Report of `Carnival for Full Enjoyment`
on Monday July 4th 2005
The Carnival for full enjoyment, which took place on Monday 4th July, was described by the Glasgow Herald as "The battle of Princes Street". The carnival was essentially a protest against capitalism `wage slavery` and `benefit slavery`. It got going at around 1230pm and started off with the clown army playfully doing a slow motion dance and planting kisses on the shields of the riot police. From early on it was obvious the police were going to be much more aggressive than on the Make Poverty History march on Saturday 2nd July. The bus I travelled in to the city centre was diverted through Stockbridge and on arriving in Princes Street I counted 10 police vans.
The 1,000 or so police present came from Merseyside, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. The Met (Metropolitan i.e. London police) were there as were police from Cumbria (North West England) along with the local Lothian and Borders police. The old bill had come from far and wide and were clearly expecting a show down. The whole ugly atmosphere was in contrast to the generally low key policing of the Make Poverty History march of Saturday July 2nd. Sirens were to be heard constantly and the presence of so many officers and vans was clearly an attempt to intimidate the protesters.
The carnival was due to start from Shandwick Place at the west end of Princes Street but was held up by a police line and protesters were forced up towards Torphichen Street and the city's financial district. A large number of people were trapped in Canning Street near the Clydesdale Bank Plaza and the Standard Life insurance offices. Apparently several protesters succeeded in occupying Standard Life for a time, which shows the absurdity of some of the policing.
In Princes Street the Clown Army started off with whooping and a slow motion dance singing, "Let's all do our laundry!" with some going up to embarrassed police and kissing their riot shields. The technique of `penning` in demonstrators involved 100-yard sections of Edinburgh's main thoroughfare being closed by two lines of police. There were people from all over Europe present with Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, French and Germans there. The atmosphere was nasty with police pushing and shoving and chants of "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" The sound of a helicopter above increased as the day wore on. I spoke to an American with a dog, which was wearing a `Make Poverty History` sign strapped to its back. The owner said her dog "hated Bush". The strategy of penning - so much used in America - kept groups of several hundred on either side from joining up. Divide and Rule is a classical imperial tactic. "More fun, less work!" was a popular chant but fun was in rather short supply today.
The Playfair Steps, which lead from Princes Street up to the top of the Mound, were sealed off at the bottom but some activists removed the unmanned barrier at the bottom and went up. Half way up police at the gate leading from Princes Street Gardens confronted those ascending. Several people complained that the blocking of the steps was illegal and in any case bizarre as the nearby Mound was open to pedestrians.
One man made the point that several financial institutions had been occupied while hundreds of police were holding up peaceful protesters and passers by. Many people were trapped in East Princes Street Gardens after police locked every gate and it was a considerable time before they got out. People were forced back down the steps into Princes Street.
On going up to Bristo Square near Edinburgh University the Infernal Noise Brigade from Seattle, Washington State joined up with some dancers and clowns and with passers by looking on started to march towards the City Centre. Inevitably the police came along, though the procession was fairly small and non-threatening. Inexplicably the central library on the George 4th Bridge was ordered to close by the police, as was the museum in Chambers Street. The staff who turned people away said they couldn't understand it. An accordion player struck up with `Scotland the Brave` just outside the High Court of the judiciary by the David Hume statue on the Royal Mile, luckily he wasn't arrested! Several police cars were observed speeding down the George 4th Bridge away from the city centre and then not five minutes later were seen racing in the opposite direction. Over reaction, bad coordination and Keystone Cops were all phrases that came to mind. At around 4.47 several vans with dogs appeared on the Mound, which began to resemble one giant cop shop with nearly 20 vans parked single and double file.
Maybe it was a police carnival for full enjoyment? Tons of overtime for all those regional forces many of who had come three or four hundred miles for the day.
After attending the `Military Families against the War` rally in St Augustine's on George 4th Bridge and the Indymedia Centre in Bristo Place I went to the East End of Princes Street. On the way down I had looked in at the Meadows and saw nothing, the Infernal Noise Brigade were performing in the Subway in the Cowgate and I said hello to some of them. I saw some 5 ambulances on the North Bridge and was a little disturbed to hear the loud barking of dogs in police vans in St Andrew Square. It was there, around 9.30pm that I saw the only real disturbances of the day with a few bottles thrown and several people sitting down in Princes Street near the Waverley market. Scottish Socialist party activist Catriona Grant was talking to some sit down protestors. The wailing police sirens were heard again as seven people sat down in Princes Street near Waverley Bridge. Catriona appeared to be encouraging people to get off the road in an attempt to defuse the stand off. The incessant barking of the dogs led one to suppose they would soon be used but at 9.34pm there a shout of "Back to the vans!" and the police made a hurried departure to loud jeers and chants of "Whose Streets? Out Streets!" Catriona Grant said "It's been mental and the riot police have been here and really been squaring up to young people who mostly live in Edinburgh who are really outraged that the riot police are used in Edinburgh - it's never happened before and it must never happen again. They're our streets! The attitude of the police has been disgraceful. They're our streets!"
An Australian guy standing near admitted, "We did throw some bottles but only after watching our girl friends get bashed and our brothers get crumbled and that's understandable. You wouldn't throw bottles after your brother and your girl friend had both got crumbled? Fuck that!"
Although there were media reports of some incidents after that I saw nothing more of note in my way home.
As might be expected the tabloid newspapers next morning had a field day with screaming headlines like `The Nightmare Comes True` (Edinburgh Evening News) `G-Force` (the Scum aka the Sun) ``Live Hate` (the Star and the Daily Express) `G-Hate` (the Daily Record) and `Anarchy on our streets` (the Daily Mail). The broadsheet (Glasgow) Herald had as its banner headline `The Battle of Princes Street`.
The next day's news on STV `Scotland Today` spoke of the `worst violence in Edinburgh for 100 years` and reported 61people appearing in court. One G8 protester spoke on camera saying he had seen girls as young as 13 and 14 being trapped in pens. Scottish Green party MSP (member of Scottish parliament) Mark Ballard said, " A line of police cleared everybody at speed from Princes Street Gardens. We didn't know where we were supposed to go; the police were shouting `Move! ` - tourists shoppers, people like myself were saying `Where? `"
First Minister Jack McConnell praising the police spoke of extremely `dangerous and violent people` meaning the protestors. Could the G8 be described as being `dangerous and violent peoiple` I wonder? Reporter Nicola Kane said "Last night anything lying around was used as a weapon."
The BBC's `Reporting Scotland` reported that around a dozen of the 60 or so arrested were from outside Edinburgh. Their home affairs correspondent Reevil Alderson spoke "The flowers that were used as missiles." (!) and went on to describe how "the thin blue line was surrounded by protesters." Scottish Socialist Party convenor Colin Fox MSP said he had witnessed some "secret policing." He told of how he had seen constabulary from `down south` with their numbers and epaulets covered over who refused to give their names. He said he had written to the justice minister (Cathy Jamieson -check) demanding an explanation.
The Al Jazeera website spoke in measured tones of `scuffles` between riot police and demonstrators. 90 arrests were reported and the disproportionate nature of the policing was described as `In one incident, 14 mounted riot police and 15 vanloads of others arrived to protect the Standard Life insurance company building to find just three demonstrators there. `
12 labelled photos are attached.
Word count 1,533 words