This report is sadly overshadowed by the awful events in London. At the time of writing over 50 people are known to have died in the four explosions in central London during the rush hour on Thursday morning. There was a vigil for the London dead at the foot of the Mound in Edinburgh at 9.00pm on Thursday 7th July, which was attended by around 100 people. There was a further vigil on Friday 8th July at 5.30pm when Rose Gentle (whose son Gordon was killed in Basra last year) laid a wreath at St Giles Cathedral on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. On Saturday 9th July it was announced that around 20 more bodies are yet to be recovered from the Piccadilly underground line, which will brig the final body count to over 70.
Wednesday 6th July saw the long planned march and rally on the G8 summit at Gleneagles. Buses were due to leave Waterloo Place in Central Edinburgh at 10.00am but there were indications that trouble was afoot when at a quarter to ten six police vans with sirens blaring sped along Princes street past the Wellington statue to Waterloo Place. Police, their numbers illegally covered, told us that if we wanted to go home then we could do so. No one had any intentions of going home and the crowd waited patiently for the buses to leave. March organisers advised that anyone with anything potentially illegal should leave it behind. A police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) whose purpose was clearly to unsettle and intimidate demonstrators targeted one bus.
The situation was very confused with rumours that the march had been cancelled and no one quite sure when the buses would get away. At 10.27 one yellow double decker bus moved out but was headed off by a police van. There were shouts of “Let the bus go! Let the bus go!” and “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” One of the organisers announced through his tannoy that even if it took until midnight we were going to Gleneagles. Eventually the three double decker buses were able to get away but the remaining coaches were severely delayed and the crowd grew restless. A piper struck up with `Scotland the Brave` and it was made known that four buses were on their way and that due to limited space only those who already had tickets could travel. There was news of serious disturbances at Stirling where there was a report of the railway line being blocked by activists so that G8 support staff could not arrive.
One of the organisers said that we were either going to Gleneagles or we would demonstrate right there. This is nearly what happened when at around 11.38am after the coaches failed to arrive the protesters marched down Waterloo Place to Princes Street where they joined up with a group of around 100 coming down the North Bridge. There were chants of “The workers united will never be defeated!” and “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” “Whose world? Our world!”
At just after 11.40 the crowd were moving down Princes Street chanting: “No Justice, No Peace!” with the police back-pedalling. The noise reached a crescendo as the procession of 500 or so moved down toward the junction of the Mound with Princes Street. Someone suggested marching on the US consul in Regent Terrace, as whistles blew and people shouted, “We want to march!”
Buses now queued up to take activists to Gleneagles but they were temporarily forgotten in the excitement of the spontaneous march. At noon the crowd halted by the foot of the Mound with three police vans blocking the West End of Princes Street. A police helicopter appeared overhead with some joking that our transport had arrived. At around 12.30pm some people got on to the buses only to hear rumours that they had not been paid for and could not take us. After one O’ clock with the protest still stuck in Edinburgh people were getting impatient. There were a number of false starts as people sat on the coaches in Princes Street waiting to go. There was action outside with the police making several arrests clearly visible through the windows of the coach. Two members of Edinburgh Stop the War were lifted at about a quarter past two for no obvious reason and an observer phoned Glasgow based human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar for advice.
Finally at about 14.30 the buses got away after a delay of four and a half hours. As it wasn’t possible to go over the Forth Bridge the coach went along the M9 via Falkirk, Stirling and Dunblane to Auchterarder. Luckily there were no serious delays and we actually had an escort of a police motorcycle for some of the way. At about half past three we passed a sign saying `Welcome to Perth and Kinross - the heart of Scotland. ` Passing the small town of Blackford we arrived in the Perthshire town of Auchterarder (sometimes like Kirkcaldy called `The Lang Toun`) Rumours spread through the bus that it was George Bush’s 59th birthday and someone suggested getting him a pretzel as a birthday present hoping he would choke on it. The coaches finally arrived in Auchterarder at about ten to five, unfortunately too late for the march but in time for the rally in Auchterarder Park. The weather was really damp and chilly with your breath faintly visible – in July! Police with Prussian helmets turned out to be from Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire. The police held up the road to Auchterarder Park for a while as demonstrators whistled the Internationale. Walking up the main street past the `Beneagles` and `Star` hotels the marchers reached the 5,000 capacity park to hear the speakers at the rally as a surveillance helicopter clattered overhead. Scottish writer and activist A L Kennedy was there as was environmental campaigner George Monbiot.
The actual march itself which took place around 12.30pm was something I missed as the coach did not arrive until after four O’ clock. It seem as if up to 10,000 marched to within 500 metres of the Gleneagles Hotel with over a thousand police in close attendance. Several hundred protestors actually broke through the rather flimsy outer perimeter fence and got near the hotel but many were arrested. One of the attached photos shows protestors breaking through the outer fence.
The rally was held in the town’s Auchterarder Park at a little after five O’clock. Gil Hubbard of Globalise Resistance chaired the event and the first speaker was Walden Bello. He said that the G8 was part of the problem and not part of the solution. He called for an end to the occupation of Iraq reminding the crowd of the 100,000 plus deaths as a result of the occupation.
Gil said that the marchers had made history by marching to within 500 metres of Gleneagles and some Americans had said that was as close as they had ever got to their president.
Next speaker was Trevor Ngamwe from South Africa who said that the G8 was part of the problem while the demonstrators were part of the solution. The policies of Bush, Blair, Brown and Berlusconi were impoverishing Africa. “When they say they are going to give Africa debt relief they are begging the question. Our question to them is who owns what to whom? After centuries of slavery, centuries of colonialism, they have raped, plundered and robbed Africa, today they say they are delivering, they are going to forgive us our debts – we don’t owe them, they owe us a life!” He also criticised the dictators in Africa who were also part of the problem.
Next was Colin Fox, the convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party who said that everyone who had made it that day should get an award just for getting there. He spoke of how the democratic right to march had to be fought for. He told the assembly of Martin Luther King’s `I have a dream` speech of the 1960’s when King expressed the hope that little black boys and girls could sit down with little white boys and girls. He quoted Scots author Thomas Carlyle who said, “No lie can last for ever.”
He went on “I’ll tell you that those G8 leaders up at Gleneagles, they lie, they lie out of their back teeth, They lie when they say we care about poverty in the third world, they don’t give a damn about poverty in the third world, they are responsible for poverty in the third world.”
He went on to say how the idea that only the G8 could solve things was a lie and pointed to the quarter of a million peoiple who had marched against poverty in Edinburgh on Saturday July 2nd. He spoke of the democratic spirit that were sweeping the world, the kind of forces, which had swept aside Apartheid in South Africa and the regimes in Eastern Europe.
He finished by quoting Malcolm X who said that you couldn’t have capitalism without poverty.
Gil Hubbard thanked the people of Auchterarder who had been very supportive and introduced Chris Nineham of Stop the War coalition. He said that despite the biggest mobilisation of police the country had ever seen they could not stop us. The reason they could not stop us was because we represented the overwhelming majority of people in Britain. The people had turned against the policies of the G8 who were meeting just half a mile away. He articulated that the coverage of the Edinburgh protest had verged on the surreal with, “kids being criminalized for throwing tulips in Princes Street while huge resources of society have been mobilised to welcome this gang of 8 criminals that none of us wanted to have here!”
“When it comes to the issue of violence I’d like to ask any journalist present to think about just a few questions, a few simple questions, who I’d like them to think about is responsible for polluting the planet to the edge of extinction? Is it us or is it them? Who is imposing murderous policies of privatisation around the globe which are causing misery and devastation in many regions of the world, is it us or is it them? Finally who is organising and participating in the massacre of innocents in Iraq? Is it us or is them?” He said that the anti-war movement was growing and how the overwhelming majority of people wanted an end to the occupation of Iraq and this was now true in the United States. He said that the Stop the War movement was going to launch a massive campaign to have all the troops brought home for Christmas.
The final speaker was campaigner George Monbiot who said that the G8 had shut the world out of their deliberations. By surrounding their `cage` we were showing their lack of legitimacy. The G8 was an illegitimate organisation when so many people were not represented. The interests of the rich were not the same as the interests of the poor. The G8 claims to speak for the world but the world is speaking back saying your power is not legitimate and addressing the G8 he said, “You are G8 we are six billion.”
The rally finished at 5.48pm to some music with Gil Hubbard saying, “We have kicked George Bush’s arse!”
Demonstrators made their way back to Edinburgh and other destinations on the dozens of coaches parked in the town. The helicopters still flew overhead and the place was crawling with cops.
What did it all achieve? That is a matter for debate but one thing is for certain and that is that it is no longer possible for the `masters of the universe` as Noam Chomsky calls them to meet in cosy bars in city centres. They have to hide from people they are meant to represent.
15 labelled photos are attached.
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