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Report of Edinburgh May Day march and rally May 1st 2004

Paul O'Hanlon | 02.05.2004 12:48 | May Day 2004 | Anti-militarism | Health | Social Struggles

This is a report with photos of the march and rally in Edinburgh May 1st 2004.

Assembling in East Market street.
Assembling in East Market street.

Freedom for Palestine banner on Waverley Bridge.
Freedom for Palestine banner on Waverley Bridge.

Marching up the Mound.
Marching up the Mound.

Marching along George IV Bridge.
Marching along George IV Bridge.

MSP Colin Fox addresses the rally.
MSP Colin Fox addresses the rally.

Arthur Scargill addresses the rally.
Arthur Scargill addresses the rally.

Edinburgh blues singer Tam White (left) entertains the crowd.
Edinburgh blues singer Tam White (left) entertains the crowd.

Palestinian Fatima Helow with Arthur Scargill
Palestinian Fatima Helow with Arthur Scargill


The annual May Day march and rally took place in Edinburgh today in fine, sunny, spring like weather. Setting off at noon from East Market Street near Waverley railway station the various banners and placards read `National Union of Mineworkers`, `Freedom for Palestine`, `Iraq for Iraqis`, `Wanted: Bush and Blair for war crimes`, `End the Occupation`, `Stop the War`, `UNISON low pay no way`, `Edinburgh and District Trades Council`, `Scottish Green Party` and `Scottish Socialist Party`. The Nursery Nurses were well represented and could be heard singing: “Where, oh where is Jack McConnell, where, oh where is Jack McConnell, hiding in the Scottish Parliament that’s where he will be.”
The march, numbering around 500, went along Market Street, Waverley Bridge and Princes Street. The full length of the march stretched from the Balmoral Hotel to the foot of the mound – a distance of a third of a mile. Turning left up the Mound the lively and vociferous marchers sang “We all live in a terrorist regime” and “Tony Blair terrorist! George Bush terrorist”, “Sharon terrorist” and “Stop the war, Stop the crime, Israel out of Palestine!”
Continuing along the George IV Bridge around 12.30 the chants and songs continued and the march went on along Bristo Place and Teviot Place past the McEwan Hall and down Middle Meadow Walk to the rally at the Meadows.
The chair of the rally announced several apologies including Bill Spiers, Hilary Wainwright and to loud groans of disappointment, Tommy Sheridan.
The first speaker was Sophie from Stop the War who said the Iraqi people were still paying the price. She called on the occupation to be ended right now. The quick victory, which Bush and Blair had hoped for, has not materialised. The World said no to the war and we say it again. The Stop the war movement had made a difference and would continue to do so. The World is not a safer place – just look at Madrid. Tony Blair had said he would do “whatever it takes” and the Stop the War movement must do whatever it takes to bring those responsible for the war to justice.
Second speaker was Fatima Helow from the Glasgow Campaign for Palestinian rights. Fatima, born in a refugee camp in 1972, was just 10 years old at the time of the Sabra and Shatila Massacres in September 1982. She told the rally that since the first Intifada in 2000 that unemployment among the Palestinians had reached 60-70%. She described how the 8-metre high apartheid fence would be the biggest prison wall in the world. The Palestinians would continue to resist because they had no choice, they had nothing to lose by resisting.
Next was a spokesperson for the Nursery nurses called Agnes. She thanked the May Day committee for letting her speak. She said that there should be a national settlement for the nursery nurses.
Mark Ballard of the Green Party spoke next; he called for the troops out and for humanitarian aid to be given.
Then Scottish Socialist Party MSP Colin Fox spoke; he started by telling us about Tommy Sheridan’s indisposition, which has left him temporarily unable to speak. May 1st was a special day for Colin as it was the first anniversary of his election to the Scottish parliament. May 1st was also the 7th anniversary of Tony Blair’s election as Prime Minister and what a disappointment that Labour Government has been. Things have got a damned sight worse, the rich have got richer and the poor have got poorer. He criticised the racist asylum policies of the government and the anti-trade union legislation. He said he was proud of the nursery nurses and he stood in solidarity with them. “Why is it we pay the nursery nurses, nurses and midwives the poor wages that we do? Why do we pay a nursery nurse £10,000 a year and yet we let Fred Goodwin, the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland get £3 million a year in his wages?”
He said that with the exception of his five SSP colleagues the MSPs are not worth one nursery nurse.
Final speaker was former NUM leader Arthur Scargill who got a tremendous reception. He spoke of the miner’s strike of 1984 – 1885 as not being a defeat but in many ways a victory. He cited the example of Nelson Mandela who was incarcerated in jail for 27 years under the apartheid regime because he believed in freedom and independence in South Africa. When he marched out of that jail in Cape Town everybody in the world applauded him. It was the struggle that was the victory.
He was asked what he thought the turnout would be and he jokingly said, “The turnout in Beijing and Edinburgh and the average is 1.4 million!”
He went on: “You know we ought to be looking very carefully at what is taking place; we’ve got a health service in need of intensive care, we were promised in 1997 that the health service would be reinvigorated, it’s in a mess and I’ll tell you why because they continue to withhold the investment needed and they continue to allow private medicine to perpetuate - as far as I’m concerned as a member of the National Union of Mineworkers and the Socialist Labour Party we would ban all private medicine and put it into public ownership!” (Loud cheering and applause) He would also ban all private education though when he looked at schools like Gordonstoun and what they produce in the Royal family he sometimes wondered if it would be better to let them go on!
He bemoaned the loss of union power joking that the TUC had as much influence as a tuc biscuit! They don’t have the courage to stand up and fight back. He spoke of the betrayal of the miners in the 1980’s, if the workers and union leaders had all stood together then not only would the miners have won but also Thatcher would have been defeated. (Cheers) He couldn’t understand how members of the Labour party could support an illegal war on Iraq.
He said MI5 would be in the crowd – he didn’t know why because he could tell them where he stood: “We want to overthrow your rotten, corrupt capitalist system! (Loud Cheers) We want to see in the 21st century a world without war, a world without nuclear weapons and a world where no human being, man, woman or child dies from starvation when we’ve got food a plenty stored all over the world!”
He finished by quoting Edinburgh born socialist James Connolly: “Our demands most moderate be, we only want the Earth!”

The rally finished at a little after 2.30pm with music from Maggie Holland and Edinburgh blues singer Tam White. There was then a fundraising social with food, film, and music in the Cellar bar in Chambers Street.

Two forthcoming events for your diaries:

WEDNESDAY 5th MAY – PUBLIC MEETING of Edinburgh Stop the War at 7.00pm in Edinburgh City Chambers with a talk from Iraqi eye witness Susan Karim, recently returned from Iraq.

WEDNESDAY 30th JUNE DEMONSTRATION against the phoney `hand over` of sovereignty from one set of stooges to another. Assemble at 6.00pm at US Consulate, Edinburgh (just past Waterloo Place) and march to First Minister’s house at Charlotte Square (in the West End).

The photos:
1/Assembling in East Market Street. North Bridge and Balmoral Hotel in background.
2/Freedom for Palestine banner on Waverley Bridge,
3/Marching up the Mound.
4/Marching along George IV Bridge.
5/Colin Fox addresses the rally
6/Arthur Scargill speaks.
7/Edinburgh blues singer Tam White (left) entertains the crowd.
8/Palestinian Fatima Helow with Arthur Scargill.

Paul O'Hanlon
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