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J2: The View from Inside

Rebel W | 03.07.2005 14:39 | G8 2005

Rather than do the sensible, informed thing and stay with the protesters who don't actually think Bob Geldof is Africa's own Jesus Christ, I joined with the rest of the march, "the world's biggest white wristband" and took a look at the inside of yesterdays momentous march.

The march itself was a bit of a mess, especially at the start. Anyone who had been talking to real people on the steets about this march knew that way more than 100,000 people would show up. From my estimates (nearer 300,000), might suspect that, not wanting to embarass Blair too much, the NGO's concerned played down the numbers.

This sort of 'playing down' did seem to be a big thing. People shouting, chanting and signing got a bad reaction, on one occaision a group of Methodist Church members starting singing fairly loudly and, as if by pure chance, the police helicopter came overhead, then, presumably realising that these were merely young people concerned about the lack of action on poverty worldwide, headed off again.

This kind of paranoia seemed to pervade the whole policing of the event. It appeared that the police were determined for a silent march (not the first time in recent months that police have redifined 'peaceful' as 'silent'). Many of the usual suspects for megaphone operation were missing from action or simply hadn't brought their equipment with them for fear of having it nicked. Apparently children shouldn't be exposed to chanting, it makes an event "unfamily-friendly".

But there certainly was hope. Many home made banners were more strongly worded that the official placards, some "Christian Aid Grannies" holding banners which read along the lines of "less words, more action", others portraying the G8 as part of the problem.

But perhaps the most interesting time came when handing out Dissent's Make History: Close the G8 leaflets, as many people swarmed to get their hands on them, causing some crowd flow problems (unfortunately, I had only 200 and ran out very quickly. Getting rid of SchNews was also relatively easy, with some folk seeming quite excited at seeing it again (presumably having seen it some time back).

So all in all, there were cracks within the facade of 'respectability' and 'family friendlyness', the rhetoric which had pervaded all the literature beforehand. Not everyone is willing to fall in line and be silenced so that Geldof can talk sweetly to Blair, and then, when Blair fails to suceed, go on supporting Blair.

But ultimately, on first impressions at least, this demonstration failed to radicalise so very many of the protesters, and there was neither the clear (but horrible) leadership shown on Stop the War marches, nor the impetus to be one's own leader. If, as expected, the G8 hob-nob sesh fails to do anything less than further Africans' Suffering, we can expect nothing more than a few vaguely harsh words and mumbles of "we did our best"; no sign of any build up for revenge against the continuing injustice we were all meant to be protesting about.

Rebel W