G20 protest day wraps up peacefully

By Nathan Paull

The busiest day of G20 protests has ended without major incident or any sign of the violent anarchist groups that had concerned police.

Thousands of people took part in up to 20 separate rallies in Brisbane on Saturday on everything from climate change and indigenous rights to asylum seekers and opposing views on the Russian president.

Four people were arrested as the first day of the leaders summit played out, including a man who wore a Guy Fawkes mask to a rally and serial protester Ciaron O'Reilly, who had breached his ban from the G20 security zone.

Queensland police deputy commissioner Ross Barnett praised the conduct of the protesters, particularly those who took part in the People's March in sweltering heat through the CBD and over the Brisbane River to South Bank.

The march was the biggest protest event on the day, involving more than 1000 people from a cross section of community and interest groups.

"The multiple groups who joined together for the march worked constructively with the police commanders and negotiators in difficult conditions to ensure that the march proceeded without incident," Mr Barnett told reporters.

"This outcome is not accidental and reflects the goodwill and trust on both sides, which has been built up with negotiations by both groups over the many, many months prior to G20."

Police were quick to avoid any conflict between protest groups, ensuring pro-Russian demonstrators at South Bank did not cross paths with members of Brisbane's small Ukrainian community across the river in the CBD.

A police line also kept right-wing Cossack protesters, with extreme views like the abolition of democracy in Russia, away from the more moderate RUstralia group who gathered in South Bank to celebrate Russian culture.

There was even a protest of a different kind - a pro-capitalist rally supporting G20 countries' push for free market trade.

"Welcome to the only protest here today where people have had a shower in the past week," University of Queensland law professor Jim Allan jokingly told the crowd of mainly Young Liberals to highlight the contrast from other left-wing protest groups.

Police were praised by the unlikeliest of supporters - civil libertarian Terry O'Gorman - who said his 100 independent legal observers witnessed "exemplary" behaviour.

"You've seen calmness, you've seen professionalism," he said.

Police Minister Jack Dempsey said the relatively relaxed atmosphere, including a pub visit among revellers from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was testament to the two years of security planning that had gone into hosting the event.

"The fact you have the German chancellor at Caxton Street and the British prime minister (David Cameron) walking down the street to parliament is indicative of the confidence the international security teams have in our operations," he said.

Assistant Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said although there was no intelligence to suggest violent groups would strike on Sunday, a heavy police presence would remain on the streets during the final day of the leaders summit.