Goozelle | 19.07.2005 10:31 | G8 2005
Statement from Deputy Chief Constable
Banning of protesters is 'a form of deportation'
Anarchists' weapon is 90 gallons of cooking oil
RIVER DRAMA FOR G8 ECO VILLAGER
Inside the weird world of the G8 anarchists
IF YOU need directions, then ask a policeman. Never was this more true than when I took my early steps into the world of the front-line activists who have dedicated their lives to disrupting the G8 summit at Gleneagles.
Struggling to find the real venue for a planning meeting held by a loose coalition of anarchist groups in Glasgow in February, I knew I had reached the right place when I spotted a police helicopter circling helpfully overhead.
The line of battered old vans and the knots of people smoking roll-ups in the foyer only served to confirm what the security services already knew. Here, in a room at Glasgow School of Art, was a snapshot of anarchy in the UK.
The only anarchy on show, however, was the groups of children running wild around the meeting space as we discussed the finer points of keeping on the right side of Scots law while carrying out a disruptive - but non-violent - protest.
The worst disruption - perhaps a case of getting your retaliation in first - came from the helicopter buzzing overhead. Those speaking had to raise the decibels by shouting to get their points across. It lent a farcical atmosphere to the serious matter of planning to spoil the G8 party in Perthshire.
It was part of my six-month journey into the lives of the activists who will be on the frontline of political confrontation, peaceful or otherwise.
It was a world in which neo-hippy mumbo-jumbo met hardline, expert protest technique. Activists met in circles - use of a table was regarded as too corporate - and indicated their approval or disapproval of decisions by waving both their hands in the air, hokey-cokey style (up for agree, down for disagree). But there was a more serious side. Surnames were never used and all talk of the direct actions that are inevitable were quickly closed down due to fears of infiltration.
Events, however, were orchestrated with a clear purpose in mind. "From July 6th to 8th, violent extremists [ie G8 leaders] will be converging on Scotland... they'll be trying to meet at Gleneagles hotel, and we'll be trying to stop them." So read the irony-heavy manifesto of the Dissent network, the leading anti-G8 protest group currently mobilising activist groups.
I learned of plans to blockade the roads leading to Gleneagles, in order to stop the huge numbers of administrative assistants and translators required to make the summit a success getting to the luxury hotel venue. This was a tactic which had disrupted the G8 meeting in Evian, France.
Plans were circulated to make human-chain blockades more effective with the use of "lock-on tubes" made from metal, plastic and cardboard. Activists first push their arms down the tubes and then lock their hands together using clips (karabiners) used by climbers. The police then find it difficult to move protestors individually as they have in the past. Tube workshops have been set up in Edinburgh and Glasgow to prepare for the events ahead.
Many discussions also centred on the so-called "convergence space" which will become the anarchist group's strike base within easy reach of Gleneagles. A site, being called an "eco-village" and housing up to 5,000 protestors, was approved by Stirling Council on Friday. It is from the solar-powered camp that protest leaders will initiate and co-ordinate direct actions.
One will be a demonstration at Faslane on Monday, July 4. Activist documents gave detailed instructions on how to cut through the toughest of wire mesh fences.
My first tentative steps to becoming a fellow "comrade" began with an open meeting held by the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh (ACE) in a meeting hall in the city centre in early February. From initial impressions, it was difficult to see how any of those present would be capable of organising any serious counter revolutionary activity.
The group consisted of around 30 people of varying nationalities, including Spanish, German, American, Dutch and Italian. Only a few Scots were present, along with some dubious-looking extras wearing very pristine combat trousers and brand new hiking boots. It was difficult to tell if they were journalists or police officers - but they were definitely not of the activist ilk.
There were no formal introductions to begin the meeting - and those who arrived not knowing the group already obviously didn't need to know. The group has no clear hierarchy, though there were a few individuals who were very obviously pushing the agenda.
Those present were asked to make a brief statement outlining what they wanted to achieve by joining the G8 protests, without actually naming themselves.
A young man, with blue hair which covered only one side of his head, introduced himself as simply 'an anarchist'. Although he had no clear idea of what he wanted to achieve, he knew he wanted to at least be involved, preferably within the groups arranging suitable squats in the Edinburgh area. It was more of a Citizen Smith kind of scenario than a well-drilled hard-left revolution.
But alongside him were representatives from the Dissent network and the Working Group Against Work, an Edinburgh-based movement against low paid, insecure jobs.
The main focus of the meeting was to discuss mobilisation within Scotland for the upcoming summit. The most pressing issue was convergence space, loosely translated to mean finding spaces to house the large number of protesters expected, as well as finding office space to set-up a communications network, both in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
We also talked about Scotland's right to roam laws and how they could be used to gain access to the countryside around Gleneagles without breaking any rules. A "beacons of dissent" action was discussed - a proposal to burn effigies of the G8 leaders on nearby hilltops to be organised by a protestor nicknamed 'Spacebunny'.
The next meeting was organised under the banner of Dissent on February 12. Dissent was formed in 2003 from groups of protestors involved in radical direct actions. The network has no central office, membership list or spokesperson, but derives its principals from the Peoples' Global Action network, an umbrella group set up in 1998 to co-ordinate and communicate with groups committed to global anti-capitalist resistance. It calls for a "confrontational attitude" and civil disobedience to achieve its aims.
Because of the suspicious nature of the Dissent network, just finding out where the meetings are taking place can be a laborious task in itself.
The original venue for the meeting was to be the Carnival Arts Centre in Glasgow. When I arrived there, I wasn't too sure I had the right place. There was no one around, and it looked like a disused warehouse. Only a small sign saying Dissent with an arrow pointing up the dark staircase told me I was indeed in the right place. Well, almost.
From the surroundings, I was surprised to find the space upstairs filled with brightly coloured tapestries and Christmas tree lights. A small group of children were running between rooms, playing very un-activist type war games. I was told that at the last minute the venue had been changed to the Glasgow Art School.
The police helicopter hovering overhead confirmed that the security services at least saw this meeting as a hotbed of anarchist activity. Other protest groups had turned up, including Scottish CND and the Faslane Trident Ploughshare.
Dissent information pamphlets were available, describing successful disruption tactics used at previous summits and other government meetings. There were clear steers as to what was expected from activists at the G8. "Another problem for Tony [Blair] and his chums, though, is that Gleneagles only has 270 rooms," they said. "Never enough for them, their entourage, and the press. So it looks like these guys will have to be bussed in from Perth, maybe Dundee and even further out. Not a lot of roads between Perth and Auchterarder: if one of those roads was to get blocked it could be an awful hassle."
Working groups were formed to discuss direct actions, meaning protesting in a manner that is disruptive rather than outright violent.
There was a loose form of organisation to it all, though not exactly what you would call a well-oiled machine. During meetings, a speaker is never interrupted until it is clear they have finished speaking. The group use the hand waves to signal their agreement or disagreement, and a minute-taker speaks only to clarify points raised.
A controversial statement can provoke furious hand waving, with arms raised in the air to provide emphasis. An example of this was the proposal to form a "tranquility team" to maintain order within the rural convergence space.
The group agreed that there should be some people dedicated to maintaining peace and harmony within the community. But it was hands down for the proposal to have them wear yellow jackets.
When it came to direct actions, the group discussions became purposely vague. Any discussion that strayed into actual details was quickly shut down. Those that needed to know clearly already knew. As some of the group are veterans of previous G8 protests, the cloak and dagger approach they have adopted has come as a direct result of the treatment they have received at earlier protests.
The topics were mainly limited to discussing the organisation of a suitable place to create a community. It is within that community space that the direct actions will be planned. A text messaging system will be used to co-ordinate direct actions and a communications team will be active within the rural convergence space - at Forthbank in Stirling - with a well equipped, solar-powered communications hub.
As innocuous as the proceedings seemed, the purpose of this gathering was nonetheless geared towards planning a strategy to disrupt the G8 proceedings. How do you turn a situation to your advantage? If a train full of protestors was stopped heading north to Edinburgh, activists should be ready with posters and banners to turn the exercise into a publicity opportunity.
In April, it was time for a Festival of Dissent in a field in Lanarkshire, which had a huge turnout of both journalists and police. The purpose was not to train activists in direct action but to teach them how to set up the eco-village that will house many protestors.
An American veteran activist named 'Starhawk' was co-ordinating this through a group called Earth Action. The arts of non-violent protest were on the agenda, as was what to do in the event of being arrested. Finances also figured highly. The Dissent network was holding funds in the region of £30,000 but had still to find a suitable accommodation space to spend the money on.
The most important Dissent gathering was held in Nottingham in May where the all-important convergence site was fully discussed. Minutes from the meeting reveal a discussion about what to do if police want to enter the site. Organisers want it to be a no-go zone for the security services although they were prepared to allow an inspection before it fully opened.
Legal arrangements were also made clear with a team of lawyers due to be on standby. Around 50,000 "bust cards" have been ordered for Scotland, giving activists information on their rights and a number to call if arrested.
The key to direct actions lay with finding out more about what was to happen at the convergence space. So my last brush with the activists earlier this month was at a Dissent Gathering at the Scottish Carnival Arts Centre in Glasgow, where the site was to be discussed. Attendance was poor as many activists were away in Sheffield planning for a pre-G8 ministerial meeting, at which police were expected to try out new crowd control tactics.
Only the core organisers for the convergence space in Scotland were on hand and as I had not been part of this group earlier I was looked at suspiciously. I was woefully out of my depth within this small group and they knew it. The discussion was being drawn back at the slightest hint of giving away any details of what the group were planning. I knew I wasn't welcome anymore, though as was fairly typical, everyone was far too polite to say anything.
It was clear to me that my time as a would-be anarchist was at an end.
Plots, paranoia and Monty Python... inside the world of G8 anarchists
A SIX-MONTH investigation by Scotland on Sunday into the heart of the G8 protest movement has uncovered the often cranky, yet deadly serious face of anarchists and dissenters who want to bring the meeting of world leaders to a standstill.
Their preparations for the July 6-8 summit at Gleneagles include a series of training camps being held this weekend to teach activists how to break into the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, in a protest timed for Monday, July 4. They will be taught fence-cutting techniques, how to climb over razor wire and how to avoid being injured by guard dogs.
Meanwhile, 'factories' have been set up in Edinburgh and Glasgow to manufacture 'lock-on tubes' - devices which protesters wear on their arms to hinder police attempts to clear them from road blockades.
Mission control for the disruption during the summit will be an 'eco-village' at Forthbank, near Stirling, which was approved by the local authority and Central Police on Friday.
The plans are ambitious and there is no doubt Scotland could be plunged into chaos even if they only partially succeed.
But there have also been moments of unintended comedic brilliance straight out of a Monty Python sketch. The groups planning the disruption pride themselves on their non-hierarchical decision-making structure. At meetings, the organisers shun the use of a table as it is regarded as too corporate.
The words 'yes' and 'no' appear to have been banished in this strange world as a means of indicating approval or disapproval. Instead, they wave both hands in the air - up to agree, down to disagree. Then there is the ever-present fear of infiltration. Planners hide surnames from one another and detailed discussions about direct action are restricted to tight-knit huddles of only the most trusted activists.
It is clear, though, that a major tactic will be to block roads leading from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Perth to Gleneagles to prevent administrative staff from reaching the hotels where world leaders and their aides will be staying. Crucial sites for road closure have already been scouted, down to the specific road sign poles that will be used to link chained demonstrators.
• Read Scott McCulloch's six month investigation of G8 activist
DIARY OF AN ANARCHIST ANARCHIST Jul 13 2005
ANARCHISTS have complained of police brutality during the G8 riots. And MSP Carolyn Leckie, of the SSP, has called for an inquiry into police conduct. But many residents in Edinburgh and Stirling have said those responsible for the chaos were 'thugs'. Record reporter ALLAN CALDWELL inflitrated the anarchists, then lived and marched with them. This is his diary
FRIDAY July 1FRIDAY JULY 1
HAVING made contact with several anarchist organisations through the internet, I am now ready to meet them face to face One of the groups from the south-east of England has organised a charter train to take up to 600 people from London to Edinburgh - the Anarchist Express.
An hour before the train is due to leave London's King's Cross station at 3.25pm, protesters are already gathering. There are 'Earth mums' with children, teenage punks, ageing hippies and a motley crew clad in combat gear and some in black.
The unemployed and the unemployable, joined by students, labourers, nurses, teachers and many more.
The train has been organised by the umbrella network Dissent!, which aims to unite 22 different factions.
They include the notorious Black Bloc, the Wombles and Earth First! along with the less aggressive Peoples' Global Action, Friends of the Earth and Globalise Resistance. Their members hail from the UK, Ireland, America, Germany, Spain, Italy - even Serbia and Iran.
One of the anarchists, nicknamed Serbian Sam, tells of his thirst for violence on the streets. 'I hope it turns out like Genoa,' he says, in a chilling reference to G8 riots in Italy that left one protester dead.
On board the train, I join a workshop to learn what is 'acceptable' violence.
After six hours, we arrive at Edinburgh's Waverley station to be met by a large police presence.They are recording us on video.
They try to lead us to coaches bound for either the campsite at Craigmillar or to the Horizon eco village at Stirling.
Some of the hard-core members decide they want to stay in the city centre and I join them. Word spreads that a makeshift camp has been created at a local park.
By11pm, there are around 200 of us there but the police arrive and insist we leave.
Some extremists press for a first fight but in the end we are bussed to Craigmillar camp
SATURDAY JULY 2
I HAVE linked up with Chris from London - a seasoned campaigner in his early 30s.
We wake up in the Edinburgh site surrounded by a sea of other tents.
Protesters call it the 'concentration camp' because of the high-level security.
We head for the Make Poverty History march, although most of the anarchists see that as an establishment con.They slate Bob Geldof and Bono for 'cashing in' on Africa.
I sit with some German members of the Black Bloc.Their plan is to use the Carnival for Full Enjoyment in Edinburgh city centre on Monday as a springboard for violence.
One of them says: 'We don't need banners. Our point is made with bricks and clubs.'
A small skirmish has broken out between British Black Bloc members and police.
As I wander around the campsite, I hear one say: 'If that's the best the cops can do, we're laughing
SUNDAY JULY 3
I MAKE my way to Edinburgh University to join the large People's Assembly gathering in the debating hall.There are around 500 people representing all the factions. Details of actions planned at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling/Gleneagles are discussed.
Former BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, now working for a London newspaper, has sneaked into the back of the hall but he is quickly spotted. Mayhem breaks out as members of the UK Black Bloc rush at Gilligan, grabbing his notebook and case and sending him flying.
His glasses fly from his face as he's punched and kicked. Gilligan gets to his feet looking shocked and scared.The Black Bloc members force him into a corner and again assault him. Yells of 'scum' ring out.
Gilligan is eventually pulled out of the hall and darts for the police lines
MONDAY JULY 4
DECAMP and head for the west end of Princes Street for the Carnival For Full Enjoyment.
Others go to blockade Faslane naval base.
Before we reach the starting point, rapid-response units speed past us with lights and sirens blaring. Riot police have formed barriers around the Sheraton Hotel, where the Japanese delegation are staying. The main body of peaceful marchers have already set off along Princes Street.
Lagging behind them, I join a sinister group of black-clad anarchists.They are led by a group from Italy, their faces covered.
We swing right and start to run up to Charlotte Square, housing the residence of the First Minister. I see a thin line of baton-wielding police waiting for us.We're held back but some break through and fight with police. Suddenly, a unit of mounted officers gallop over the hill towards the marchers.
Riot police rush the main body of protesters, and send them scattering into the square.
I spot ringleaders using mobile phones and whistles to get the group moving again, this time down to Princes Square. About 300 yards ahead, more police are ready.They draw their batons and form a line.
Just a few feet from them, the protesters suddenly stop and begin taunting them. Paving stones are being ripped up from the central reservation in Princes Street and smashed to make smaller missiles. Riot police and the mounted unit appear and the bloody fighting, which had been threatened, is now unfolding in front of me.
Bricks, bottles and sticks are hurled.
Kicks are aimed at police shields. Bags of chilli powder are thrown at the eyes and noses of the horses. Park benches are being ripped from the gardens and chucked on the street to act as a barricade.
Several protesters are hit with batons, leaving them bloodied and dazed.There's shouting, screaming, panic. Around me, I see tourists cowering in shop doorways.
Several hours later, fresh clashes erupt in Princes Street Gardens. At the end of the day, scores of protesters have been arrested. I slip past the police lines and join Chris and two Americans.We catch an anarchist shuttle bus to Stirling. As we sip beer and discuss the day's events, Serbian Sam appears. He wants us to meet a girl called Ziggy who is liaising with a secretive group planning 'something special' in Edinburgh on Wednesday morning - the first day of the G8 summit
TUESDAY JULY 5
THERE are just two makeshift showers for the 3000 people at the Stirling camp. The Portaloos are stinking and overflowing and there's a fear dysentery could break out. Serbian Sam and I set off for Edinburgh and a secret meeting at the Meadows park. A young articulate Englishman called Mark is chairing the meeting of a dozen or so people. His plan is to stage a car crash that will block the busy Queensferry Road at the Barton junction at 7am tomorrow. He hopes to delay delegates heading along the M9 to Gleneagles.Two cars have been 'obtained' along with two volunteers to drive them into each other. It's a dangerous plan that will require at least 60 people.
Later that night, I get a message to Ziggy to say our group want to do their own thing
WEDNESDAY JULY 6
THE first day of the G8 summit.We rise at 2am.Many people have already left the camp to reach destinations that are to be targeted later this morning. I stay with the main group who plan to march to the M9. Three separate groups of potential saboteurs will walk out at different times.
The first block of 1500 marchers heads off and soon there are bloody clashes with police as the rapid-response units fight to contain the protesters. Windows are smashed in the buildings of 'corporate targets' including Burger King and Bank of Scotland.
Police appear to have contained the majority of them along one street only to watch in horror as a second wave of marchers - about 1000 of them - move in behind them.
The police line collapses and they flee.
Now the third and last group of marchers, around 300-strong and led by the notorious Italians, is on its way. Just a solitary police van blocks their path. Riot police are called back from the other flashpoints and quickly form a line to stop the protesters.
There are further clashes and missiles rain downon the police. I've been caught in the surge, forcing me towards the frontline. I suffer for it. A rock crashes down on my head and I feel blood running down my face. I clamber through some bushes past the police line. I want to get to the M9 to see if protesters have made it that far.
After a one-hour trek, I reach the road. Others have also made it and are hiding beside bridges along the motorway between junctions nine and 10.
At approximately 6.15am, a group of 150 anarchists rush down the embankment andon to the M9.They block it with stones and branches and stage a sit-down protest. Traffic quickly grinds to a standstill. Two other gangs repeat the scene further up.
I meet another group bloodied and bruised after being driven back by riot police as they tried to reach the motorway.
One has a broken arm, another a large cut on his head from a baton. A man and a woman have puffy, tearful eyes after being blasted with pepper spray.They are mostly British and German Black Bloc members.
They meet a mobile 'ambulance' from the campsite and are given treatment.
They want to get back among the action - even the man with the broken arm.
One of them summed it up saying: 'We're not finished with the b ****** s yet. ' They join the Italians who managed to break past the police lines and erect bigger blockades on both carriageways. Riot police move in and clear the barricades and then block the anarchists in on both sides.
I watch from a nearby footbridge as they make a dash for freedom across the fields. Most of the protesters have gone into a field sealed off by a high rock face and are trapped by the police. Around 60 are arrested, and several hurt. I hear a girl scream.
Back at the camp, the 'generals' are busy in front of a large battle map with stickers showing the success of other groups.
The whole of Central Scotland has become gridlocked. At one point all roads in and out of Gleneagles had been closed.The railway at Dunblane has been blockaded. The car crash and blockade on Edinburgh's Queensferry Road has worked, although three of the group have been arrested.
Several hundred protesters have been detained in clashes but the mood is jubilant.
At a victory meeting in the main tent, one of the generals boasted: 'We didn't have a plan. But if you don't have a plan it can't go wrong.Today we destroyed ten thousand of Britain's best police and they know it.'
There is one big drunken party at the camp that night. I thought a couple of drinks might help me get my first decent sleep of the week. I was wrong
THURSDAY JULY 7
WE wake up at 2.30am to the sound of alarm bells and people shouting through megaphones: 'The police are attacking the camp! Get to the barriers at the gate.'
There's a bit of panic. More than 20 vans, some with riot police, have formed at the roundabout leading down to the campsite.
I'm with a group of around 100 who have gathered at a meeting tent.We had planned to leave the site at 4am and head for Crieff to blockade a hotel where American delegates are staying. But we have been told anyone leaving the site is subject to search and possible arrest. No large group will be allowed to leave. As the hours drifted by, the news that shocked the world hit us. The terrorist bombings in London. Some protesters burst out crying while others make frantic calls to loved ones on their mobile phones.
It's agreed to suspend actions for the day and release a statement of sympathy to the victims and their families.
Many are now leaving the camp and heading home.Others begin drifting out to go to Glasgow, where a last day party on a bridge over the River Clyde is planned.
The rest of us stay but it's not the same party mood tonight
FRIDAY JULY 8
EVERYONE leaving the site is subjected to a police stop and search. Some are recognised from the video recordings and arrested.
I and several hundred others head for Glasgow. We meet other anarchists at an east end warehouse as they prepare to march to the bridge at Commerce Street.
Up to 500 protesters converge on the bridge and sing, dance and drink. Some tease police but it's mainly good-natured.
TheG8 protests are at an end.Those who have not already left will do so the next day. I wander off the bridge and back to what I regard as my normal world. But it's a different world to that inhabited by the majority of those I leave behind