Noisimo | 06.07.2005 21:49 | G8 2005
Friday July 1st:
Some came before us and many came after, but I slipped quietly over the border into Scotland a little after 4am on Thursday morning. The timing was more to do with lack of traffic than secrecy, and the admittedly ironic choice of a diesel-drinking van was made necessary because we were moonlighting as curators, carrying up the Art Not Oil (www.artnotoil.org.uk) exhibition to display in a student's union building in Edinburgh.
We snatched a couple of hours' sleep in the snore-filled basement of the Edinburgh Dissent 'infopoint', Dissent being the name of the UK network which came together a couple of years back to co-ordinate the direct action-based anti-capitalist mobilisation against the G8 and hopefully into the future, (which isn't the same as organising the actions themselves, it's important to note!)
The infopoint is a small shopfront already overflowing with leaflets, skipped sofas and a coffee machine that brews any coffee as long as it's Zapatista, and it was a welcome sight after the shrink-wrapped, freeze-dried horror of your average motorway service station.
By 9am we were back on the road, taking our vanload of bikes, bags and conscious art into the centre of town, where we parked alongside the Clown Army's chipfat-fuelled battle bus and unloaded the art into the Teviot building. Teviot is an impressively gothic students union building where the surely disapproving faces of past professors stare down from the walls at the Dissent whippersnappers who've managed to borrow it for workshops,
info, tea, art and plotting. When I'd smiled sweetly at the building manager and helped throw a 'truer portrait of the oil industry than that painted by exhibitions like the BP Portrait Award' up on the walls, it was time to check in with old friends and get my head round what to do at Make Poverty History.
Back at the infopoint I had a dodgy morning losing and finding my sleeping stuff in the basement, not to mention lairy all-night drinkers from the bar next door wanting a fight and the police turning up to take pictures and pull down the shutters, all the while laughing - drunk on their own power perhaps...
Anyway, I managed to hook up with my London Rising Tide buddies and head off to the Meadows where Make Poverty History (MPH) was massing. We thought that while we had some issues with MPH - partly that it ignores climate change and seems happy with debt 'forgiveness' on the condition that African countries privatise yet more essential services - it would still be useful to be there, to share ideas and leaflets, and to let people see some of the sparks that fire the hearts of anti-capitalist movements.
It seemed that pretty much anyone not dressed in white - either multicoloured or all in black - was a part of those movements, the Rhythms of Resistance 'pink bloc' samba band, the Clown Army and the black bloc being the most noticeable. I ended up tying a pink piece of material on my head, dancing with the samba and handing out hundreds of Dissent 'Make History - Shut Down the G8' leaflets (which went down surprisingly well, a good reminder of the range of political opinions present within MPH).
High points? Streaming to the front of the music stage with the clowns, leafleting all the way, and seeing them all waving their hands from side to side in unison, in time with the Latin rhythms of the band and the slightly bemused prompting of the its lead singer. Then there was the fascinating chat I had with an elderly woman in white about the corrupting nature of political power and her pleading with me to show her the programme to get us to the leaderless ecological utopia I dreamt of aloud. 'But there can't be one programme,' I said - 'surely that would be a kind of fascism?'
But they were both topped later by dancing down a huge hill in front of the samba band, glitter floating all round us, then turning round to see the behind the drummers a massive banner reading 'Make capitalism history'...
And then I had to go - sore of foot but euphoric of head - off with other LRTers in one of the many Dissent vans ferrying activists up and down the motorway to a beautiful self-organised campsite only accessible through a soulless car park somewhere outside Stirling.
On our way there I saw for the first time a vast and terrifying BP oil refinery looming out of the horizon: Grangemouth. The community there are being slowly poisoned and the workers systematically underpaid and over-exposed to constant corner-cutting when it comes to health and safety. Which means a steadily rising toll of deaths and serious injuries.
To make matters worse, BP claims it 'offsets' the millions of tonnes of CO2 pumped out of the the place day and night by buying carbon credits from a Brazilian company building monocultural eucalyptus plantations which also lay waste to biodiversity and indigenous people. Welcome to the violent, duplicitous world of carbon trading.
(For more on the inspirational take-back of land in the early summer of 2005 by people displaced by big eucalyptus, have a look at
www.carbontradewatch.org and www.desertoverde)
Living in London means I hardly ever get to see even from a distance the dirty reality of the oil industry. We spend loads of time asking Londoners to see beyond the 'greenwash', so I suppose it was useful to get a closer view. But actually my strongest feeling was of awe and frustrated anger at the sheer physical size of our adversary.
It was possible that night to dream of better worlds at the rural Dissent camping space, at the entrance to which were a series of wild, climate justice-conscious, permacultural painted panels. The site had been organised into individual 'barrios' named mostly after the region each crew and its kitchen had come from. So we camped in the bike barrio partly because other LRTers and friends were there, having just arrived after the long pedal to justice, also known as the G8 Bike Ride. They were looking good on 45 miles or so riding per day - tanned, weatherbeaten and still elated in part at having occupied the runway of Coventry airport a few days earlier.
We also camped there because there were rumours of gale force winds ands tents flying off into the stark and beautiful hills like bizarre birds of prey. Luckily all we were visited by were a few squally showers during the night, long after the Peace Not War hip hop/folk tent had shut down, and I woke up with nothing more alarming to deal with than a couple of damp feet and a seriously shiversome (voluntary and necessary) cold tap shower.
After a hearty Manchester barrio breakfast of muesli, bread & peanut butter and tea, as well as a quick LRT crew natter and a visit to the immaculate compost toilets, it was a free ride back to Edinburgh in the Legal Support team's bus. (Legal Support keep a lookout for arrested folk as well as being legal observers on demos and actions.)
The main reason for getting back to Edinburgh was to go to a meeting of Peoples' Global Action (PGA: www.agp.org). PGA is a network of direct action-based anti-capitalist groups and movements worldwide, and Rising Tide is a part of it. This meeting was an important one as there's a global conference coming up in India in the autumn and there's a hell of a lot of work to do to help bring it to positive fruition. Keeping networks like this together, whether in London, England or worldwide, is always really hard, as it can be seen as a diversion from the very necessary work of organising locally. But I don't think we're going to build the worlds we want to live in without making closer links with other regions and struggles.
It was long and arduous but we got plenty of groundwork covered, and it was great that we were sitting amongst the Art Not Oil work for part of it...
And that's enough for now. There's plenty more to come, including (other people) shutting down the Faslane nuclear base, handing anti-oil info to the staff of a BP petrol station, the Carnival for Full Enjoyment, leafletting for the save the climate/stop the Glasgow M74 street party action on July 8th, dipping into the biggest pot of soup I've ever seen at the Glasgow Dissent accommodation space (a massive deserted factory), and much much more...