Jul 01, 2005

The Edinburgh and Gleneagles events – as they happen

Friday 1 July

9.00am Arrive at Euston train station. Unload the PA system and various camping and protesting bags from a cab, meet the man with the NO2ID campaign leaflets and people start gathering for the train. We’re hoping to sell as many tickets for the journey as possible as the train’s not full. To make it obvious where we are, we tape up a Globalise Resistance banner to the window at the front of the station, in the sun. Hope it’s going to be like this up in Scotland.
Pretty quickly the police have turned their attentions on us. We’re told to take the banner down. I explain reasonably and calmly we’re trying to make things easy and as unobstructive as possible. the police seem to agree but a jumped up little jobsworth ‘station manager’ insists the banner’s removed as it’s over two “O2″ advertising logos. Ridiculous. Sales of tickets, particularly singles northbound are reasonably healthy. Police are photographing people and generally winding people up – better get used to it I imagine.
We’re told the train will be late as it’s not arrived in the station yet. Is this what you get with a charter? Any delay on a scheduled service would be subject to money back refunds, but it seems not on a protest express! but we do get the bargain of the police ‘helping’ with checking the tickets.

11.00am Depart at last. There’s a bit of a cheer. We let people settle, check to see which of the advertised speakers have made it. not bad, we have Dennis Brutus, the South African anti-apartheid and global justice campaigner, Sami Ramadani, Iraqi dissident and antiwar activist and George Monbiot from the Guardian on board. We’ll start the meetings in the midlands.

1.00pm Meetings start, George does two consecutively. the carriages are packed. he does brilliantly, pouring scorn on Geldof and Bono – especially as the Guardian has a stomach churning picture of Geldof with his head on Blair’s shoulder.

2.00pm get talking to the larger overseas delegations on the train – the Spanish and the dutch, between them they have nearly a hundred people on the train and make it a fantastic international gathering – I try to explain the nuances of british policing, the make up and structure of Make Poverty History and why they don’t want to speak about the war at all. It’s harder than you might think just explaining such a stance!

2.30pm We can announce that the campsite in Edinburgh is going to be free – not £5 a night as the council there had planned, which goes down well with the poorer folks and overseas visitors on the train for whom the whole trip is coming at quite a cost. Quite right too, I’m sure Mr Blair isn’t dipping into his own pocket for his luxurious accommodation in Gleneagles, so why should we pay for a tent pitch in Craigmillar? The protest to Gleneagles on Wednesday 6 July has also been agreed, with a route going to the fence another victory. the Scots organisers of G8 Alternatives have done us proud.

6.40pm Arrive on time in Edinburgh – there must have been a helpful tail wind, or rather they cut down on the length of stops we made. Lots of media togreet us – we’re the first mass delegation to arrive I think. There’s shuttle buses (free) to take us to the campsite, again thanks to the G8 Alternatives folks for that. I make a short trip up the road to off-load the PA system to a friend’s car. Metropolitan Police lining the street “Hello Guy, welcome to Edinburgh!”, it’s going to be one of those trips.

7.30pm Get to the campsite on a shuttle bus. there’s a small group of people from the local estate waiting to greet us, which is a brilliant gesture. Stop for a chat with a few of them, one had worked down in Bethnal Green a few years back and we have a quick chat about how Brick Lane has changed over the years. set up our tents next to the big Gazebo that Kim’s pitched earlier in the day.

8.00pm told by a security guard that we can’t pitch camp here because “it’s a autononomous [sic] zone” . bemused that a security guard is even allowed in an autonomous zone, we question this. Apparently there’s a taped of region which has been claimed as the autonomous zone by Dissent activists. it becomes apparent that we’re in the wrong place – and no one told us as we pitched a 9m x 3m gazebo, and ten tents. we discuss what to do, carry on where we are or shift.We shift, don’t want any aggro or bad feeling, anyway the autonomous zones are harder to sleep in.

9.00pm The IST hold a briefing in the campsite and we catch up on the latest news, all seems pretty good for the coming days.

10.30pm Rush down the pub before realising that licensing laws in scotland are far more sensible than in England and there’s no need to hurry. Have a short planning meeting – five people to go straight to The Meadows tomorrow and set up the stall, the rest to join the feeder march from the campsite. That’s sorted, now for a few beers. Get talking to Phil and his mate from ITN. they’re a bit bemused by the autonomous zone episode as well. things will improve I assure them. the karaoke machine pumps up in the back of the pub and Irish (socialist) activists do a fine version of Anarchy in the UK much to the delight of the locals who are finding it much harder to find a seat tonight.

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