London Metropolitan police appear to have been handed a special role during these protests - to harrass and threaten the anti-capitalist group the Wombles (White Overall Movement Building Liberation through Effective Struggles) at every turn. Yesterday afternoon, as the police blocked the 'black T-shirt anti-capitalist bloc' from joining the Make Poverty History demonstration, members of the Met's so called Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) - those with a penchant for filming and photographing activists - were overheard warning a 'Womble' that the police were 'going to get you lot this time'. Such threats have been accompanied by a very obvious harrassment exercise in which notorious Wombles are being followed and filmed as they move around Scotland's capital attending meetings.
With the exceptions of Osama Bin Laden, asylum seekers and paedophiles, the Wombles are the British police and media's favourite bogeymen. Since their founding in the autumn of 2000 by a group of anarchists radicalised by the anti-capitalist global days of action and inspired by the White Overalls movement of Italy, the Wombles have been pioneering militant forms of direct action struggle against capitalism, including resisting new police strategies and tactics against the anti-capitalist movement and squatting disused buildings and turning them into social centres. This has made them a regular target of the demonisation-hysteria campaign by the corporate media and state.
Their first major action came on Mayday 2001 when they wore padded white overalls and crash helmets to challenge the police physical repression of the growing anti-capitalist movement - putting themselves directly in between the truncheons and the protesters. Although they only adopted this tactic once more in 2002, the British media has preceded every major anti-capitalist demonstration by warning of 'planned violence' by the group. In the run-up to the G8 protests at Gleneagles, the hysteria has been particularly strong due to a concerted 'good protester - bad protester' campaign by the right-wing press to demonise all protesters aiming to 'resist' the G8 summit and put off large numbers from attending. Anti-G8 activists have a different view of the Wombles, having worked constructively with them and other anti-authoritarian groups in the South East Assembly to self-organise the Resist the G8 train, which took over 400 people from London to Edinburgh on Friday.
But the police do face another, more real threat to public safety in Edinburgh - Bob Geldof. From the Live 8 stage, he repeated his call for a million people to march to Edinburgh on the 6 July. While activists welcome Geldof's unwitting efforts to boost the numbers needed to blockade delegates' hotels from Edinburgh and elsewhere, there is widespread contempt for his refusal to take any responsibility for helping activist networks like Dissent! and G8Alternatives to provide the necessary information and infrastructure to safely accommodate such numbers. Watch this space