The Marches: And in Edinburgh they marched to a different beat

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Thousands of protesters dressed almost entirely in white swept through the streets of Edinburgh in the biggest demonstration Scotland has ever seen, to demand an end to poverty.

The deafening roar of bagpipes, drums, whistles, voices and feet crashed against the sandstone walls of the historic buildings as wave after wave of men, women and children paraded through the capital.

Watched over by a highly visible police presence, the march, which took several hours to complete nearly two miles around the city, passed off relatively peacefully.

At the climax of yesterday's march, demonstrators formed a human chain around central Edinburgh to create a symbolic white wristband.

Apart from a few minor scuffles, and largely verbal altercations between some younger demonstrators and officers, a spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police described the atmosphere among the estimated 120,000- strong crowd as light-hearted.

From early light yesterday, marchers began arriving at a park on the edge of the city centre where they were entertained by a variety of bands and addressed by speakers, including Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics, his English counterpart Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, and the Rev David Lacy, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. A message from Pope Benedict XVI was read out, in which the pontiff said that people from the world's richest countries should be prepared to accept the burden of debt reduction for poor countries.

Celebrities such as Bianca Jagger, Daniel Bedingfield and Pete Postlethwaite called on the leaders of the G8 to stop telling lies, breaking promises and wasting time.

"The first problem in Africa is the lack of education," said Baaba Maal, prominent Senegalese musician, UN ambassador and Aids campaigner.

"It is important for people all over the world to see that this is the time to fight poverty. Not later, as it will be really late, not just for Africa but for the whole world."

Among the wide age range of demonstrators, many of whom travelled from across the UK, Europe and even the US, there was a common belief that just by being in Edinburgh they were doing something positive.

"We came up here to add our voice to the Make Poverty History campaign with the hope that if enough of us shout loudly enough the Government will have to listen," said Martin Green of Hartlepool Fair Trade Town Steering Group, who arrived with three coach-loads of supporters yesterday morning.

For Liz Hamilton and her husband Paul from Penge, south London, the trip to Edinburgh was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a difference". "Instead of talking about it we decided to stand up and be counted," said the 47-year-old teacher.

Peter Myers, 51, from Farnham in Surrey, said: "I am here to see and be seen and to take part in one of the biggest rallies ever. We hope that with so many people gathered here today it will make the world leaders stand up and take the correct course of action."

"Scotland has the opportunity to be remembered as the place where the tide of extreme poverty was turned back, where real change to help the world's poorest began," said Oxfam's Judith Robertson, proudly.

Along the world-famous Princes Street, under the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, which was decked out in a 300ft-long Make Poverty History banner, many shops and businesses had their windows boarded. Down by the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, a ring of steel fencing was erected to keep potential trouble-makers at bay.

For many of the demonstrators, such as Sam Hawkins, 24, a renewable energy researcher from London, yesterday's march was only the start of a week of protests, including the G8 Alternatives demonstration at the G8 summit in Gleneagles on Wednesday.

He said: "There's a broad coalition of people campaigning around the summit. We are united around a common goal and that is eradicating poverty and working for a fairer world."

Today, an Anti-War Coalition demonstration will take place in Edinburgh followed tomorrow by a blockade of the nuclear submarine base at Faslane on the Clyde near Glasgow. Also tomorrow, police are bracing themselves for trouble when the so-called Carnival for Full Enjoyment, organised by a coalition of anti-capitalist and anarchist groups, kicks off in the city.

In a bid to head off potential trouble at another flashpoint, it has been announced that Scotland's controversial Dungavel immigration detention centre will be evacuated and closed during the G8 summit week.

The Home Office said the move was being made amid concerns for the safety of staff and detainees at the complex, which is situated in South Lanarkshire.

All 38 detainees will be transferred to other centres by Tuesday when a mass demonstration by the G8 Alternatives group is set to take place outside the site.

A week of protests

Today

G8 Alternatives Counter Summit at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh and other city venues.10am-9pm

Tomorrow

Blockade of Faslane nuclear submarine base, west of Glasgow, by CND and other peace groups.7am onwards

Tuesday

Blockade of Dungavel immigration detention centre in Lanarkshire. 11am

* Also Beacons of Dissent to be lit in the hills surrounding the Gleneagles Hotel on the eve of the G8 summit.

Wednesday

Up to 20,000 protesters expected near Gleneagles to mark start of G8 summit, starting at nearby village of Auchterarder. Anarchist groups may try to block the routes into Gleneagles to stop civil servants reaching the hotel, disrupting the summit.

Thursday

The World is Watching Aids/HIV rally begins in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh. 9.30am

Friday

G8 Climate Criminals protests being planned worldwide to mark end of summit. Venues include London, Glasgow, Venezuela, New Zealand, Iceland and Australia.

The marchers:

Veronica Ngulube and John Phiri: 'We need electricty to study in the dark'

are from rural Zambia. They live in one of the poorest countries in the world and are flying to the UK on behalf of the international relief and development agency World Vision to tell the British public what they think will push their continent out of poverty.

Veronica, 17, a farmer's daughter, says: "We need training centres for farmers to teach them new technologies." Her dream is to become a doctor; her passion is already evident in her ideas: "I want development of youth recreation centres to enable young people to share their knowledge about HIV/Aids," she says.

John, 16, and equally ambitious, wants to finish school and study engineering. "We need electricity in our village so we can study when it gets dark," he says. "And I want to see all children, regardless of their background, in school. We need more high schools and free education from grades one to 12."

Joanna Brown: 'Our bus is a hopeful and friendlyimage'

is one of eight campaigners with berths on a 40-year-old red Routemaster bus that left for Edinburgh from the Glastonbury festival on 27 June

"It has a kitchen downstairs and a bathroom upstairs, so we'll be sleeping on the bus. We're painting the Make Poverty History white band all around it this weekend. I'm very much a believer in non-violent protest. The bus is a hopeful and friendly image - it only goes at 40mph!"

Ivy Maina: 'Messages from Africa'

From Kenya but travelling to the G8 from South Africa on an ActionAid bus

"I believe in 'African solutions to African problems', so I look forward to bringing messages from the African people I meet on this journey to the G8. I know I will be meeting people living in extreme poverty - and helping get their voices heard."

David Golding: 'I'm bringing 1,000 people'

A Marine biologist at Newcastle University, has arranged coaches for 1,000 people going to Edinburgh for Wednesday's march. "I rang the local coach company and said, 'We need 1,000 places to Edinburgh.' There was a very long pause and they said, 'You'd better come down and see the manager.' Friends in our church will put up some people and I'm putting up a lot of young people from London. I like the democratic element of it: I've arranged for 1,000 people to be there, but I stand for not one jot more than anyone else."

Comments