Here is what you won't hear on the BBC or in the Scottish print media, about why things turned out as they did yesterday. All based strictly on what I actually experienced.
It is interesting to contrast the performance and pronouncements of the ‘respectable’ (non-tabloid) media with the actuality of events yesterday. I have chosen to juxtapose two of the leading lights of Britain’s broadcast media (the BBC) and of Scotland’s print-media (the Herald) with my own experiences yesterday. You can safely assume that, with this level of misleadingness in the ‘serious’ media, the reporting of the tabloid media, largely interested ONLY in demonising the protesters, was worse still.
What the media said:
The BBC [6pm radio 4 news, 6 July] reported, in the course of a long piece from a reporter at Gleneagles, that there had been 3000 demonstrators at Gleneagles, less than expected.
What the media failed to say; and what actually happened:
The BBC did not report that the police had made it incredibly difficult for people to get to Gleneagles, and certainly discouraged many from going altogether. Quite apart from those many non-violent protesters I saw beside the roads being physically prevented by the police from getting to Gleneagles, earlier in the day there was active disinformation from the police, who told people that the march had been cancelled – in some cases, they told people that the march’s organiser’s themselves had cancelled it (which was entirely false)! When my bus left Glasgow, we thought we actually had very little chance of getting anywhere near to Gleneagles, due to what we had been told and what we had heard. Some demonstrators gave up and took to the streets, especially in Edinburgh (and of course in Stirling).
What the media said:
The frontpage of the Herald [July 7] told that “The M9, which leads to Gleneagles, was … brought to a standstill as activists staged blockades”.
What what the media failed to say; and what actually happened
The Herald did not tell that it was the police who kept it closed, after they had dispersed the blockades. We, like many other buses, were blocked for a long period from going onto the M9 by the police. The police gave us no information about alternative routes, and did not affirm that we would be let through to Gleneagles at all.
When we got close to Gleneagles, the police held us in long queues while they stopped and searched people, sometimes entire buses. I witnessed this.
My bus, through the ingenuity in route-finding of our bus driver, took ‘only’ 3 hours to get from Glasgow to Gleneagles. Some buses, especially from Edinburgh, took far longer.
In short: Some demonstrators were dissuaded from travelling to Gleneagles at all, by police actions and (dis-)information. My bus, like many others, was prevented by the police from travelling up the M9 to Gleneagles, and we were in numerous other ways slowed down from arriving on time, or even ‘respectably’ late. By the time the demonstration actually reached Gleneagles, some marchers were having to get ready to go home again. The police then moved in ‘gently’, and prevented some marchers from ever reaching the Gleneagles Hotel at all. I spoke to some of them, who I know; to say that they were disappointed, having come all that way, with such an outcome, is putting it mildly!
What the media said:
The Herald frontpage again: “The chaos temporarily forced the cancellation of the official anti-poverty march, from Auchterader to with earshot of Gleneagles. The action eventually went ahead with about 5000 participants but several hundred crossed the barricades and pushed through police lines into a field before moving towards the barriers surrounding the hotel.”
What actually happened:
1) It is extremely misleading to call the demonstration simply an ‘anti-poverty march’. We were protesting against the G8, and their policies. The most oft-repeated chant in my ‘Green’ portion of the march was “What do we want? Climate Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
2) It was obvious even to a child, if one was actually there, that the police virtually invited people to cross the barricades into the field. There was a vast police presence at Gleneagles; but as soon as one rounded the corner away from the road up toward the hotel, all that prevented one from entering the field was a low barb-wire fence. The small number of police there by that fence did not attempt to stop people crossing it; and there was no ‘large’ fence nor any large force of police in back-up at that point to help them to do so. It was self-evident that the police wanted people to go into the field, so that they could then move in and clear it, using their riot squads. That is precisely what then happened. The photo on the Herald’s front page was of these riot police ‘dramatically’ moving into position.
What the media said:
The BBC suggested [6pm radio 4 news], that any demonstrator who did not stay on the march route in its entirety – that any demonstrator who did anything that the police claimed to be unlawful -- was ipso facto violent, and they let a police officer speak to make the same point. The only demonstrator who we heard was saying angrily that other demonstrators had been violent.
Hardly any demonstrators were violent (though those that were were reprehensible, playing into the hands of the police), and yet riot police charged at non-violent demonstrators -- including entirely peaceful peace activists who I know -- with their batons upraised etc. . Those who walked along beside the fence were in many cases simply curious, or simply trying to make their point. I saw them, and I know many of them. The suggestion in the BBC report that any failure to obey the law is ipso facto violent is an absurd suggestion: by that token, a black person sitting in the back of the bus in Alabama in 1960 would have been a violent act.
The police tried to stop the march happening at all. When that tactic failed, they stopped some people from attending it, and slowed down many others. So that those who did arrive were feeling frustrated/angry and were smaller in number than they should have been. The march itself was not allowed to proceed in toto along the agreed march route, and the police left an open door for the march to disintegrate into people drifting off around the fence, which then gave the police a great opportunity to move in heavily and clear the area.
There was a – tiny – minority of violent demonstrators. The minority of violent police, as experienced by fellow Greens and fellow-peace-activists who I was with, was less tiny.
Of all this, that I experienced yesterday, the BBC reported none, and nor was any of it present on the Herald’s front page (a little of it was reported inside the Herald). Anyone reading the entire front page of the Herald or listening to the entire main BBC radio newsbulletin would have known nothing of what actually happened yesterday, except from the ‘point of view’ of the police; and would have learned nothing about the actual ideas and demands of the large number of peaceful protesters who tried, against very significant odds, to make our point of view heard, yesterday.
Cllr. Rupert Read, Norwich Green Party.