(See also Parts 1
Given that the G8 is made up of the world's most powerful states, it should hardly be surprising that it is supremely influential. It's slimy, life-sucking tentacles find their way into the daily lives of billions of people in a variety of ways. Some subtle. Others less so. For this reason the motivations for people turning up to protest were many and varied
, a fact reflected in the wide range of actions which took place. There were protests about global poverty
, climate change
, nuclear weapons
, road building
, even something called "precarity"
. Although I tried to make the most of my time in Scotland and do as much as I could, there was no way I could hope to be involved in all of these. Among the events I did take part in were the blockade of Faslane and the the picket of Dunagvel on Monday July 4 and Tuesday July 5 respectively.
Faslane is a Royal Navy submarine base on the Clyde. It is the largest military base (something I can really believe having walked from one end to the other) and the home port for Britain's four Trident nuclear submarines. It has been a recurring target for anti-nuclear activists who have blockaded it, cut through the fence and set up a peace camp just beyond its perimeter. Organisers hoped that with so many activists in Scotland to participate in actions against the G8 they would be able to organise one of the largest ever blockades and shut-down the base. With this as our goal a number of tired looking activists forced themselves from their sleeping bags on the Edinburgh campsite to catch a bus to the base at the ungodly hour of four in the morning.
The early start was necessary because the blockade was due to start at seven, the idea being that the base would be closed all day, stopping anybody coming or going and preventing it from operating. In fact it emerged when we got there that the base had been closed anyway in anticipation of our arrival. While this constitutes a major victory (and may even be unprecedented) it rendered the blockades, which continued anyway, almost entirely symbolic. There were people blocking all four of the base's gates, with the police making no effort to clear people out of the way.
Entertainment was provided by a number of samba bands, radical cheerleaders, the ubiquitous Rinky Dink Sound System
and, of course, the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army
. We encountered a CIRCA battallion while making our way from the north to the south gate. They were making the same journey, but also attempting to make the police ,who had been assigned - at intervals of perhaps ten metres - to guard the fence, laugh. We followed them for a while and, before we knew it, we were all "hiding" from a cameraman on a police boat, using little more than twigs a cover. A sight which reduced the crew of the boat to fits of laughter. Later the clowns announced Communique #666 part of "Operation Weapons of Mass Distraction" which turned out to be an amusing piece of street theatre about the way the G8 leaders were trying to obscure the real issues and divert attention away from their own wrongdoing.
Intriguingly a friend we ran into on one of the blockades set that he'd seen helicpoters flying over the base with the US presidential livery. Presumably these were either ferrying people to the summit site or - as the summit didn't begin until Wednesday - practising to do so.
The whole day was very chilled out and when we eventually did a brief stint sitting in the road I think I actually managed to fall asleep, the early morning finally getting the better of me. We also took the time to visit the peace camp, a small community which seemed quite pleasant, although the toilets left something to be desired, environmentally friendly or no.
Tuesday's trip to Dungavel detention centre
was less positive. Dungavel is a facility used for the detnetion of asylum seekers, often prior to deportation. It has been particularly criticised because children have been held there, although the authorities insist that this now doesn't happen for longer than a few days.
We left for Dungavel rather later than we had for Faslane, catching one of the second wave of coaches at 11.30. Unfortunately, we left late and this coupled with the closing of roads by the police meant we were soon running very late. The fact that they boarded our bus didn't help.
Apparently they were stopping and searching all the buses going to the protest under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
. This allowed them to search individuals and their bags, but didn't require us to give them any personal information. Unfortunately, the police on our bus either didn't know this or thought they would try their luck and demanded our names and addresses which we refused to give. As a result there was a stand-off which lasted something like half an hour, perhaps longer. The police response to our refusal was thoroughly recorded with a barrage of microphones and cameras appearing as soon as they got on the coach. Just to make sure they knew we were onto them I made a point of recording their epaulet numbers (which they have to wear on their shoulders). Eventually they conceeded the point after some negotiating on the part of Scottish Socialist Party
MSP Rosie Kane
and allowed us to go with only a brief (even cursory) search, which seemed something of an anti-climax after the long wait.
We arrived barely half an hour before we had been scheduled to leave, although the organisers of the coach agreed to extend our stay. As we walked the rest of the way to the centre many protesters were already leaving, so many in fact that we began to wonder if it was worth continuing on. The numbers of police assigned to defending the centre confirmed that we were in fact in the right place, however. Dungavel is a horrific place resembling a Transylvanian castle contained behind a fence which must have been twice the height of that at Faslane (asylum seekers, of course, being far more dangerous than nuclear weapons) and topped with razor wire. The idea that anyone might be held in such a hell-hole in the middle of nowhere (pretty as the countryside nearby was) was horrific. The idea that people in fear of being deported to a country where they might face torture - even death - was soul-destroying.
The rally was an angry, impassioned affair, but felt somewhat pointless given there was nobody in the centre to solidarise with and nobody nearby to convert as we were miles from anywhere. Instead, various speakers tried to apeal to the police, with limited apparent success. Even Ms Kane who berated the system they were defending in no uncertain terms failed to generate any converts. We had turned up so late that the rally was soon drawing to a close and an organiser announced that we were to form up and march, as one, back to our coaches with radical American singer-songwriter David Rovics
providing musical accompaniment. While short, the march was angry and recorded by a swarm of camera people including journalists, fellow activists and the odd police evidence gathering team. I hope they got my best side.
Activists 1, Police 1?