Friday, July 08, 2005

G8 - Summation By The Master

Whilst I collate my thoughts and pictures from my week in Edinburgh, I didn't take my laptop so I had to write everything down and then transcribe it when I got back. I wrote quite a bit so I'm something of a victim of my own success, it's taking bloody ages to write it all up! What I will do is on Thursday I will attempt to renact the week that I had by uploading day by day the writings I made on each day I was away. I'm sure that level of chronology is of little interest to anyone else but it is useful for me. I'm quite chuffed with some of the photos and they took me bloody ages to upload. I had also written a conclusion piece before I read John Pilger's account which I include below. Naturally he says much of what I do but so much better and so much more powerfully it may render my attempt pointless. Pilger doesn't pull his punches, he never has done and thank Christ someone is prepared to stand up and say what is actually going on and slice through the forest of bullshit that that governments and media have built up to stop us seeing inside. Please read it and if you feel inclined disseminate it to as many people as you can, this was the best way I could think of for me to do so.

"The ghost at Gleneagles In the orgy of summit coverage something has been overlooked: the two men at the heart of it, telling us how the world should be run, are the men responsible for Fallujah and Abu Ghraib.

Over the past two weeks, the contrast between two related "global" events has been salutary. The first was the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul; the second the G8 meeting in Scotland and the Make Poverty History campaign. Reading the papers and watching television in Britain, you would know nothing about the Istanbul meetings, which produced the most searing evidence to date of the greatest political scandal of modern times: the attack on a defenceless Iraq by America and Britain. The tribunal is a serious international public inquiry into the invasion and occupation, the kind governments dare not hold. "We are here," said the author Arundhati Roy in Istanbul, "to examine a vast spectrum of evidence [about the war] that has been deliberately marginalised and suppressed - its legality, the role of international institutions and major corporations in the occupation; the role of the media, the impact of weapons such as depleted-uranium munitions, napalm and cluster bombs, the use and legitimation of torture . . . This tribunal is an attempt to correct the record: to document the history of the war not from the point of view of the victors but of the temporarily vanquished." "Temporarily vanquished" implies that, even faced with such rampant power, the Iraqi people will recover. You certainly need this sense of hope when reading the eyewitness testimonies, which demonstrate, as Roy pointed out, "that even those of us who have tried to follow the war closely are not aware of a fraction of the horrors that have been unleashed in Iraq".

The most shocking was given by Dahr Jamail. Unless you read the internet, you will not know who Dahr Jamail is. He is not an amusing Baghdad blogger. For me, he is the finest reporter working in Iraq. Together with Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn and a few others, mostly freelancers, he shames the flak-jacketed, cliche-crunching camp followers known as "embeds". A Lebanese with US citizenship, Jamail has been almost everywhere the camp followers have not. He has reported from the besieged city of Fallujah, whose destruction and atrocities have been suppressed, notably by the BBC.

In Istanbul, Jamail bore his independent reporter's witness to the thousands of Iraqis tortured in Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons. His account of what had happened to a civil servant in Baghdad was typical. This man, Ali Abbas, had gone to a US base to inquire about his missing neighbours. On his fourth visit, he was arrested without charge, stripped naked, hooded and forced to simulate sex with other prisoners. This was standard procedure. He was beaten on his genitals, electrocuted in the anus, denied water and forced to watch as his food was thrown away. A loaded gun was held to his head to prevent him from screaming in pain as his wrists were bound so tightly that the blood drained from his hands. He was doused in cold water while a fan was held to his body. "They put on a loudspeaker," he told Jamail, "put the speakers on my ears and said, 'Shut up, fuck, fuck, fuck!'" He was refused sleep. Excrement was wiped on him and dogs were used on him. "Sometimes at night when he would read his Koran," said Jamail, "[he] had to hold it in the hallway for light. 'Soldiers would walk by and kick the Holy Koran, and sometimes they would try to piss on it or wipe shit on it,' [Abbas] said." A female soldier told him, "Our aim is to put you in hell . . . These are the orders we have from our superiors, to turn your lives into hell." Jamail described how Fallujah's hospitals have been subjected to an American tactic of collective punishment, with US marines assaulting staff and stopping the wounded entering, and American snipers firing at the doors and windows, and medicines and emergency blood prevented from reaching the hospitals. Children were shot dead in front of their families, in cold blood. The two men ultimately responsible for this, George W Bush and Tony Blair, attended the G8 meeting at Gleneagles.Unlike for the Iraq tribunal, there was saturation coverage, yet no one in the "mainstream" - from the embedded media to the Make Poverty History organisers and the accredited, acceptable celebrities - made the obvious connection with Bush's and Blair's enduring crime in Iraq. No one stood and said that Blair's smoke-and-mirrors "debt cancellation" at best amounted to less than the money the government spent in a week on brutalising Iraq, where British and American violence was the cause of the doubling of child poverty and malnutrition since Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

In Edinburgh, a shameless invitation-only meeting of Christian Aid supporters and church leaders was addressed by Gordon Brown, a paymaster of this carnage. Only one person asked him, "When will you stop the rape of the poor's resources? Why are there so many conditions on aid?" This lone protester was not referring specifically to Iraq, but to most of the world. He was thrown out, to cheers from among the assembled Christians. That set the theme for the G8 week: the silencing and pacifying and co-option of real dissent and truth. It was Frantz Fanon, the great pan-Africanist intellectual/activist, who exposed colonial greed and violence dressed up as polite do-goodery, and nothing has changed, in Africa as in Iraq. The mawkish images on giant screens behind the pop stars in Hyde Park beckoned a wilful, self-satisfied ignorance. There were none of the images that television refuses to show: of murdered Iraqi doctors with the blood streaming from their heads, cut down by Bush's snipers. On the front page of the Guardian, the Age of Irony was celebrated as real life became more satirical than satire could ever be. There was Bob Geldof, resting his smiling face on smiling Blair's shoulder, the war criminal and his jester. Elsewhere, there was a heroically silhouetted Bono, who celebrates men like Jeffrey Sachs as saviours of the world's poor while lauding "compassionate" Bush's "war on terror" as one of his generation's greatest achievements; and there again was Brown, the enforcer of unfair rules of trade, saying incredibly that "unfair rules of trade shackle poor people"; and Paul Wolfowitz, beaming next to the Archbishop of Canterbury: this is the man who, before he was handed control of the World Bank, devised much of Bush's so-called neoconservative putsch, the mendacious justification for the bloodfest in Iraq and the notion of "endless war".

And if you missed all that, there is a downloadable PDF kit from a "ONE Campaign" e-mail to "help you organise your very own ongoing Live 8 party". The suppression of African singers and bands, parked where Geldof decreed, in an environmental theme park in Cornwall far from the vaunted global audience, was described correctly by Andy Kershaw as "musical apartheid". Has there ever been a censorship as complete and insidious and ingenious as this? Even when Stalin airbrushed his purged comrades from the annual photograph on top of Lenin's mausoleum, the Russian people could fill in the gaps. Media and cultural hype provide infinitely more powerful propaganda weapons in the age of Blair. With Diana, there was grief by media. With Iraq, there was war by media. Now there is mass distraction by media, a normalising of the unmentionable that "the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people", as Arthur Miller wrote, "and so the evidence has to be internally denied".

Deploying the unction of Bono, Madonna, Paul McCartney, a pop-up Andrew Marr and of course Geldof, whose Live Aid 20 years ago achieved nothing for the people of Africa, the contemporary plunderers and pawnbrokers of that continent have pulled off an unprecedented scam: the antithesis of 15 February 2003, when two million people brought both hearts and brains to the streets of London. "[Ours] is not a march in the sense of a demonstration, but more of a walk, " said Bruce Whitehead of Make Poverty History. "The emphasis is on fun in the sun. The intention is to welcome the G8 leaders to Scotland and ask them to deliver trade justice, debt cancellation and increased aid to developing countries."

Really? In Lewis Carroll's classic, Alice asked the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter to show her the way out of wonderland. They did, over and again, this way, that way, until she lost her temper and brought down her dream-world, waking her up. The people killed and maimed in Iraq and the people wilfully impoverished in Africa by our governments and our institutions, in our name, demand that we wake up."

This paints the sort of picture that I think my ramblings of my G8 week will paint too, but it does so in such a powerful and yet succinct way. this is why John Pilger is one of the finest investigative journalists this country has seen. So, having read his passage now tell me another world isn't possible.

Song Of The Day ~ Edwin Starr - War

Thursday, July 07, 2005

G8 Summit - Final Grade - F

It was hardly a surprise, even before the London bombings and before the protests our expectations were low as to the tangible conclusions of the G8 summit at Gleneagles. It seemed likely that due to the pressure of the protesters and the many celebrities that jumped on the bandwagon of the campaign the G8 leaders would at least have their pledge books out. That is of course not to say they are going to do anything but they will make it look as if they had intention to. The same tactic was applied for the aid supposed to be on its way for the victims of the asian tsunami. Billlions were pledged but less than 20% actually materialised, however it looked good for the cameras to be so generous even if there were no intention of delivering the promises.

The greatest problem with the bombings, leaving aside the obvious one in the loss of innocent lives, was that it allowed the G8 leaders to unite behind a common cause, a common foe - terrorism...again. Now the trouble with terrorism as an enemy is as Chomsky put it that it isn't tangible, it isn't as if you are going to have eradicated it if you do certain things. It's a war that has no end, it can be used time and time again to suit various political purposes at will.

If we look at the legislation now being proposed even with Parliament currently in recess it is clear that the government are planning to use the London bombings as a smokescreen for all the stuff that they would previously have found impossible. There is going to be a big push for ID cards and the like, we are about to see deportations for religious (=islamic) extremism. So far I have not heard one critique of the hard-line orthodox Jewish extremists nor the very reactionary Catholics and I'm sure in every single denomination and faith there are some who would come under the extremist category. But that is not who they are looking for make no mistake this is purely a rod to beat muslims back... at the moment remember Pastor Niemueller?

And what of the world's poor, as if by magic another famine appears and yet my hopes for the people of Niger are not appreciably higher than they would have been before the Make Poverty History campaign now. I'm sure some "friendly" countries may receive some assistance but you can bet that those deemed extremist will not. Men like Robert Mugabe supported initially by the West will be cited as the reason why Zimbabwe is not getting any aid, this after mass criticism that he is starving his people, and yet now we are helping him to do so.

I'm afraid I disagree with Bono that this is the beginning of the end of poverty. This is simply the beginning of what may well be a long struggle to end poverty. We have taken the first step to show the world that enough is enough, the powers that be will attempt many things to put us off track including making it look as if they are our staunchest supporters it is a hoodwink tactic and must be seen as such. If they wanted to end world poverty they could do so almost overnight. The status quo, the TNCs the MNCs the NSA, the CIA, the G8 leaders will not give up the world without a fight, they are making far too much money for that. But remember "Who's world?"


Song Of The Day ~ Hall & Oates - Out Of Touch

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

G8 Edinburgh Day 7 - This Is What Democracy Looks Like!

This was always going to be the one that could go either way. Initially in the light of the weekends events one might have thought that the foundations had been laid for peaceful protest. Monday changed all that.

Nick and I went down to Waterloo Place to pick up the coach at 9am. the tickets had said 10 but the lady I bought them off told me they'd have to leave at 9 because there were so many of us. Over 30 coaches left in good time and set off for Auchterarder. Having negociated the Edinburgh rush hour we were then pulled over en masse at the Forth Road Bridge and the police did spot checks etc. There was no reason given, it slowed us down it got people edgy it laid down the law so to speak from their perspective. In comparison with what we had expected it was pretty mild and we crossed the Forth Bridge in fairly buoyant mood.

Nearly an hour later as we got to the junction of the A9 we were all pulled over again and the police presence was much greater. At this point we started to find out a little more of what had been going on around us whilst we journeyed North oblivious. The people left behind in Edinburgh, including a friend of mine that I was due to meet on the march, who were expecting to catch buses at 10am had not been able to leave because the police had stopped the buses from going to pick them up. They were staging a protest in Princes St. in defence of their right to march.

The media disinformation appeared to be a particular tactic. The police had initially issued a statement first thing in the morning asserting that the march organisers had called it off, they were forced to retract that so the next statement was that they (the police) had cancelled the march, which under the Human Rights Act they have no powers to do. Whilst this did not affect those of us who had just gone straight to the coaches, it undoubtedly had an effect on many people who may have been listening to the radio and such like as they got ready in the morning. In addition to this police were stopping cars and minibuses on the route from Edinburgh and telling people that it had been cancelled. One group we spoke to said that they informed the police that on the radio it had said it was not cancelled and the police retracted the statement saying oh yes oh yes we were just saying that it had been cancelled but it isn't any more.

The reason, apparently, we had all been stopped was that there were anarchist roadblocks on the A9. Which was interesting since they were obviously conveniently positioned near enough this area where the police were able to keep 40 coaches without blocking the road. We were debating what we should do if the police didn't let us go thru' and whether we should all occupy the roundabout when I got the call from my mate on Princes St. to inform me that they were all being accused of inciting a riot! I later spoke to a mate of mine back at home who told me that he'd seen some pictures on the news and the "roadblocks" were the odd branch across the carriageway. From the news items I saw later there were some proper type roadblocks too but I did not see any on the dual carriageway at all they were all on country roads.

Some while later the coach drivers were told to start their engines and that we would be going, thiis turned out to be a false alarm. We were then told that were were waiting for another unit of plod to come down who were going to escort us to Auchterarder, this seemed rather ironic as for me out of a police escort or a cavalcade of anti G8 protesters I know which the anarchists would take more umbrage to. Perhaps in fact the truth was that we were to be escorting the police to Auchterarder! When the escort arrived and we set off after our more than 2 hour delay the escort proceeded to marshall us along the dual carriageway at 10-15mph. There was nothing at all on the road in either direction.

We arrived at Auchterarder after a total of 4hrs 30mins for a journey that should have taken just over an hour. The police had done their best to stop us but we'd made it in spite of them and the mood on the town common/village green was bouyant. After some speeches and some music we set off to march. The route had already been publisised in so far as we knew we were to walk up the main st. and get to the gates of the Gleneagles estate at which point we were expected to turn right and head round back parallel to end up where we came from. This seemed logistically naive from the outset, and I remember remarking to Nick days before that there was going to be a bottle neck at the gates and there was going to be trouble and that's what the police were looking for because they'd just hem us in at the back and the top and employ the same tactic as Monday. I do not claim to be a prophet nor particularly in tune with police strategy I merely make mention of this here to illustrate how obvious it seemed beforehand.

Our man in Princes St. told me that he had been issued a Section 60 and told that the police had video evidence of him doing all sorts of shit, and yet they wanted him simply to leave the area or be arrested. I know the guy and to be frank the notion of him doing anything violent or damaging is laughable, besides which if they had video evidence of him I have no doubt he would have been arrested there and then. He told me the only scuffle he'd got into was when he'd pulled a guy off a car and said "don't give them an excuse mate." As he was on his own and not in a group of people he understandably left the area.

The first 45 mins or so of the march at Auchterarder was good-natured and loud with singing and chanting and general pleasure that we had all got there. It was as if there was an enormous sense of relief that we had all got there and were now safe in our numbers, what was going to happen would happen but we were all there regardless. Nick and I had already discussed that we were not going to do any damage, that wasn't what either of us were here for, but if there was a fence breach and people started into the estate we would follow suit to try to ensure the safety in numbers. If 5 people were arrested within the compound they would have the book thrown at them, if 100 were arrested it would be more difficult, 1000 and the police position would be less tenable still.

Everything ground to a halt, there was no moving for a while and people started wondering what was going on. In typical chinese whispers fasion rumours were getting back to us that there was a crush against the gates, or there had been a sit down protest or these had been a breach of the fence. The police were principally responsible for this, they were telling us to move back which we did. Still nothing went forward, then the chinook helicopters started arriving whirring around the compund and the march area clearly as a show of force, they buzzed around us and did low fly-bys and banked in our vicinity. It was all rather petty to be honest and once again it became clear that the police had set out their stall long before we arrived. In conjunction with this riot vans had been appearing at stretches along the march and groups of police were forming lines to separate the marchers into smaller groups.

It must have been over an hour before people started to walk back to the common, first a handful then a lot more. We stayed put, it seemed like hours, there seemed no information from the stewards and the police were still claiming there was a crush. At one stage the march was moving forward and I was being told to move back by a plod. I simply stood where I was and he berated me I answered that if there was a crush up the front and everyone was going forward then standing my ground was a valid tactic and if everyone currently did it then there would be no crush. He responded angrily that if I spent my time doing as I was told and stopped being so difficult it would be wise. I stood my ground.

That was the last time I saw the march move forward. From that point on people continued to drift backwards, it was already long after our buses were supposed to have left so clearly they would have to wait for us wouldn't they? I don't know what time it was but eventually the stewards started telling us that the police were not letting people through at the front and that the advice from the chief steward was that we were to go back to the village green. It was stated in no uncertain terms that the buses would only wait a certain amount of time. The inference of this was pretty clear and Nick and I were left with little practical choice but to join the backward line.

We encountered a rather bizarre stand-off at this point where the stewards were telling us to go back and leave the area and yet we were still prevented from doing so by a large group of police in a line. This seemed rather ironic and I would have loved to have said that we all turned round and said 'well ok if you insist officers' and marched back towards the estate! The order was slow in coming but obviously it did get through in the end and we were allowed to walk back. Just shy of the village green we were crossing the road and a parked Greater Manchester police van revved its engine just as I walked in front of it. I'm afraid I got the red mist and gave him the finger straight away and yelled at him to fuck off and stop trying to intimidate pedestrians who had the right of way. The driver of the van did not look pleased at all but at that stage I simply didn't care, I was tired and hungry and very pissed off that we had not been allowed to make our point to those in their ivory towers.

Back at the green Nick and I found a queue for some thick vegetable stew that was being ladeled out and given with a slab of fresh brown bread. What was even better was that it was free. I have no idea how it was orchestrated or who paid for it but I could have kissed the girl serving it, it was hot and filling and good, I was so hungry I even ate the cabbage! It gave us some more energy and we could have marched back again given the chance. There was a sort of debrief, pats on the back for us all getting there and such like.

On the return coach journey the mood was cheerful but not as bubbly and vocal as before. there was a communal sense of disappointment, tinged with anger and perhaps a little relief that we few had managed to come out unscathed but without shying away from what had to be done.

Song Of The Day ~ Led Zeppelin - No Quarter

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

G8 Edinburgh Day 6 - A Meal & A Place To Stay II

Something about today makes it feel that I am not to be here much longer, yesterday it still felt like I'd be here a little while. I would like to be here a few more days. The atmosphere is a little surreal in so far as the group of people I'm hanging out with here are here for the longer term save for myself and Nick. Me, I return whence I came back to my life on Thursday, house, children, work etc. Don't get me wrong in so many ways I appreciate what I have, I've worked hard enough for it after all. When I didn't have security it was something I craved, I've been looking for a chance to find somewhere to put down roots for ages, I guess when you wait for something for a long time and then you kind of achieve it you wonder what it is you ought to do next. I try to make up for this with meaningless possessions and gadgets, nothing more than playthings to prevent me getting bored. It doesn't work. This is the only thing that prevents me getting bored. Writing and politics is all there is really when it's broken down below the surface.

I guess it's the lack of adventure really, the uneventful security now of a job and a house. I could see trying to stabilise my finances as a challenge, an adventure but it bores me, money bores me, I need enough of it to survive, I don't like the struggle but anything else is overkill. I was talking to Warren about life and his plans and things. He's only a little older than me and he is currently working for a catering agency getting work on a sporadic basis and as a result he is forced to live on a shoestring. He is thinking of being a pedicab driver but what he really wants is to be a writer. He might just do it, he certainly has the potential, but then so many of us do. (I presumptuously lump myself into the 'us' here based on other people's views on my writing rather than my own.) Warren is prepared to take the risks which may just stand him in good stead, ultimately he needs to succeed to give everyone else hope, I wish him luck for it.

As for James, as time goes on he seems more and more the Peter Pan figure, slightly tragicomically I sense he doesn't have the inner peace he wants but then how hypocritical it would be of me to regard that from a distance. I have no idea how James actually makes any money, but he is responsible for the nightly dope intake, I think mainly because his dealer's just come out of chokey so he might have had to abstain for a while! Most of the evenings in the hostel has been spent sitting in a group of around 6 people getting caned and laughing for hours. It is easy to release such emotion when the next day is not beset with the notion of needing to find a job by the end of the week so you can pay for your bed for the next 7 days.

When I look at this situation I have to be thankful for the lifestyle I have, but I envy my friends here the sense of communal living and camaraderie that they have. They have to have it it's what gets you thru' the night I guess, not everyone gets involved, some keep themselves to themselves but to me it's infectious, in the short time I have been here already I have become concerned about people's welfare, Renata's job, Elias getting bleach poisoning or something (!) John and Warren and their lack of a decent job.

There are some who are eminently capable and just seem to have the fortitude or just the confidence to get thru' it and sort their lives out quite adequately. Elaine from Winnepeg is like this, she is quite assured, she has obviously been around long enough to have got a pretty good idea who she is, she has grown up, it, and the fact that she's a bit of a fox, make her really quite alluring. Her problem now is wondering whether to go back home where she'll be a big fish in a small pond to a degree, someone who has grown up and spent the necessary time doing so but as a result will be seen by many of those around her at home as someone 4-5 years behind everyone else because she hasn't settled down with a job or family yet, or should she stay away and see how things go and take that step into the unknown. It's a quandry I remember, whether I made the right choice...?

I am not really that concerned about Elias' welfare either, he's a very intelligent bloke, he is also mad as a fish but he's savvy and has a good dose of realism. A chemistry graduate who smokes the same pipe tobacco in his roll-ups as my Dad does in his pipe, l will not forget encountering him in the morning when he's in full toilet blitz mode and I haven't quite woken up yet. Every now and again in the evening when we're all horsing around he'll mutter some spanish phrase which for some reason I alway found hilarious. He is here for the Summer learning English, he doesn't actually seem to ever sleep it's up early do the bogs then off to classes then back home, bit of study, stay up till at least after the rest of us have gone to bed. the place wouldn't be the same without him.

There are also a hell of a lot of Poles here too. Some travelling, some looking to stay around a while. There's Krystof who busks on Calton Hill, he's a pleasant affable chap, and again I really hope that he is able to make a living playing his flute because I like to think there is still a chance to be Bohemian. Besides he is a courageous and proud man and I respect him for the principled way he lives his life. I saw him on Calton Hill on Monday, he had obviously been there a while and had collected around £5, it's slim pickings really because he plays very well. Adam and his girlfriend/sister I never did find out which were around most nights, I tired to keep Adam in decent beer, he seemed to enjoy it, the both of them are very friendly and they were practically the first people I met here. They don't speak a huge amount of English but more than I do Polish so conversations tended to involve sign language and bits, but it's nice to make the effort to talk to people that you wouldn't otherwise get the chance to.

Song Of The Day ~ The Libertines - Can't Stand Me Now

Monday, July 04, 2005

G8 Edinburgh Day 5 - Anarchist Monday

I was sitting in the hostel conservatory eating brunch when the news came on about the anarchist demonstrators penned in by police in the city centre. The radio report had an interview with a Green party Scottish MSP who was in the thick of it. He said the police were keeping the crowd in a block and pushing them first up then down Princes st. This was the early afternoon barely an hour or so after the Carnival for Full Enjoyment must have started so I decided to go down and take a look.

The city centre appeared to be full of police, mostly in riot gear, and from various parts of the country. It seemed that the demonstration was being held by the police in one area with riot police and mounted police keeping them in and other lines of riot police keeping us from getting anywhere near them. Part of the area holding the “anarchists” had been well fenced off with heavy duty perspex shielding.

This was clearly not a reaction to something happening for nothing had yet happened. This was a clear strategy in advance, they had little or no intention of allowing the peaceful demonstration but because the numbers were relatively small they decided to deploy full-scale riot tactics and planned to cage people in and slowly drain them physically and mentally. I have seen this described in a German anarchist publication as the “Kesselstrategie” kettle strategy. Someone asked one of the policewomen how long the people had been in there. The policewoman haughtily replied that they (the police) had been there since 10am. Of course she neglected to add to that that they (the police) were not only getting paid but also getting shift changes not to mention fed and, most importantly on what was such a hot day, watered. The police had van-loads of water, crates of it staked up in the many riot section vans all over the place. Suffice to say this did not make it’s way to the inner part of the ‘kettle’ which must have been close to boiling dry at this point.

At one of the blockade lines of riot police a lone middle-aged lady sat down in protest. She was heckled by some of the observers, “Get a job” one man shouted, I looked at him, designer t-shirt and baseball cap and the anger at the bigotry of it all took over and I got the red (appropriately) mist. “Get a life” I shouted back at him, hardly inspiring I’ll grant you but you always come up with the better responses some 2 hours after the event don’t you?! The bloke wheeled round at me and his smug expression of his own importance had changed to one of surprise and irritation. I attempted to diffuse the situation and asked him why he’d said it. “they’re all fucking violent lunatics” he retorted. I pointed at the lady sitting in the road sifting through her bag whilst the line of riot police towered over her. “Does she look violent to you?” I asked “In fact who out of this scene looks violent, her or the big burly geezers standing there all tooled up and with their shields and helmets?” I was kind of pleased with my argument, it was a scoring shot no doubt but it fell on deaf ears. One girl who looked barely 16 turned around and started mouthing off about how “her business” had had to shut for 2 weeks because of all this. I asked her if she thought that the shut businesses were really going to lose a lot of money and go bankrupt, whether these businesses should be allowed to continue whilst there were people hungry and homeless. It was wasted rhetoric, she didn’t care, she just said something about only caring if she had enough make-up.

Shortly after that verbal fracas I went back to the hostel thinking that the situation would be dying down anyway since there must have been twice the number of police to protesters anyway. About an hour later John came in and said that it was still going on and he was itching to go and take a look, and since the Edinburgh Apple Centre had kindly let me use one of their iMacs for free to download my pictures from my memory card and burn them onto CD I decided to take the Dim 7 down to take some pics. I didn’t think there’d be a lot so left my 340MB microdrive at home and took only a 64MB card.

Back in the city centre the atmosphere was a lot tenser than it had been an hour or so earlier when I’d left. There was still a small group hemmed in by the looks of things on Princes St., they had now been there for over 6 hours. Other streets had been sectioned off by the police in full riot gear with mounted back up. A crowd had gathered around the entrance to Rose St. which runs parallel to Princes st. There were 3 battle lines of riot plod here and an angry noisy crowd was booing, whistling and chanting “Let them go, let them go”. On 3 occasions the police started banging their batons against their shield before rushing into the crowd, people panicked and ran back anarchists, tourists, press all in a crush to get away.

To begin with the crowd had been mostly interested bystanders, tourists and photographers with a small handful of anarchists, but the mood changed after the police started rushing, people got cross, they didn’t want to be rushed by the clearly over-exuberant filth, they thru’ plastic water bottles in disgust. (Later that moved to anything they could get their hands on including ripped up the street and throwing bricks. There more the police engaged the crowd in confrontation the angrier the mood became. The police response was to bus in many more riot police and they started to advance and take certain parts of the street. There were streams of police coming from everywhere, I saw at least 4 different Scottish forces as well as the Met, Manchester, Liverpool, S.Yorkshire, Lancashire etc. It was clear this was a pre-emptive police show of strength. Their tactics were to deal with the crowd as if in full riot situation and therefore it became almost a self-fulfilling prophesy.

John and I did some investigating of the side streets, this was mainly because the police were moving around all the time and boxing people in particular areas and we wanted to ensure we always had a bolt hole. Twice we actually found ourselves behind police lines right in between lines of riot police on either side, so their planning certainly wasn’t that good. Fortunately for them when 2 blokes come out behind lines of riot plod who haven’t noticed them yet their reaction is to look at each other and leg it back whence they came not to stand and fight.

Behind the lines on Princes St. riot police sat on their arses eating sandwiches and drinking water. John and I explored other areas around the top of the area but little was going on there except the busing of multiple reinforcements around. I have quite literally never seen so many police in all my life. We made our way back to Princes St. to find that the police had worked the last section of entrapped demonstrators onto South St. Andrew St. which seemed a bizarre choice since it contained the MacDonalds. I would have thought of all the streets to attempt to block anarchists and anti-capitalists that would have been the last choice. Perhaps they were hoping that some damage would be done. They were disappointed because it wasn’t. Interestingly MacDonalds did not have their windows boarded up tho’ they chose to do so later.

Shortly after this it looked as if things were dying down again properly, unsurprising since it was after 9pm and anyone there since the beginning must have been dangerously dehydrated. Apparently the police were getting worried that local people were coming out of the pubs to join in. Hardly surprising really since they (the police) had kept the demonstrators in for the whole afternoon and well into the evening.

I have now heard the aftermath, the news, the commentaries, the condemnations. 111 people are appearing in court in Edinburgh on charges ranging from breach of the peace to possessing a firearm I believe, altho' it has not been made clear how many of the 111 are locals. I was sickened and disgusted to hear Midge Ure passing his judgement and insinuating that that this sort of thing by mindless idiots was hijacking the Live8 spirit/message. Ure was not present for the demonstration, in fact he wasn't even at the MPH march on Sunday and yet he chose to pass judgement based on what were at best 2nd hand facts. For him to do this and somehow claim the moral high ground for Live8 I found especially vexing. Why? Because Live8 is all very well but as I have said before it is an establishment movement, it is not really seeking to solve the problem, it will do no more than scratch the surface. Now that would be fine if solving the problem was impossible or would take decades, but it isn't and it wouldn't. Why do you think all the politicians have been so quick to jump on the bandwagon claiming that the Live8 message is their message? The politicians and G8 leaders know it's bloody Christmas now, they've been let off the hook big time. George Monbiot summed it up on Sunday at the Stop The War tent, "What is Gordon Brown's campaign slogan in this, down with me and all I stand for?!"

For me the few days that I have been here have shown that when it comes to the vast majority of the anarchists there is a huge difference between going somewhere with the express intent on causing trouble and going somewhere knowing that there might be trouble and being ready to respond. One would not expect the police to turn the other cheek in the face of an onslaught of violence from any group so why should it be any different when it is the police that are perpetrating the violence. Given modern police tactics viz video and photo technology the black bloc approach is perfectly rational. I do not agree with anyone who seeks to perpetrate violence before exhausting any other means of negotiation but I completely understand those caught in a situation where the police have already decided that these are 'violent anarchists...and will be dealt with forcefully'

How many times have we seen football hooliganism breaking out into violence and destruction? And yet one would not think to presume that every conceivable football fan is a violent hooligan intent on criminal damage. One has to be consistent in this approach and currently there is very little consistency because the police have the powers to practically incarcerate anyone whose face they do not like, be it the colour or the fact that it is partially masked. If the police had any intention of preserving the Carnival of Full Enjoyment as a peaceful event they could have stopped the group of black-clad people that they monitored so closely, rather than allowing this group to join the rest of the people on Princes St. before declaring that the Black Bloc was a threat and therefore must be contained. Furthermore if so many of these people were such dangerous elements how is it that only 8 were remanded in custody? Again there is no clear indication of how many of the people on trial were local. Unprecedented bail conditions were attached on those 103 released stating that they could not go to Edinburgh or Glasgow or Stirling or anywhere near Gleneagles. As far as I know this is being appealed as so it should.

Song Of The Day ~ Kaiser Chiefs - I Predict A Riot

Sunday, July 03, 2005

G8 Edinburgh Day 4b - Naming Of The Dead, Shaming Of The Responsible

Sometimes power doesn’t come with large numbers, sometimes actions alone are the most powerful. The anti-war march this evening was a more select band than had been the day before at the MPH march. A few thousand politically aware and active with more singing and chanting. We made our way from the bottom of the Mount up Calton Hill, a beautiful spot and there the dead on both sides were read out in lists by the well-known and the not so well-known.

The victims names and often their ages even sometimes the way they died, it was a poignant reminder to us all that the powers that be would have us detached from this war, have it all going on far away where we don’t need to think about it. To hear children read the names of Iraqi children their own age was very powerful indeed almost too much, but that’s how it should be, these children have often left relatives behind altho’ sometimes you hear on the list a series of names clearly of the same family where perhaps all of them have been wiped out.

Earlier in the day I had been to the Respect public meeting in town & I met George Galloway for the first time, as the meeting was a fairly close-knit affair, so that was another handshake to cross off my list anyway (just Chomsky to go!). I bought his book and he signed it for me. Colin Fox was also at the meeting, he the new spokesperson for the Scottish Socialists who have recently been fined a weeks wages and all parliamentary privileges including the wages of their staff for a protest in the parliamentary chamber. I think it was either George or John Rees who said if Colin had been supporting hunting the fox rather than called fox he could have made a protest in parliament and got off scot free! I think there were around 150 people at the meeting and because I came in late and had my camera with me I was asked where I wanted to be to take pictures. I assured them that I wanted to stay and they showed me right to the front. Of course I did want to take photos but the power of mine is maybe a little less than they might have thought by the calibre of camera I have with me. Present at the meeting were Rose Gentil who’s son Duncan died in Iraq and Heidi Giuliani whose son Carlo was killed at the G8 protests in 2001. Rose Gentil was later on Calton Hill reading out a list of British servicemen killed in Iraq, a list during which she paused almost in disbelief or just emotion when she reached her son’s name. Again it was a timely reminder of the many ramifications of this war to all concerned, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers are killed indiscriminately.

G8 Edinburgh Day 4 - The Misfits

"We're all a bunch of misfits but we fit in here," said Warren "you seem a good addition to our band" he went on. There are certain times in one's life where the most seemingly insignificant of conversations can mean a lot more than it would appear on the surface. It was a touching sentiment and one which I shared, in the couple of days since my arrival I feel I have settled in for myself and with those around including the regulars who have been here for up to a few months. It's a group that has a lot of laughter, horsing around, dead pan comedy and everyone's enigmatic little traits. Everyone is quite different and yet here we all find ourselves. It is easy to see how one might apply the misfits term and yet realistically the fact that people do fit in here gives them a chance to belong if only for a short while.

I don't know if it is one of those short term things, in a way like Rostock was where because there is a finite amount of time the pressure to conform is a little less, no past and in a way no future, carpe diem in its truest sense. As a result the appeal of staying here is quite tangible and understandable when viewed superficially. However one cannot forget that for the regulars here life is not without its trials. Work is the principle cause of this since the money that we all depend on to survive is tied up with being able to find the work. Here work seems to be sporadic and sometimes scarce to non-existent. John, for example has lost his job as shop security because he was subject to the last in first out strategy. Ironic really when you think that Edinburgh is currently in a high state of alert especially the shops on Princes St. Warren does catering agency work, so when something comes up he can be ok for a couple of days but a lean time can be costly and the quality of the work is variable. I remember the agency side of things only too well and I tend to be thankful that, hopefully, that part of my life is behind me. Elias is quite quite mad, he makes me laugh all the time, his laugh envelopes his whole person, he smokes pipe tobacco and uses polish swear words in tandem with his native spanish. He cleans the toilets here with gusto at stupid o'clock in the morning. Renata is the impromptu mother of the group, made so because she actually works in the hostel doing the reception desk, because she has to be responsible much of the time it makes it all the more amusing when she lets her hair down. She is another part of the new EU member states popullation influx coming in and doing back-breaking jobs for little remuneration. And then there's James...

James is the ringleader when it comes to the horseplay, a mad old queen with appaling taste in music but potfuls of charisma, he lives here because it was a toss-up between him keeping his flat or his horses keeping their stables, the horses won out and I respect him standing up for his principles on this one. James is definitely the hostel's enigma and I had chats with him on a variety of subjects. He has fox-hunted and is very pro that activity, but anti hare coursing and badger baiting. His principles when it comes to rural life are based on empirical experience so I have no problem with him holding them, I just choose to disagree with some. I'll be here a week in all and I know I'll never figure James out. That's the way it should be, preserve some of the mystery of all the characters here, retain the idea that when I leave there'll be lots of stuff going on that I'm going to miss out on. That'll make me appreciate all the more having been part of it albeit for a short time.

Friday & Saturday nights were ones you simply had to be there, the sort of madcap antics fuelled through a haze of drink and dope. As I had my camera ready and movie mode I will now have snippets to share and preserve for posterity. It was the ideal way to capture the moment, unfortunately having now filled up my entire microdrive I need to figure out a way of downloading the pics so I can continue snapping.

I never did the way of life of going to a place unplanned and seeing what happened. I should have done it, would have been a good way to get around and find things including perhaps myself. Even inter-rail was boundaried by the fact that it was only for a month so it was but a microcosm of what it could have been. You stay no more than a few days anywhere, rarely longer than a week in 1 country. Of course I could have decided to take my inter-rail card and travel around with a view to staying somewhere when it was done, but that was a step too far too great a risk.

Since some of the people have been here for weeks, even months, it has given the place and them a sort of stability and routine. The reasons they have ended up here are as diverse as the people themselves.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

G8 Edinburgh Day 3 - We Are Gathered Here Today

It was immense at least double the 100,000 expected and probably more than that. Nick my Australian marching comrade and I went down to the Meadows around 11.30, I'd made a reckie around 11am and it was already packed. People were milling around stalls and tents and gathering on the middle path getting ready for the march and there seemed to be thousands of them, there were practically no spaces across the Meadows as a whole it was just awash with white-shirted people. We joined the queing throng around 12.15 and there was barely any movement, occasional inching forward. At 12.30 we were told over the tannoy that the first set of people that had left the Meadows were now arriving back in the Meadows again having marched the ring around. We had, they said now completed the ring around the city, it was a ring that was to remain constant for well over 5 hours.

It wasn't until about 2pm that we finally got going. We stopped in the shadow of the back of the castle around 3 for the minutes silence and made it back to the Meadows sometime around 3.30. There were still thousands of people it seemed who hadn't even set off yet. In fact we saw people still marching into the Meadows having completed their circuit up to about 7pm. The only march I can compare it with for sheer size and atmosphere was the London Feb 03 Anti-War march so that goes some way to describing the semblence of significance and enormity of it all. As a proportion of the population of the city we were at about 1/4 which is like getting 2.5 million in London, it's a pretty stunning achievement on balance.

After the march at the Meadows, Billy Bragg did a couple of numbers and Bianca Jagger spoke. There was a Stop the War stage where Georges Galloway and Monbiot spoke. Nick hadn't heard George Galloway before and George was on good old fashioned firebrand form so he didn't disappoint. I said a brief hello to "my mate" John Rees who also did stirring stuff from the platform.

The atmosphere during the march and for the whole time down at the Meadows was congenial and carnival like. The official figure bandied around now is around 250,000. From what we hear there was only 1 arrest and one point where the police sectioned off a group of 30 odd around Buccleuch St. It is unclear exactly why they did this but knowing the Plod it was probably the fact that some people were carrying the wrong flag or dressed in black or whatever. There cannot have been any real serious reason since no arrests followed.

I went pretty mad with the camera, took photos and movies and all sorts. I hope at least some of the pics will give an impression of what it was like to be on the march. Trouble is I may need to buy some more memory, I don't have a lot left and I need to ensure that I have some for the last day at Gleneagles.

I didn't really watch Live8 to be honest, it all seemed a little tame in comparison with what we were doing, more of an assuaging guilt ceremony rather than something designed to achieve. The pictures of Geldof and Blair only serve to reinforce this.

Song Of The Day ~ The Magic Numbers - Forever Lost

Friday, July 01, 2005

G8 Edinburgh Day 2 - A Meal & A Place To Stay

There are quite a few little shops near the hostel where I'm staying. On my arrival last night the staff kindly showed me where to avail of beer and fish n chips and I started to feel better after that.

I had expected the hostel to be rammed full of people just here for the demos, after all there were precious few other places available in the city. Instead I appeared to be the only one and everyone else was either tourist or staying to find work. This gave the hostel a nice feeling of continuity. Except in my room, an 8 bed dorm which was empty save for me. The hostel is fully booked tonight tho' so there may be many more of us. There are people who have been here for months and I like the semblence of the hostel running as a collective. The atmosphere within reminds me of inter-railing how I remember it from the late 80s early 90s.

It makes me realise how much I miss that sporadic nomad existence that I used to have. At the time it was partially through choice and partially thru' simply not knowing where I wanted to end up. You learn about yourself in those situations and in your interaction with others and I always enjoyed both the challenge and trying figure it all out.

Another thing I like about Edinburgh is that in spite of having to at first pay always in English money that I brought with me I have only ever received Scottish money in return. It's as if the English money is vapourised upon the moment of entering the Scottish tills, I don't know why it amuses me so but it does.

Edinburgh is a good city to visit. My overriding impression so far is that it is very tall, there are lots of imposing 19th century dark stone buildings, many stories high. Some go from the lower part of town to the upper part. Obviously there is the inevitable tourist area around the castle and the Royal Mile with it's "authentic Scottish" souvenir shops selling Tam O'Shanters with added ginger mullets, everything under the sun with a tartan pattern and of course kilts.

It feels a lot more laid back than London. Perhaps I am simply more at ease due to the current influx, there are of course a lot of people here now who are "my lot" if you like. Of all the times for a long-haired leftie loon with politically inflamatory attire to feel at home in the city this must be as good as it gets. It's always a nice feeling to seem to fit in. All in all tho' the city has a less crushed more positive feel about it. I would be interested to contrast this with how it would be the rest of the year.

Of course the minor misfortune that seems to follow me round like a bad smell caught up again. I had been blithely wandering around town taking pictures thinking that for much of the rest of the week I may have other things on my mind. I took some grand pictures including some of people in particular situation the like of which you cannot replicate you either get it or you don't. My plan was to rattle off a film from the East German Praktica BC1 I got for £15 off ebay and to get it developed whilst I am here so as to assure that it works properly. Otherwise I'll need to take the Minolta around with me everywhere and there are certain places I'd rather not have it just in case. Anyway as I strolled around I noticed that the picture counter on the Praktica had reached 26 which seemed strange for a 24 exposure film. I tried winding the film back to find that it seemed to vanish all too quickly.

So a brief period of reflection later I realised that I could either go home with nothing to show for it or do the whole thing again including the walk along the entire Royal Mile twice. I bought another film and trusted the fact that since the city seems photogenic I would be able to find things that maybe I hadn't seen last time to make up for those I'd lost. Sadly the Make Poverty History double decker bus on the Royal Mile and the 2 gents in formal Scottish dress leaning on the fence having a fag break at the castle will be pictures that remain only in my head.

Pleasingly there seem to be a great deal more events going on this week than I had thought. Sunday there is to be an Anti-War demo whilst on Monday an Anarchist demo and obviously tomorrow and Wed were the ones I knew and came for. The city and its regular inhabitants are gearing up for it all. The feeling is of mild to severe apprehension as to whether there will be any trouble. The owner of the hostel came in half cut today and chatted at me for some time about how worried he was about the hostel being trashed by anarchists and the like. I tried to reassure him that it would be fine and the anarchists had no reason to cause any damage to his hostel the like of which they will probably be staying in themselves. I have to say I hope I'm right, there are so many establishment figures who would derive so much political capital from being able to brand us thugs and hooligans and therefore giving themselves an excuse to write off the actual message that we are here to deliver. They'd bloody love that, the bastards, it's the hysteria caused by the establishment and the police about the nature of the anachists that has made local residents so fearful about this anyway. We must not give those idiots the chance to bury their head in the sand yet again as they have done year after year from Seattle through Genoa and Evian. Of course they will try to brand us all as violent militants in an effort to dilute the cause and make it seem less attractive to those who may be thinking of joining us in what is becoming a noticable wave of public dissent.

What do the next few days have in store? Are we sitting on the verge of something powerful, something of such significance? How are we going to get there, will it be peaceful or is it going to be like Seattle and Genoa before? Am I ready for the consequences if it turns out to be the latter? This is something I have had to think very seriously about. As a political, non-violent coward I have always shied away from violent confrontation because a) I genuinely don't believe in it being the answer and b) I fear it and the lack of being able to exert any control over it. The randomness. Yet I know that the coming week more than any other occasions I have taken part in heralds the potential to be caught up in confrontation. This is just something you have to learn to accept and get on with it. It's all very well to have principles if they are never tested and you are not forced to defend the tenets you stand for. Not going on the demos, not coming to Edinburgh was just not an option. Besides, personally I think there will be too many well-known faces for anything to happen during the main events. Monday is an unknown quantity. We shall see.

People have started arriving in the hostel in numbers now. The tranquility of my empty dorm will be broken by the nocturnal noises of 7 other people.

Song Of The Day ~ James Blunt - Wise Men