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But those ladies were clearly no sartorial competition for Obama, who wore the same Isabel Toledo tuxedo tank dress to dinner she’d worn earlier to Buckingham Palace — minus the black cardigan. The First Lady will face dueling dresses at dawn in a few days, though, when she will meet French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy at the NATO 60th Anniversary Summit events in Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany. The Obamas then travel to Prague for a European Union Summit before ending their first European tour in Istanbul on Monday.
Not that everything about the visit has been love-and-kisses. The Obamas were winning hearts, they — along with the other G-20 leaders — were causing serious gridlock across town on Wednesday. The traffic, compounded with the chaos from various demonstrations in the City and central London, brought parts of town to a virtual standstill. “It was an absolute nightmare in the West End and the City,” said a spokeswoman for one of the local courier services.
The roads surrounding the Bank of England — the site of a series of anticapitalist, antiwar and climate-change protests on Wednesday — were cordoned off by police. Some 4,000 protesters descended on the City, the central financial district, for the demonstrations, and riot police were deployed in some areas.
On the retail front, the vast majority of stores surrounding the Bank of England were closed Wednesday. A wall of police officers lined the entrance to the Royal Exchange, the shopping arcade opposite the Bank of England that houses labels including Gucci, Hermès and YSL — all of which were closed. Retailers including Agent Provocateur, Smythson, and Lulu Guinness had even boarded up their windows.
The atmosphere in front of the Bank of England was scary at times, with some protesters brandishing makeshift horses’ heads and skulls, as drums pounded and the crowd shouted “revolution.” Other protesters carried signs that read “Consumers suck!” and “Stop the war!” A clutch of protesters dressed like ninjas and wearing balaclavas and hooded sweatshirts ran at walls of police officers with interlinked arms.
During the day, there were some clashes, with protesters using an office chair to break windows of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Threadneedle Street branch. The BBC reported that police sustained a few minor injuries during the protests.