THE BIRMINGHAM SUMMIT: 50,000 join hands for world's poor

CHURCH bells rang, whistles blew and some 50,000 people clasped hands yesterday in the biggest display of British solidarity with the poorest countries of the world since Live Aid. The culmination of two years of planning, the seven-mile human chain around the G8 summit site in Birmingham was designed to force the question of Third World debt onto the agenda.

From old to young, the people, many of whom had never demonstrated before, joined hands in a seven-mile chain, sometimes six deep, to call for the cancellation of Third World debt to mark the year 2000. "We shall overcome," they sang and Bob Marley's "Redemption Song": "Won't you help to sing these songs of freedom?".

Organised by the Jubilee 2000 coalition of churches, aid agencies and charities, the human chain had been asked to wear chains - 100,000 lapel badges of tiny links have been sold in the last two weeks - or the colour red. With matching red placards pleading "Break the chains of debt", it was impossible to miss them. Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, arrived at St Philip's Cathedral just in time to link hands with members of the coalition before receiving boxes of petitions containing 1.5 million signatures.

"I think what you are achieving today is more than putting pressure on the leadership of the G8 to cancel debt, however important that is," she told the crowd. "This is a declaration of the end of selfishness and greed of the Eighties. Today we have shown that idealism is alive and well in politics."

Earlier, the Jubilee 2000 Coalition, the organisers of the protest, had laughed that the arrival of their mainly elderly supporters from Middle England had sent the G8 leaders fleeing into private talks outside the city. But it soon emerged that the turnout was to be acknowledged by the world leaders after all. At the last moment, Tony Blair announced he would meet the Jubilee 2000 leaders later in the afternoon.

Despite the impact of the protest, however, the G8 nations rejected the campaigners' demand for an end to debt, agreeing a package of much less ambitious objectives. They include measures to get 20 eligible countries into a debt relief programme by the end of the decade, and new plans for countries which have suffered conflicts. Ann Pettifor, director of Jubilee 2000 said: "Far from listening to the 50,000 people gathered here in Birmingham this statement shows that the G8 are divided and cannot reach agreement on essential help for poor countries."

Many who joined the protest were undeterred by the politicians' attitude. Merle Tshiamalenge, 61, and her sister Molly Hanson, 71, had come from Kettering. Mrs Tshiamalenge, who worked as a missionary in Africa, said: "The dictator who was in charge when I was there is dead but the debt is still there. I believe they deserve a fresh start." Mrs Hanson said she was "just a very ordinary person" who never normally protested but felt very strongly it was wrong. "I worked with handicapped children all my life and I can't bear to see children that are so ill and can't even get the basic things in life."

Ann Pettifor said yesterday was just the start and the fight would go on. The next plan is to focus on Germany, which has opposed moves on debt relief. Helmut Kohl has vowed to fight this year's election as a world leader. "We are going to question his role as a world statesman," she said. And the human chains will continue. "I think you will find human chains popping up wherever finance ministers and governments meet. We are saying to the hard-hearted men of money that we want a new beginning."

TWO-NIL for the French-flavoured Arsenal at Wembley - and one-up for Jacques Chirac over Tony Blair at the Birmingham G8 summit last night.

Before the game started, Toon Army member Mr Blair sent a good luck note to the Newcastle players. The French President couldn't resist a counterattack.

Within minutes of the final whistle, Mr Chirac sent a congratulatory letter to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Compliments to the whole team, the President continued, with a special mention for its garde tricolor of Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira and Nicolas Anelka.

A new summit split, then? Beaming French officials were not denying it.

News
people
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Extras
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities