While the last G8 Summit in the UK in Birmingham in 1998 focused on ‘employability’ and economic restructuring, the result people see now in their daily lives is social cuts, privatisation and compulsory work schemes imposed throughout Europe and beyond.
At the protest, a Banner read "G8 Employment Ministers - Get A Proper Job!" - humour which amused quite a few of the people passing by - their attention drawn by the drums and police - and lots of leaflets about the G8 and the related politics of work were handed out, all with the www.nodeal.org.uk website address on them.
A large police presence was in evidence from the start and continued throughout the day as the group of people toured central London for a couple of hours, stopping off at various points - including the Department of Work and Pensions - along Piccadilly, and ending up at at the Benefit Fraud Office by Holborn.
In what was a quite surreal edge to the day, the group of around 25 people were followed almost everywhere by around 15 police apparently all from the Forward Intelligence Team (FIT). Some activists were assigned their own 'personnal' escort who followed them at all times and one cameraman continuously took photographs of the same group of people (estimate that he must have taken over one hundred pictures of the same twenty-five people!).
This obvious attempt at intimidation was greeted with mild amusement/bemusement by most people there. Apart from drawing much public attention because of the spectacle it created, the whole thing would have been laughable if it were not for the fact that it was such a blatant attempt at intimidation. In fact a couple of the police were especially attentive to some individuals, at one point constantly standing inches away from one person, flanking them, peering over their shoulders, trying to read messages on their phone, listening to every word they said - as I said quite a surreal scene.
Oh yeah, and the police searched one guy because he had a red royal mail bag - that's right - searched him becasue they said they suspected... he had stolen the bag! Cue bizarre "are you, or have you ever been employed by the royal mail?" line of questioning.
When the group of people knocked off, finished the protest and went to the pub, the police followed them into the pub, spoke to the staff, and then sat outside the pub for a good couple of hours - complete with riot van, 4x4-type police truck and another police van!
All in all it was a quite weird day, but a good number of leaflets were distributed and a lot of people saw the banners. The turn out was very small, and the intimidation tactics obvious, but at least in this country all that happened today was that the police followed and photographed people in a public ritual of harassment - in many of the other countries where the neoliberal and capitalist policies of the G8 are played out, people are beaten, tortured and killed for daring to raise their voice in dissent.
Think about it.
The G8 Employment Ministers continue meeting tomorrow, 11th March 2005, the International Energy and Environment Ministers roundtable takes place in London next week, followed by the G8 Environment and Development Ministers meeting in Derby the week after, with other meetings and protests planned in the run up to the G8 Summit in July.