Report Back From 4th July Events In Edinburgh Police clamp down on "Carnival for Full Enjoyment". Slight over-reaction in the press - all handbag stuff really, no property damage. Not much debate at debate. Local Scots then take it upon themselves to repel invading English Police Forces into their city.
A long day. I overslept slightly and cycled into town just on the dot of midday, as a pink samba band were being followed by a phalanx of riot cops with shields, and mounties (horses also accessorised for the occasion). Today was the "Carnival for Full Enjoyment", and a lot of rumours and whispers had been going around that this was "the one to watch". I generally thought this was police hype, so I didnt add to it in last nights report. Even a non-political friend of mine in Edinburgh was asking me if this was going to be the really violent demo of the week, and how everyone in her workplace was talking about it, and the management in her cafe were wondering if they should board up the windows or not...
The pink drummers tried to march one way and were turned back, so headed off West quite quickly, leaving a load of people to run up behind them. This was right on the dot of midday and I thought it was a bit foolish to be marching off so fast, considering a lot of people probably hadnt arrived at the meetup point yet. As it happened, the carnival was split in two, with the other group heading east on Princes St on their own, where they had their own fun and games reportedly. The Clown Army were in some other part of town doing their thing, and were met with huge amounts of Police surrounding them.
So a group of around 400, possibly a quarter of which was made up of rubberneckers, hangers-on, mainstream journalists and other assorted non-combatants, marched for approximately 20 minutes before being shepherded away from their intended direction by four mounties blocking the road. The march went on for a bit and then rounded a corner towards an office block. I assumed that this one was of the places marked out on some pre-determined trail, possibly with some links to business. The street was narrow and there was cops at both ends...
Did I neglect to mention how many Police there were? There were lots. Hundreds. Thousands possibly. Very in your face, lots of evidence gatherers, with extremely hi-tech equipment, taking pictures of people masked up and being quite physical about it. They followed the march as much as they could with as many people. There were police from everywhere following the demonstration, including from Manchester, Humberside, Merseyside and the London Met.So now we were in Cannon Street. The march had stopped and the band were playing, and... the Police saw their chance to hem the crowd in. Which is what they did. They raised (or whatever the correct verb is) the now infamous 'Section 60' which, not being overly familiar with UK law, is something to do with detaining a crowd that the police feel will be troublesome. There were a couple of exerted attempts to break through the police line, with lots of pushing, and even a silver car starting rolling at one point which really freaked out the cops; but despite wavering and staggering they held their line. They were all very fit, very well trained, and they had so many reinforcements, they were able to replace the line every so often, so others could go and have a piss and some food.
The Section 60 is a very, very demoralising and exhausting tactic on demonstrators, and obviously the Police know it. Rubberneckers and journos start asking to leave, and eventually the Police opened up a small gap, allowing one person out every five minutes or so. Each person leaving had to consent to being filmed, searched, questioned and ID'd. People queued up to leave, so the crowd got smaller, and the energy was sucked out of the demo.
The Police corralled the group for the guts of four hours, and then moved in. They picked out people and arrested them, with the spotters from earlier indicating who to get. A couple of Irish people who had been masked up were singled out, but none were arrested. According to UK IMC, 3 street medics were arrested; I saw one being grabbed and put into a paddy wagon (maybe they're not called that over here). I was also picked out of the people who the police had lined up on the path against the office block, and was searched and questioned before being ordered to leave.
After this I went back to the IMC Centre with the intention of getting my video footage up, but I was knackered and had to eat and relax. After a bite to eat and a beer, I headed up to St Johns Church where a group called Docspace were hosting a debate/panel entitled 'media vs. Indymedia'. There wasnt much of a debate however, it was mostly independent media makers on the panel talking about the work they did, and how independent media was great. Of course I fully agreed (of course), but it didnt make for a very lively discussion. There were many issues that could have been raised but the questions were mostly of a "what do you think of Michael Moore" type. I guess it would have been interesting to people who were new to the idea/scene. It gave me a chance to lie down on some nice cushioned pews, which I needed.
So I came out of the discussion with the intention of heading back to Muirhouse, and looked east, back up Princes St. A row of yellow jackets in the distance and police lights. This was 8pm. There arent -still- people coralled in from earlier on, are there? I cycled up and it was hard to find out what was happening. There seemed to be no 'centre' of activity, and there were certainly no 'activists' left at this point. I cycled around a long way to get to the other side of the police line, where 4 or 5 people were being detained with plastic handcuffs in front of a boarded up mobile phone shop. They were definitely not pink, black, clown, or any other block. Just ordinary folk. An onlooker said they were being arrested for refusing to move on when ordered by a Police officer, but I cannot confirm that.
They were put into vans, with a chorus of boos and hisses from the crowd, chanting to let them go. Next thing a glass bottle hit the line, racking up the tension. The cops were getting nervous, and the crowd were telling them to fuck off (because most of the riot cops were English rather than local Police, it seemed). The cops jumped into the crowd and snatched a teenage girl, provoking more anger and the occasional missile from the crowd. A bagpiper blowing out traditional tunes seemed to be stirring the Scots into a bit of an anti-establishment fervour. It seemed as if this crowd were mostly just turned up after they saw what was happening on the news, and joined in the activities themselves.
What happened next was bizarre and unprecedented... (am I allowed use them terms?) A group of about a dozen riot cops were left in a laneway while the others had been taken away in vans. Possibly they were just waiting around for an empty van to come and pick them up. Several people saw them down the lane isolated, and the next thing they were being stoned and bottled by people steaming up the laneway. Bottles were fired at them from close range, a dumpster was pushed straight at the line of shields, and a traffic cone and a bin were thrown at them when they charged their way back to the junction of the street.
Four or five of the Clown Army showed up at this point, trying to stop people throwing stuff at the cops, and making faces and generally being silly right in front of the Police. One female clown was nearly hit in the head with the big traffic cone, and their attempts to calm the situation didnt really work at all, so they left the situation fairly quickly. Within a minute a huge amount of Police vans arrived into the area with sirens squealing, pouring out more padded riot units. This sent the crowd scattering. They also brought out the dog unit, forcing people away from the laneway, threatening to use the dogs on people that did not back off.
Eventually the Police got all their Officers back into vans, and retreated out of the area rapidly. The crowd cheered and was chanting Anti-G8 slogans as well as "Whose streets? Our streets!" The McDonalds and the Topshop right in the thick of all this survived without a scratch though. After a while people filtered off, it was getting late and dark. I think in this situation just the sight of the Police on the street itself was drawing people toward them and getting their blood up, as soon as they withdrew completely the tension vanished.
To sum up: Earlier in the day was very frustrating. Being held for a long period of time destroys any energy you have, and the Police know this. It is likely they will do the exact same thing to demonstrators on Wednesday, wherever the opportunity presents itself. Are there enough people around to maintain blockades properly, or break through Police lines? On the strength of todays numbers involved, possibly not. The sanctioned G8 Alternatives march is being written off by most Direct Actionists as a waste of time, with most predicting the organisers & stewards will toe the line, and when marching near Gleneagles there might be a bit of a raised chant or fence rattling but no more. Whatever happens, the Police are well trained and organised, and this does not bode well for people planning to shut down the summit.
Later on was quite inspiring. Seeing locals ram the dumpster into the Police line was surprising, considering the supposedly ultra-militant Black Bloc'ers on Cannon Street had two heavy black ones at their disposal but couldnt get it together to use them or decide what to do next (the Police eventually just walked up to them and took the dumpsters away). It was good to see non-activist people standing up for their right to assemble and getting angry at the Police for arresting people for no serious reason... maybe there's hope yet.
Tomorrow is a quiet day action-wise in Edinburgh. I'll try and file a slightly different report tomorrow evening.
All images are lifted from forthcoming film/work in progress. http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/jul2005/01mounties.jpg http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/jul2005/02gothatway.jpg http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/jul2005/03gothisway.jpg http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/jul2005/04policespotter.jpg http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/jul2005/05contain.jpg http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/jul2005/17clowncalm.jpg http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/jul2005/14dumpsterrush.jpg