the Disillusioned kid: Make the G8 History, Part Third
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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Make the G8 History, Part Third

(See also: Part 1 and Part Deux.)

Before continuing my reporting of events at last weeks G8 I'd like to point people in the direction of DanR's own record of event (here, here and here with more to come). I spent a lot of my time in Edinburgh with Dan and anybody looking for an accurate account of what went on could do worse than cross-referencing our respective efforts. His also has pictures. Which is nice.

Anyway. Please secure your seatbelts as we descend from the rarified heights of the blogosphere and prepare for landing in Edinburgh.

I, like many activists, have been strongly critical of the Make Poverty History coalition (see e.g. here, here and here). Nonetheless I have to confess that I experienced a not inconsiderable amount of excitement at the prospect of participating in the MPH march in Edinburgh on the Saturday prior to the opening of the G8 summit, naive as that excitement may have been. Wishy-washy politics aside there was, for me at least, a sense that I was participating in a moment in history. A moment reminiscent of the enormous anti-war demonstration on Fenruary 15, 2003. I even went to the effort of finding and washing a white t-shirt so that I could participate in their "human white band" around the city, although I made a point of chosing one emblazoned with a political slogan (albeit the rather tongue in cheek "Make Tea Not War").

It was clear when I arrrived at the march's starting point in the Meadows that it would not disappoint in numerical terms. There were already thousands of people in attendance many listening to speakers from around the world decry the evils of global poverty; others millied around the various stalls set up by an impressive range of organisations ranging from Friends of the Earth to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Islamic Aid. The Meadows can be broadly divided into four fields. Two of these had MPH stages, one a series of marquees containing the execrably designated Contempl8ion and Gener8ion Zones and the fourth the stage set-up by the Stop the War Coalition after they were barred from participating in the 'official' festivities.

The march itself was huge, but not all that exciting. We did briefly find the much-touted anarchist "Make Capitalism History bloc," distinguished by apparently de rigueur hoodies and bandana concealed faces. They had already picked up their own Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) who were scurrying along to keep up. The anarchists would later find themselves surrounded by police, but we lost them very quickly and were probably some distance from them at that juncture.

Apart from that brief moment of excitement the demonstration was largely uneventful, punctuated only by a minute's silence preceded by the firing of a cannon. This, when it happened was in fact quite unsettling. There was a large bang, source unknown, followed by everyone going silent. We worked out what was going on quickly enough, however. The end of the minute was marked by a wave of sound travelling from the Meadows along the marches entire length, apparently started by flashing the word "noise" on the screens at one (or perhaps both?) of the stages.

We amused ourselves for a while at the buildings which had been boarded up, presumably fearful of the hoards of baby-eating anarchists police had warned were to descend on the city. One shop (I forget which) had decided to hedge its bets, boarding up, but still flying a rainbow peace flag.

The rally at the end, which we reached after skipping the end of the march, was a surprisingly enjoyable affair with much more of a focus on entertainment than I'm used to at such events. There was music from various world music stars who I have to confess to being unfamiliar with and the always amazing Billy Bragg. The latter also shared compering duties with the likes of Eddie Izzard and that woman of Loose Women. There was even an attempt to organise a world-record breaking Eightsome Reel, a traditional Scottish dance, wittily dubbed the G8some Reel, in which I attempted to participate. The whole affair was drawn to a close with a collective rendition
of Auld Lang Syne (fortunately with the words displayed on a large screen) followed by Billy Bragg's performance of an acapella version of socialist anthem The Internationale (which I have to confess I didn't recognise at the time).

The contemporaneous rally at the Stop the War rally was a less jovial affair. John Rees, Lindsey German, George Monbiot and George Galloway made powerful, angry speeches criticising the cosiness of MPH and its figureheads Browno ad Blairoff (to borrow Monbiot's conjunctions) with the government and pointing to the links between global poverty and military imperialism. Bizzarely the rally attracted a police cordon. When I asked one of the police officers why this was his only response was to shrug his shoulders. Which proably summed up the policing for the whole week.

Imagine. All that and I didn't mention Live 8 once.

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