Thursday, 7 July 2005

Anti G8 camp in Stirling, Scotland.

Another of my newsletter emails to the samba list.
hi was gonna use this morning to give y'all an update but then bombing news (7/7) from London came out during a mass camp meeting and everybody dispersed to find out if their loved ones were OK.
We are currently under siege by the riot police and were trying to decide our response.
Options included:
  • Peaceful, slow noisy push out.
  • March to Stirling prison negotiated with police.
A few Spanish 'black block' wanted to bust out violently (little support for this option but it meant no consensus was achieved during 4 a.m meeting this morning which was initially called to discuss an early morning wake-up call action to disturb the arrival of the American delegation at a hotel).
The last three nights there has been panic in the camp as people bang drums and scream
"Everybody up! We are being taken over. The police are coming, go down to the gate"
The first night this happened I thought, what will that achieve? Especially for those of us with kids, we want to avoid putting them in a violent situation. It was pretty scary and so I went to the media tent to discuss putting out a more positive message. I felt that a daily press release would be a good idea and so did most others, unfortunately some organisations (the Wombles in particular) in the camp are categorically against any interaction with mainstream media therefore consensus cannot be reached on this subject. This means however that the mainstream media are in total control: we do not rebut their inaccuracies. As a result myself and other parents decided to do a media friendly protest, the baby block, to show the outside world that this camp contains a wide variety of people. We also wanted to protect ourselves from having a Genoa style raid in which the police come in and start bashing up sleeping people.
Yesterday was incredibly successful considering the difficulty of our situation when faced with the resources that the police and establishment possess. Many groups left during the day on Tuesday, during the night and early Wednesday morning. There were hill walkers and samba contingents hiding out in the undergrowth all night in the rain in order to set up the road blocks.
We awoke to torrential rain and the news that the 'stragglers walkout' planned for 3 a.m were for the most part not allowed out although some pushed through police lines. Unfortunately some hot-heads started to smash up the local industrial estate in reaction, smashing Band Q, Burger king, and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The call came through at about 5 a.m. that the M9 had been taken by us. Big cheer. This was the least likely blockade to succeed. By 7 a.m. the A9 was blocked and many B roads. I was standing next to the medics as they received news: Lancaster have taken the b2499, Nottingham have taken this other road and on and on. It was like the War of the Roses!
The camp was formed into barrios representing different regions of Britain. The international samba contingent were in the Manchester camp.
I formed part of the baby block along with 11 other members of the samba band including my daughter of course. We managed to commandeer use of a double decker red bus and head the convoy. We were stopped at the exit of the camp by police but then people from the convoy drove through...
We were then escorted to Gleneagles, encountering a lock-on road block held by two solitary activists, they were locked onto and underneath a car parked across the road. We supported them with music then moved ahead. Finally we ended up about 3/4 mile away from the Gleneagles hotel surrounded by riot police. We then descended from the bus and had a street party on the bridge overlooking the A9.
My daughter led the band which was appropriate as it was a baby block. There was a 'terrorist toddlers picnic' in front of the police lines, a sound system, us, clowns, bubbles, rain, banners, colour and an enormous umbrella under which we played. We played crap cos we were all so tired but not as tired as Andrea and her small contingent of sambistas who had been on the move in the rain since 10 p.m. the previous night. I bet they were glad to find us and finally relax on the bus.
We then went up to Auchternardy (can never spell this), and joined the big street party there. However there were reports of clowns (from the Clown Army) being arrested. It's amazing how the Clown Army have been turned into this sinister organisation by the press when their stated purpose is to diffuse tension with humour.
Another activist band managed to get through the barricades surrounding the Gleneagles hotel which put the police into a huge panic. The army were called in to back them up later as a result.
The baby block had some press embedded. I was in contact with a journalist from the Scottish Daily Post. He seemed sympathetic to our cause and we gave him good access and interviews. I was dismayed the next day when the story that appeared in the paper was wholly negative and painted us as bad parents for taking our children to this protest. I called him to complain and he said that he had written a positive story but that the editor of the paper had changed it. However it was worth challenging him because he then wrote and got published a sympathetic story about the camps reaction to the London bombings, a subject which would have been easy for the press to go to town on and paint us as sympathisers with the terrorists. (I have to say that the general feeling around the camp and I felt this way too, that the 7/7 bombing was incredibly convenient timing wise for the Government in that it took all of the attention away from our camps protest against the G8. Also took the attention away from the agreement to drop the debt to Africa.)
This protest has been very colour coded. Some sambistas were arrested in Edinburgh on Monday and it was people who were wearing black who were picked on. One of the French women is charged with leading a riot and breach of the peace and is held for seven days. She could receive a maximum sentence of 120 days. While those sambistas were in Edinburgh on Monday, the rest of us were in Faslane, at the peace camp, doing the annual protest against the nuclear submarines. The countryside was very beautiful, lochs, hills, heather, granite stone architecture, and midges. This protest passed peacefully.
George did an impromptu samba workshop to motivate the people who were locked to each other in front of a gate. The clowns arrived. The geishas of gaiety arrived and bowed politely to the police. There were radical cheer leaders. Lots of creative 'fluffy' responses to the situation. One protester, Johnny, was staging a sit-in on the fence and we surrounded and encouraged him. He was arrested but we managed to make sure that he was allowed to return to the camp with us and not removed.
Going backwards in time: Saturdays' Make Poverty History march was for me rather crap. It was very hot. The march was badly organised and so were we.
It was the first musical encounter of this event between the European sambistas and the British and the different signs render a decent set practically impossible. Frequently we British sambistas ground to a halt in confusion. It took us hours to meet, poor communications were to blame, and then hours to decide what to do. I was exhausted before we did the bloody march. Then, as younger, fitter and non-surdo playing people wanted to stay in Edinburgh, my daughter and I had to walk 40 mins carrying the surdo and caixa to the mini-bus stop to return to the camp. Never been so knackered in my life.
I got back and found that the tent I had been lent was broken and collapsed. We found another empty tent and squatted it as my daughter was asleep standing up but then I got in trouble for that. Childless protestors (most of them) have little understanding of the issues for parents.
Note to self: cannot rely 100 per cent on others to help carry drum therefore must learn lighter instrument for protests and marches, especially with a kid to keep an eye on too.
Camp very interesting in itself. Lots of autonomous organisation. Pretty impressive. I cooked for our barrio on Sunday and will again tonight.
Anarchist teapot and Rampanplan (a Dutch field kitchen) are working together to supply us with food and are massively in debt as a result. So we have to get more donations from people for meals.
Findhorn community also have a barrio kitchen.
Starhawk and some other American witches have been casting spells over the campsite to protect it from the police. They have also been doing invisibility spells for the walkers that blockaded the roads. These spells seem to be working very well.
Have attended more meetings in a week than ever before in life. Am actually going for some kind of 'Guinness book of records' of how many meetings I can fit in. Am also working out how to find out maximum info from a meeting in shortest space of time then scarper.
The toilets are full and haven't had a wash since I got here. Have also got nappy rash from walking with damp thighs. Have eaten mucho vegan slop. My daughter not eaten in days of course.
Lots of interesting people here, people that are charismatic, energetic, self motivated, dynamic and and responsible. If they wanted to compete in the mainstream world they would probably end up running the country!
I suggest we do a fundraiser to buy our own plane or helicopter. Not having our own transport has been very difficult to make us effective as a London affinity group.