Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Scotland Waits for July Riots: Tom Wall Finds Potential Protesters Already Being Harassed as Police Prepare for the G8 Summit

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Scotland Waits for July Riots: Tom Wall Finds Potential Protesters Already Being Harassed as Police Prepare for the G8 Summit

Article excerpt

Guy Taylor, angry about third-world poverty, the Iraq war and Britain's treatment of asylum-seekers, was planning to demonstrate against the July G8 conference in Scotland. Now he has something else to be angry about: this month, after attending a peaceful demo outside the G7 finance ministers' meeting, he was followed for five hours, across London, by two uniformed police officers.

"I walked from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Circus," he told me, "got a bus to Euston, then got the Tube down to Bank, then got another bus to Liverpool Street and finally walked to Brick Lane. I was followed by two cops in Day-Glo jackets all the way. By the end of it I was on first-name terms with them."

North of the border, it's worse. Senior police officers have issued warnings about anarchist groups bent on hijacking peaceful demonstrations and turning them into orgies of violence. Politicians have announced Scotland is a global target. Newspapers have published alarming stories about G8 mayhem and rings of steel.

The largest police operation in modern British history is under way. An army of specialist officers from across the country is preparing to help secure the conference. Halls of residence at the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh have been set aside as accommodation. Meanwhile, Special Branch is covertly monitoring activists throughout the UK and liaising with national and international security agencies. It is expected that once demonstrators start arriving, the Edinburgh authorities will cordon off the Scottish Parliament, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and other historical sites around the city. Tayside Police intends to issue residents near Gleneagles Hotel, the venue for the conference, with ID passes, and restrict movement throughout the week.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The chief constable in charge of the G8 policing operation, John Vine, told me these measures are justified because previous G8 protests, especially at the Genoa summit in 2001, descended into violence. He is considering using Section 44 of the Terrorism Act to allow searches without reasonable suspicion--and to prevent disruptive individuals entering the country.

This provokes everything from polite consternation to fury in the protest movement. The mainstream Make Poverty History campaign (a coalition of more than 200 charities, trade unions and faith groups) argues that talk of violence may discourage families from attending: "Our record is one of massive public mobilisations that have been completely peaceful. …

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