 2003, coinciding with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption by the U.N. General Assembly.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about corruption and put pressure on governments to take action against it.

Tackling the issue

Moreira said to fight corruption effectively it must be tackled from different angles. For example, she said that while it is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption, governments must also have mechanisms to enforce that legislation. She said those who engage in corruption must be held accountable.

“Fighting corruption is about providing people with a more sustainable world, with a world where social justice is something more of our reality than what it has been until today,” she said.

Anti-Corruption
It is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption

Moreira said change must come from a joint effort from governments, public institutions, the private sector and civil society.

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges “to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide.”

It noted that the United States, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, helps partner nations “build transparent, accountable institutions and strengthen criminal justice systems that hold the corrupt accountable.”

Also Read: British Parliament Access Internal Facebook Data Scandal Papers: Report

Moreira said that it is important for the world to see that there are results to the fight against corruption.

“Then we are showing the world with specific examples that we can fight against corruption, [that] yes there are results. And if we work together, then it is something not just that we would wish for, but actually something that can be translated into specific results and changes to the world,” she said. (VOA)