Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

G8 Protests - news from The Front

LONDON WINS OLYMPIC GAMES IN 2012... DAVID BECKHAM SAYS THE OLYMPICS WILL BE NICE... LONDON WINS OLYMPIC GAMES IN 2012... GOOD OLD SEBASTIAN COE... LONDON WINS OLYMPIC GAMES IN 2012... DAVID BECKHAM SAYS THE OLYMPICS WILL BE NICE... LONDON WINS OLYMPIC GAMES IN 2012... "... good afternoon, this is Jim Bliss of the Anarcho-Syndicalist News Network broadcasting live from our helicopter above Gleneagles..." ... LONDON WINS OLYMPIC GAMES IN 2012... LONDON WINS OLYMPIC GAMES IN 2012... "... can you boost the signal somehow...?" DAVID BECKHAM SAYS THE OLYMPICS WILL BE NICE... "that's it, I think they can hear me now..."

Sorry about that, but you wouldn't believe the trouble protesters are having getting heard just now. Apparently London is to host a big sports event in seven years time, so that's obviously what the media need to focus on today. We're just happy to do our bit and provide an "In other news" story for when they run out of semi-famous sports people saying how nice it's all going to be in seven years.

And so... good afternoon, this is Jim Bliss of ASN broadcasting live from our helicopter above Gleneagles, where it appears one of the most successful direct action protests in recent memory has taken place despite the presence of over 10,000 police officers drafted in from as far afield as West Sussex and South Wales. However it does appear that a lack of video images showing young people in face-masks throwing things at the police has - up until now - kept this series of actions out of the mainstream media. Members of the Black Bloc have promised to address this situation should it become necessary, however.

While the Make Poverty History march and various Live-8 events are rightly lauded for encouraging mass participation and attempting to instill a sense of inclusion in people; a sense of "we're all in this together"; there are those who feel a greater sense of urgency. Individuals who see the very mechanisms of power themselves as The Problem, and who view direct acts of disruption against those mechanisms as the best method of demonstrating their position.

And below me, across the landscape of Scotland, I can see the actions of those individuals play out. Several thousand self-styled, so-called "anarchists" (in the words of the mainstream media) from Scotland and beyond have attempted to disrupt the first day of the G8 conference. There were as many reasons for doing this as there were self-styled, so-called "anarchists". But the one over-riding reason given by protester after protester was "to show those in power that we have power too". To demonstrate that they are not out of our reach.

Given the military and police determination to ensure that the eight power brokers could chat without interruption, only the most optimistic of activists honestly believed that disruption was possible. At best, most hoped to at least get noticed.


And noticed they were. ASN is pleased to annouce that the first day of the G8 summit was successfully disrupted, with the Canadian delegation remaining firmly blockaded inside their hotel even now at the time of filing this story (4:23pm). The Canadian PM managed to make it to the various photocalls, but his team have been forced to enjoy the hospitality of their swish hotel for the entire day. Truly they have sacrificed much.

This must provide a certain amount of embarrassment for those organising the security for the event. Especially as became quickly apparent that the reason for the success of the activists was that they were so much better organised. We at ASN have always viewed such actions as proof that non-hierarchical methods of organisation can ultimately achieve far more than the rigid structures employed by the establishment.

Indeed when the news filtered through yesterday that "The Anarchist Ring-Leaders" had been arrested, it was met with a great deal of mirth at the Stirling Rural Convergence Centre (RCC).

For anyone interested, the "Ring-Leaders" were all released without charge within a couple of hours of their arrests (news which strangely never made it to the mainstream media). It turns out the Ring-Leaders were a van-load of medics (shock! horror! even some doctors and nurses are self-styled, so-called "anarchists") on their way to the protests. They were carrying maps of the area and had made a number of 'X' marks on the maps in the locations that they felt would be the best places for medical stations.

Dangerous maniacs!

In related news, the Stirling RCC found itself cordoned off with nobody being allowed in or out. An estimated 2,500 activists had arrived by that point and - because they're sensible people - had arranged to have an NHS portacabin on site with a doctor, nurse and pharmacist present. This morning police decided to prevent the medical staff from getting on site and also turned away several independent observers with video cameras.

ASN managed to track down Chief Constable Basil Wingnut and questioned him on this issue...

- "Excuse me, Officer Wingnut? Could you tell us why medical staff have been prevented from accessing the protest site?"
- "Well, obviously we don't want a repeat of the ugly scenes of last night. That's why!"
- "I see... and what ugly scenes would those be Officer Wingnut?"
- "Using infra-red surveillance and top-secret satellite imaging technology we were able to assess the situation within the protest camp in this self-styled field last night. We witnessed medical staff savagely treating a couple of campfire burns and aggressively strapping a twisted ankle in a way that we felt posed a serious threat to public order. Paracetamol was also dispensed on at least three occasions, and we simply could not risk a repeat of those scenes today. So we have prevented medical staff from entering this so-called field"

The police have also implemented Section 60 of some act or other (Public Order Act? Emergency Powers Act? Jackboot Up The Jaxie Act? Who knows... but it's definitely Section 60... they make that much clear). This gives them the power to stop and search anyone they choose, as many times as they choose, whenever they choose. They have been using this law in exactly the sort of way that politicians always promise these laws won't be used... to harass individuals who they have already established are not carrying any concealed weapons (by stopping and searching them on multiple occasions).

During these stop and searches, individual officers have also been threatening activists with arrest if they do not provide a name and address. This is illegal of course (Section 60 of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act does not give the police powers to demand identification) and officers have been curiously reluctant to repeat the threats when observers challenge them to do so on film.

Up until now, however, activist legal advisors are aware of approximately 100 arrests for various public order offences. A number of protesters have been hospitalised, including several with broken arms (the classic baton-charge injury... you raise your arm to protect your head... and a baton at full whack across the arm tends not to break the baton) but there has been no news of any major clashes with the police aside from a single flare-up at the Stirling RCC last night.

In order to understand how the protest has been so successful, you have to understand the manner in which it has been carried out. As people converged at Stirling and elsewhere, they - using the voluntary affinity principle - organised themselves into groups (anywhere between 3 and 75 people). Each group then worked out how best they could disrupt the summit, spent a while finding out who else was going to do similar stuff, and held meetings to knock together specific plans.

Some groups, for example, decided to set up cooking and meal tents to allow the others to concentrate on their stuff. Nobody told them to do it and nobody - aside from themselves - expects them to do it. But on-site there will be plenty of hot food for anyone who wants it. Important that. Other groups were at the other extreme... trying to work out the best ways to scale the fence around the conference centre or set fire to Tony Blair's pants.

Once each group had worked out their own plans, and ensured that they weren't duplicating anyone else and were as co-ordinated with others as possible, they simply left the RCC and drifted off into the countryside to spend the night in trees or under them. Apparently (bizarrely) the Daily Mail warned of exactly this tactic, but the police seem to have forgotten to read the Mail today as they were caught completely off-guard.

In order to leave the RCC, however, the police cordon required breaching which is where the flare-up occurred. At 3am this morning a large group of the Black Bloc decided to open the cordon. It was like something out of The Lord of The Rings... they just en masse sprinted at a cordon of fluorescing officers five deep and punched a massive hole in the line. The cordon fragmented and it was over half an hour before the site was sealed once more. Plenty of time for anyone who wished to leave, to leave.

That particular group of Black Bloc were the first to shut down the M9 this morning. And as police moved in to tackle them, so other groups of activists emerged from the countryside and shut down sections of the M9 the A9 and any other road that might be used to get people to or from Gleneagles. Rush hour was chaotic and the inability of the police to co-ordinate a response to this tactic left the various delegates hotels vulnerable to blockade.

Which was nice.

At one point, from my vantage point in the ASN chopper, I watched a large group of children and disabled protesters emerge from the Stirling RCC and split police cordons left-right and centre. People have the power.

Leaving the hotels vulnerable was probably the biggest mistake the police made. On the other side, the biggest blunder was probably the 100 or so Black Bloc who attempted to infiltrate the Make Poverty History march.

200,000 people descending on Edinburgh marching for peace... and all dressed in white. I'm not entirely sure how far a sore thumb really sticks out. But it can't have been nearly as far as 100 Black Bloc in a crowd of 200,000 people dressed in white.


Update: Stuff seems to have kicked off in a couple of places.


Blogger voyou said...

I don't think it was a case of the Black Bloc trying to infiltrate the march - I mean, they announced a meeting point in advanced, carried enormous banners about anarchism and anti-capitalism, had a marching band with them, etc. Hardly 'infiltrating'.

Rather, what happened was that a group of anarchists wanted to have a visible presence on the march, and the police, not understanding the difference between a group of people dressed in black and a Black Bloc carrying out property destruction and/or militant self-defense, attacked and cordoned off this anti-capitalist block.

Other than that, though, a great report. Glad things are going well in Stirling.

7/7/05 10:51  

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