the Disillusioned kid: Make the G8 History, Part 1
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Friday, July 08, 2005

Make the G8 History, Part 1

I travelled up to Edinburgh to participate in protests against the G8 on Friday. There was a load of stuff taking place over the week including the Make Poverty History march on Saturday; a blockade of Faslane nuclear submarine base; a protest outside Dungavel refugee detention centre; the Carnival for Full Enjoyment (which I didn't attend, perhaps fortunately as it descended into violence); a Counter-Summit; and a Stop the War Coalition organised march and rally. While the Make Poverty History march and the Carnival (subsequently dubbed the "Battle of Princes' Street" by the media) attracted most of the attention there was a real sense amongst those on the ground that Wednesday July 6 was the big one towards which everything was building. This was the first day of the actual summit and activists had announced their intention of doing all they could to disrupt this sometime ago.

My main contribution to the day was my participation in efforts to prevent the Japanese delegation who were staying at the Sheraton hotel from getting to Gleneagles. This involved getting there at six in the morning, a painfully early time, not helped by the inclement weather (it was pissing it down). Unfortunately, despite attempts to keep the blockade secret, the police had discovered we were coming and turned up in force. Some sixteen police vans were lined up in front of the hotel with a ful complement of policemen (and the odd policewoman) many of them in full riot gear.

For my trouble I was stopped and searched under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the second time I had been subject to this in as many days. This time the search was much more thorough and the policeman carrying it out even took the liberty of going through my wallet. I pointed out that as Section 60 exists to allow police to search "for offensive weapons or dangerous instruments" this did not entitle him to look at the contents of my wallet or read any documents I was carrying. He didn't take to well to this and told me that he was looking for a map or instructions for getting to the hotel, which he clearly was not entitled to do under the Act. He also threatened to arrrest me if I continued "obstructing" him. Unfortunately I relented and allowed him to continue the search. It would have been very embarassing for him and his superiors if he had arrested me and then had to concede that he was in the wrong.

Once the search was completed I was led, along with two others, across the road and allowed to go. There I joined a small band of protesters which was beginning to form. After some standing around we moved off to try around the side of the hotel complex (which was huge). This forced the police to move quickly to redeploy some of their number to weak-points in their perimeter. For a while we had them on the run as they had to keep moving to ensure that they were in a good position to deal with any efforts we might make to breach their lines. Unfortunately we quickly became fragmented and ended up standing around in small groups, unsure of what to do next.

After a while, word reached us that a bus containing passengers of Japanese appearance in suits had been blocked. I and two others ran off to see what we could do, but were dispatched in the wrong direction. We were eventually sent to the right place and came around the corner to see two National Express coaches (National Express appear to have been co-ordinating all transport to the summit, even if not always using their own coaches) drive off. They had apparently been blocked for some ten-fifteen minutes by only a handful of activists sitting in the road. Despite our small victory the sense of failure was palpable.

Later I met up with a friend and acted as an unofficial legal observer while he sat in front of a bus which was to take journalists and one guy claiming to represent "one of 25 NGOs allowed into the summit" to Gleneagles. This turned out to be a surprisingly effective action. The bus was delayed by between a quarter and a half an hour. While it was taking place I engaged in a debate with a number of the passengers which led to me being interviewed by Abu Dhabi TV and United Press International. This gave me a chance to explain the motivations behind the actions of many protesters. Eventually the coach was reversed out and my friend removed from the road.

There was then an extended period of standing around while my friend was "processed". During this time I discovered that the FIT (Forward Intelligence Team) sent up from Metropolitan police didn't have a clue how to find their way around Edinburgh (although they had been given very flashy Mitsubishi Shoguns in black and silver to rush around in - the irony of those protecting a summit which would ostensibly be seeking to deal with climate change being given 4x4s was apparently lost on the police). Eventually the police, who were clearly trying to mimise the number of arrests they made, telling my friend that he was free to go, but that he would be arrested if he returned to the hotel. I don't know if he went back, but I think it's more than likely that he had at least one more go at disrupting coaches.

There were also a wide range of other actions taking place during the day, these are neatly summarised by Stuart Hodkinson Stuart Hodkinson on the Red Pepper G8 Blog. Surprisingly one of the most interesting was the authorised demonstration organised by the G8 Alternatives coalition, made up of socialists, Greens and Stop the War-types. Although cancelled by the police for a while this ultimately went ahead and included participants from across the country, including Nottingham. During the march, there was a break-away which saw part of the fence surrounding the summit torn down, a deviation which drew swift retribution from the authorities in the form of riot-cops flown in by Chinook helicopter.

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