Stuart Hodkinson. After the political whitewash of Saturday's Live 8 and Make Poverty History, today saw the first serious protesting against the G8 summit in Scotland. The non-violent blockade against the Trident nuclear submarine base in Faslane passed off peacefully without incident. But at the originally Carnival of Full Enjoyment in Edinburgh, the streets of the Scottish capital experienced a very different reality with thousands of police shutting down the city and then physically turning on protesters, resulting in over 30 similar injuries when people were forced to jump over spiked railing at West Princes Street Gardens after being baton-charged by riot police.
This was not what protesters had in mind as the midday Carnival in central Edinburgh began. Their aim was to bring together "workers, migrants, students, benefit claimers, New Dealers, work refusers, pensioners, dreamers, duckers & divers" to resist the "daily grind of the institutions that plunge us into overwork, poverty and debt". Protesters were joined by Samba bands and clowns from the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA). When five riot vans were seen chasing after a 'gaggle' of 20 clowns near to Edinburgh University, the tone was set for the day.
To their credit, carnival-goers spent the entire afternoon attempting to dance and sing through the city, taking over large parts of Princes Street and the surrounding areas and forcing traffic and shops to close. The carnival attracted thousands of local on-lookers and many hundreds of Edinburgh workers and youths joined the protesters in the streets. It was initially good natured but as numbers began to swell down on Princes Street the trouble began.
Red Pepper witnessed the events as they unfolded. In short, thousands of police officers without official badge numbers engulfed the protesters and persistently shut down the streets with lines of vans, officers in full riot gear and mounted police. Police pens were created, splitting protesters into groups of a few hundred all over the Princes Street area. At specifically timed intervals, baton-wielding police violently charged protesters and crushed them against steel fencing leading to dozens of injuries with some taken to hospital. Having shut down all the roads around the area, a completely unprovoked mounted police charge led to one elderly woman being knocked down. She then suffered some kind of fit and was rushed to hospital. In response, there were isolated incidents of clashes with police, mainly carried out by local youths using the opportunity to throw bricks at the police. Tonight, around 40 people are arrested in police custody. The charges against them are unclear.
As the city finally calmed down again, one thing remained clear: the policing for this G8 is already repressive and violent, and the numbers of police on the streets are completely disproportionate to the numbers of protesters on the streets. Reports on TV tonight of protesters behaving irresponsibly are simply untrue - it was the police who charged protesters and created the pretext for clashes, a fact confirmed by Green MSP Mark Ballard when interviewed on TV news channels tonight.