Thousands of anti-roads protesters in flamboyant costumes and face paint brought traffic to a standstill in Birmingham on Saturday and started a party they promised would last all night.

To the sound of bongo drums and "rave" beats, they scaled lampposts and strung huge "Reclaim the Streets" banners across the streets next to the city's landmark Bull Ring shopping center.The protesters gathered as leaders of the Group of Eight industrial powers met in Britain's second city for their annual summit.

The anti-roads protest overlapped with thousands of other demonstrators who formed a circle around the G8 conference center noisily demanding the elimination of Third World debt.

Police, clearly outnumbered, decided little could be done to reclaim the streets for the hundreds of motorists stuck in their cars in the sweltering afternoon sun.

"Looks like we're in for a long night," said one policeman hemming the anti-road protesters into an area on Birmingham's central roundabout.

"We'll be here till dawn at least, maybe longer" said a protester in a large straw hat, his face painted green.

"Our point is that the leaders gathered in Birmingham, who control the world, are wrecking the planet," he said.

Gyrating protesters waved banners screaming "Kill the car, let the planet breathe" and "Give a hoot, take a bus."

They gave a huge welcome to the only vehicle allowed through their cordon, however - a van carrying a powerful hi-fi system.

A student said he'd joined the party because of an invitation posted at his university.

"They'll not stop us," said another dancer in a mask of U.S. President Bill Clinton, one of the leaders attending the G8 summit.

The party was the latest in a series of protests mounted by the secretive "Reclaim the Streets" group.

In 1995, it closed a busy thoroughfare in the affluent London suburb of Islington, laid carpets over the road and set up food stalls.