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Monday's 'Carnival For Full Enjoyment' - debunking the myths

Stuart Hodkinson | 05.07.2005 19:02

There was violence on the streets of Edinburgh at Monday's 'Carnival For Full Enjoyment' - police violence.

After the political whitewash of Saturday's Live 8 and Make Poverty History, yesterday saw the first serious protesting against the G8 summit in Scotland. The non-violent blockade against the Trident nuclear submarine base in Faslane passed off peacefully without incident. But at the originally Carnival of Full Enjoyment in Edinburgh, the streets of the Scottish capital experienced a very different reality with thousands of police shutting down the city and then physically turning on protesters, resulting in over 30 similar injuries when people were forced to jump over spiked railing at West Princes Street Gardens after being baton-charged by riot police.

This was not what protesters had in mind as the midday Carnival in central Edinburgh began. Their aim was to bring together "workers, migrants, students, benefit claimers, New Dealers, work refusers, pensioners, dreamers, duckers & divers" to resist the "daily grind of the institutions that plunge us into overwork, poverty and debt". Protesters were joined by Samba bands and clowns from the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA). When five riot vans were seen chasing after a 'gaggle' of 20 clowns near to Edinburgh University, the tone was set for the day.

Originally from Red Pepper's G8 blog (
To their credit, carnival-goers spent the entire afternoon attempting to dance and sing through the city, taking over large parts of Princes Street and the surrounding areas and forcing traffic and shops to close. The carnival attracted thousands of local on-lookers and many hundreds of Edinburgh workers and youths joined the protesters in the streets. It was initially good natured but as numbers began to swell down on Princes Street the trouble began.

Red Pepper witnessed the events as they unfolded. In short, thousands of police officers without official badge numbers engulfed the protesters and persistently shut down the streets with lines of vans, officers in full riot gear and mounted police. Police pens were created, splitting protesters into groups of a few hundred all over the Princes Street area. At specifically timed intervals, baton-wielding police violently charged protesters and crushed them against steel fencing leading to dozens of injuries with some taken to hospital. Having shut down all the roads around the area, a completely unprovoked mounted police charge led to one elderly woman being knocked down. She then suffered some kind of fit and was rushed to hospital. In response, there were isolated incidents of clashes with police, mainly carried out by local youths using the opportunity to throw bricks at the police. Tonight, around 40 people are arrested in police custody. The charges against them are unclear.

As the city finally calmed down again, one thing remained clear: the policing for this G8 is already repressive and violent, and the numbers of police on the streets are completely disproportionate to the numbers of protesters on the streets. Reports on TV last night of protesters behaving irresponsibly are simply untrue - it was the police who charged protesters and created the pretext for clashes, a fact confirmed by Green MSP Mark Ballard when interviewed on TV news channels.

Stuart Hodkinson
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Hide the following 14 comments

not for me

05.07.2005 20:12

I won't be going on any more big protests til the Italians and Spanish stop turning up.

They take themselves far too seriously.

jerry b

another hysterical and biased report

05.07.2005 20:41

"people were forced to jump over spiked railing"

I hopped over these railings several times while I was watching the drama unfold. Nobody forced me to do it, simply because I was smart enough to hop the fuck out of there before things got really silly. I have the power to think ahead, you see.

"baton-charged by riot police"

This is the kind of emotive language frequently used by tabloid newspapers to manipulate readers' feelings.

"When five riot vans were seen chasing after a 'gaggle' of 20 clowns near to Edinburgh University, the tone was set for the day."

...and the tone of your article becomes clear.

"carnival-goers spent the entire afternoon attempting to dance and sing through the city"

except when they were throwing stuff at the police. Some of the missiles were so poorly aimed, the poor fools hit members of their own crowd. A classic case of "friendly fire". Any injuries that ensued were no doubt blamed on the police.

"taking over large parts of Princes Street and the surrounding areas and forcing traffic and shops to close"

When did Edinburgh residents give permission for this stuff to go ahead in our city?

"police officers... persistently shut down the streets with lines of vans"

This is false. Almost all streets remained open to the public. I know this because I was walking around on them. The streets may have been closed to traffic, but that does not constitute a "shut down". It was rather nice, actually - you could breathe.

"At specifically timed intervals..."

What is the evidence for this?

"...baton-wielding police violently charged protesters"

More emotive language. Did you ever work for the Sun, by any chance?

"Having shut down all the roads around the area"

Again, false.

"completely unprovoked mounted police charge"

"Charge" is when the horses are running, right? Did anybody get any photos or videos?

** For "red pepper", read "red propaganda" **


emotive language?

05.07.2005 20:56

> "baton-charged by riot police"
> This is the kind of emotive language frequently used by tabloid newspapers to manipulate readers' feelings.

Is it? It sounds to me like a fairly accurate description of the well-known tactic of running towards a crowd, dressed in riot gear with batons drawn. This is something I have certainly observed the police doing, both first-hand and on video, in various situations -- most of them not involving violence, merely the crowd being somewhere the police don't want them to be.

If the poster had said, "baton-charged by evil satanic pig scum", then *that* would be more equivalent to the language of the tabloids. But instead the language was much more restrained and factual.

a reader

Spot the difference

05.07.2005 22:14

The reason the Faslane blockade worked so well is that the protesters tell the Police what they are going to do when and how. like they do every year.

Spot the difference.

Maybe if you had said you wanted to dance or have fun in this Garden, that park or this street and gave them details & times it would have worked ok like Faslane but that would be to easy, wouldn't it?

Fed up Edinburgh resident

Personal impression: both sides losing

06.07.2005 01:33

It seems a bit like everyone just "saw" what you'd expect them to see anyway - for the conservative press it was a bunch of rioters hell-bent on chaos, for lots of people posting on IndyMedia a peaceful protest broken up by police.

My personal impression (and this is just WHAT I SAW, so I don't even make a claim that it's the "wole picture) was that neither side intended the event to end peacefully.

Police was different from anything I had ever seen in Scotland in my 4 years here. In many demonstrations, including Faslane Nuclear Base and some relatively heated stuff during the Iraq war, I have admired Scottish police forces for being really professional in terms of trying to avoid confrontation and violence.
This time they werenot from here, they looked completely differently and they acted differently. I did not personally see police making baton attacks when not directly attacked, but I was told it happened by people I generally believe.

What I DID see was police "squeezing" the whole march together by charging from the back while blocking the way from the front. This forced people into the gardens and made things chaotic. My personal experience though (and I only saw what I saw...) was that you *could* get away from the trouble if you wanted to, by simply walking further into the gardens (where, of course, you were then locked in for hours).

What I DID also see was that there were protesters who had never planned on making this a peaceful event in the first place. I just don't believe it was a coincidence that those who "defended" themselves by dragging park benches, throwing bottles, kicking bins etc. were often wearing heavy-duty gloves suitable for the job. Of all the protesters I saw carrying out acts of violence, none was really "defending" her/himself directly. What I DID see were people throwing things at the police when they could have walked away without problem (again, they could only have walked into a locked park, but there was no direct need for self-defence to avoid bodily harm). Probably most of the violence that I saw happened after some policeman somewhere had used his/her baton against someone, but the people I saw throwing stuff were not victims, and were in a situation where they could have avoided violence. You can argue that police violence justifies violence against the police (I am not so sure), but I think it is important to see the difference between retaliation and self-defence. If you could walk away unharmed but decide not to, then it is not self-defence.

What I DID see was some protesters trying to stop other protesters from throwing things and uprooting flowers. Guess no surprise that the mainstream press did not really mention the fact that protesters were trying to stop others from throwing things and destroying things. Some actually tried to replant flowers others had uprooted.


Sensible Personal Impression

06.07.2005 08:13

Just read Tobi's comments and they seem to be a good assessment of the situation. When we use similar tatics as the State we become as bad as the State. Protest with non-violent direct action but once we start to use violence as a premptive tool (as in go in to situations prepared to do violence) we loose any right to call the state oppressors.
Anarchy & Peace

Frantic Glasgow

Honesty best policy

06.07.2005 08:21

An honest report Tobi--
just for the record;locals will know theres more than one way out of Princes St gardens and no need for folk to feel penned there.
99% of Scots support trade justice they distrust Bush and Blair ,but also distrust violent disrespect .


Sort it out

06.07.2005 11:42

Sorry folks I used to be quite into helping with these events when I lived in London. However how much though, with all good intentions, organisers tried to make it fun, fluffy, and carnival like, there were always a few who started throwing things at the police or did whatever they could to charge the atmosphere.

I'm afraid until you can police these things yourself and stop those in your protest from hijacking it, the police will just have to do it for you.

How can you put forward an alternative society when you cannot effectively organise an alternative protest?



07.07.2005 10:06

I am relieved to see that some sense prevails on this site.

The simple truth is, if people are not intent on trouble there will be no trouble. Given that everyone knows what the police remit is (identify troublemakers and remove them to a cell) it's pretty bloody obvious that if everyone was hell-bent on peaceful protest there'd be no way the police could provoke trouble. If anyone suggests that the police in the UK could get away with coshing a load of people sitting on the ground singing, they are just crackers.

It's far too easy to blame the police and it beggars belief that so many people readily swallow that excuse. I'm not saying that all police are saints. But, from my experience most of them are just people as pissed off with things as we are. In fact, they are probably more sick of stupid lying politicians than you and I!

In the elections in Maryhill, the duty officer at my polling station was reading "Stupid White Men" at the door! I have spoken with some CID officers who were mooting their suspicions about how Ground Zero was treated as a crime scene. I recently spoke with some plods who were bemoaning aspects of the proposed ID card system. They aren't all wog-bashing masons. But hey it isn't "cool" to look at them more than some childish stereotype.

I don't doubt that officers were draughted in to fan the flames, and the tactical reasoning is obvious "Fan the flames in EH and get them out the way before they get to Auchterader!" A tactic that'd only work IF there were people intent on trouble... or are they controlling people's minds with microwaves now? As Jello Biafra would says "Wooooooooooh!!!"

Generally, Scots police do seem to have a lot more patience and restraint. Possibly because Scotland is a comparatively aggressive and direct culture and that it has so many problems eminating from poverty and have more running experience with managing aggression??? Much like the UK forces in Iraq compared to the US...

At any rate a friend of mine once made a very good point: who do you go to if you get mugged? An anarchist or a policeman!

I think some people should start growing up and finding REAL targets for their anger. If you want peaceful protest start taking responsibility for the troublemakers or the cops'll deal with them for you, and they won't fuck about! If you are stupid enough to think you can win a rammy with a few hundred plods well, good luck.

At the end of they day, trouble is turning potential support away. Sink or swin: you decide!

silent hunter
mail e-mail:

Edinburgh: rioting for the cameras

08.07.2005 17:04

From Spiked Magazine....

Was anarchy let loose in Edinburgh city centre?

You would have thought so, from all the reports about yesterday's anti-G8 protests. Apparently 'anarchist hit squads' launched wave after wave of 'brutal attacks' on police; sinister activists came from all over Europe to orchestrate violence and mayhem. Yet this was an imitation of a riot. The whole day was for show, from the painted faces and costumes of the 'Carnival for Full Enjoyment' that kicked it off, to the 'Black Bloc' types with their black facemasks who carried it on. Just look at the photos: a girl kissing a police officer's riot shield; protesters throwing plants and bags of rubbish at the police in Princes Street gardens. Behind the front row of protesters is a line of cameras, craning to get the best shot. It looks theatrical - many of those sinister anarchists are smiling, or looking around to see who is watching them. Edinburgh was not laid to waste. According to reports, there were around 90 arrests, and 20 police officers and demonstrators were treated for injuries - though none was serious. Activists dug up a few of the plants from Princes Street gardens, and tore down some fences, but not much more. (Even this was a bit much for some protesters, who formed a ring around one flowerbed to protect the geraniums from abuse.) These are playground antics. So why do the police and media treat them as a threat to civilisation?


delusions of grandeur

10.07.2005 09:32

"So why do the police and media treat them as a threat to civilisation?"

The answer is they don't! They consider the minority to be a threat to 'public order' and since it is their job to uphold such, they do so. Why do they turn up in large numbers? Because they don't want to let the situation out of their control. You'd see fewer of them if they were reassured that potential for disorder was reduced. Opening a dialogue with them would be a start.

Why do they turn up in droves? Is it because they think you are about to "smash the state" by killing a few flower beds and trashing someone's car (posh car must belong to posho mentality)?

No, it is because Ladbrokes won't give odds on a bunch of twats NOT turning up and acting like chavs!

They only thing such behaviour is a REAL threat to is being taken seriously!

"Activists dug up a few of the plants from Princes Street gardens, and tore down some fences, but not much more." I guess you overlooked the digging up the street and chucking rocks...

So you reckon 90 arrests and 20 casualties constitutes a peaceful protest???

Please grow up and stop romanticising thiggery. It's bad enough having the media distorting things without you doing the same.

Policatically-correct slow gait

Another public school type

10.07.2005 20:22

A well written but factually incorrect report by anon red pepper reporter

That public School education didn’t help when it came to telling the truth
Now fuck off back to London or where ever you came from and stop trying to be a working class hero.

The people of Scotland do not want your types here, Your not welcome as anyone reading the very many comments on the IMC can see


What I saw

12.07.2005 21:50

What I saw:

A girl coshed, chased and then coshed some more for the crime of putting a flower in a a riot cops helmet. As for any arguments that it could have been mistaken for a weapon, she had (in front of a crowd of several people) been offering the plant and waving it in front of the police line for a minute or two saying words to the effect of "Do you want a flower?"

A man hit in the spine by a speeding riot van.

Many people beaten with batons, whether or not they were advancing against the police lines or threatening violence.

Shoppers kettled into the train station for two hours despite the presence of lines of vehicles and riot cops ensuring a safe distance between bystanders and the site of the trouble.

Many locals expressing outrage about the brutal methods of the police, and a crowd of locals opposite the park fighting the riot cops themselves.

What was intended to be a good-natured, fluffy protest descending into a violent farce thanks largely to complete overkill on the part of the Police who it seemed were spoiling for a fight far more than any "pro-violence" elements within the carnival (okay, subjective point here, but the event was billed as a carnival not a ruck. anyway thats the impression i got from amongst the protestors before the trouble started).

A newspaper from the previous day in which a police chief justifies his force's refusal to accomodate the march because it was "inherently unsafe".

and what the hell is an anarcho-fascist anyway?

Thank you

12.08.2005 14:05

Thankyou for telling like it was and confirming that i am not derranged. I was there and i too was smart enough to get out (as a previous commenter said), but the police were there on every street corner, it was like playing hide and seek. I'm just soo sick of explaining to people what happened, what i saw and not accepting my side of the story.


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