The Dissent! Edinburgh Accommodation Group has just released this urgent and important statement about the accommodation situation for protesters coming to Edinburgh. In short, it details how due to a variety of factors, the only legal mass accommodation secured is in assocation with the council on Hunter’s Hall Park, surrounding the Jack Kane Centre in the Niddrie estate. The group has reluctantly decided to endorse this but has reservations about a number of issues and wants to alert activists to them as well as encourage people to help create a Dissent! space within the accommodation.
Statement from the Dissent Edinburgh Accommodation Group - June 28 2005.
We are writing this to prepare people for the accommodation situation in Edinburgh. We want to encourage people to travel here to take part in the actions and Edinburgh convergence, but also to circulate this information as widely as possible.
People in Edinburgh have, for several months, been trying to find a space suitable for G8 protesters to sleep, meet, eat, converge, plan, party, and self-organise. Our initial aim was to hire a building large enough to accommodate many people as well as providing meeting and social space. Our mandate from the network was to find a place we could manage and organise ourselves, and to provide legal sleeping space for those who needed it.
However, after 2 spaces fell through, we found it impossible in Edinburgh, a city with few empty large industrial spaces (where most such spaces have been turned into luxury apartments), and high property prices, to rent a building for such a short period of time.
Having made a commitment to provide legal space for those travelling to Edinburgh, we then made a proposal to the council: to give us an empty building or piece of land, which we would provide infrastructure and equipment for and manage ourselves. The council refused, as they want to concentrate all the protesters in one place – Hunter’s Hall Park, surrounding the Jack Kane centre. As we were left with no other option we approached the council for a Dissent space within their site. We have managed finally to get that space where we can have a kitchen, info point, computers for general use, films and a kids’ space. There will be a circle of marquees for meeting and socialising, with a communal space in the middle.
For many of us, it is a new experience to work with the council and to ask them for something. Our experience and political preference lies in taking spaces ourselves and in self-organisation, rather than in lobbying or making demands of the state. We realised that this would be a huge compromise, but we felt and still feel that we have made a commitment to provide legal accommodation, and have no other choice.
The problem is that we have no control over the layout and management of the council campsite. The site has security, in the form of a large fence, security guards and CCTV cameras. We have been told that police will not be inside the campsite, but there will be a police liaison officer in the council office outside. Also, people will have to pay £5 for the week to stay on the campsite. This is obviously not a situation we would choose and we have tried to explain to the council that this level of control will be considered repressive and unacceptable to many people, but with no success. We do not know whether the campsite is designed to repress us, or if the security and cameras are just a symptom of the society of control that we live in, that the council impose without thinking.
We understand that many people will not be able to accept this situation and will not wish to stay in this place. However we have also made a political choice to be at the council site and we are putting a lot of effort into creating a zone there. It will not be a space in which we can have control over our perimeter, but we can choose how we organise inside and respond to situations together. We are going ahead, because we feel it is crucial that we have a presence in Edinburgh, both for the actions and demonstrations, and for communication with the other demonstrators.
Now that we are in this situation we see the potential to reach out to the other movements who will be at the campsite. We want to create a self-organised space within the site and provide a kitchen and communal space. We feel this is necessary or there will be no potential for non-hierarchical decision making structures, to facilitate solidarity in the face of repression and help to create collective action against the G8. Dissent and anti–authoritarian movements in general, need to reach out and explain our ideas and actions. If we cannot organise in these conditions, which mirror those of our society we have little hope of changing our world.
Also the Jack Kane community centre will hopefully help us break down the barriers between the protesters and local people; they are sympathetic and have already shown us solidarity, opening their space for our use. The campsite was created without consultation with the locals, in a working class area and they are losing the use of their park without getting anything back.
On Thursday 30 June Dissent will be holding a welcome meeting in the convergence centre at 6pm (which is located at Teviot Student’s Union, University of Edinburgh, Bristo Square), and a discussion of the accommodation situation and what collective action we should take would be welcomed. On Friday 1 July, at the first spokes councils (10am-12pm & 4-6 pm), also in the convergence centre, we hope to raise these issues, consult everyone and decide on the options together. If after reading this information, you are sure you don’t want to go to the council space, please still come to the spokes council and we can solve the problems together.
This is a warning, an explanation and a call out. For the moment this is our ONLY accommodation in Edinburgh. We need help to set this place up. Set up will be on Thursday the 30th. Even if you are staying in Glasgow or Stirling please come and work for this one day! Especially we need people who can help with putting up marquees.
We also need help with any useful equipment – tarpaulin, wood, tools, info, films to show – everything or anything you can bring.
The site is Jack Kane Centre, Hunter Hall Park, Niddrie Mains street, Craigmillar. You can take bus 2, 30, 32. Call if you can help or need directions 07963720402