Stuart Hodkinson in Edinburgh. They were massively outnumbered by the 10,000-plus police officers brought in from every corner of the UK. Their movements in and to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Gleneagles were heavily curtailed by police use of Section 60 powers to randomly stop and search people for offensive weapons without grounds for suspicion and road blocks on every major route into and out of Gleneagles. To top it all, after nearly a week of glorious sunshine, the Scottish heavens opened and it, as the locals would say, "pished it down". Yet against all odds, it is tonight clear that although not the spectacular shut down originally sought, around eight thousand alter-globalisation protesters combined clever orienteering with a helping hand from the police to cause major disruption on the opening day of the G8 summit in Gleneagles.
The actions against the G8 began at midnight when the first of the Beacons of Dissent! (large bonfires) were lit on Blairdenon Hill overlooking Gleneagles as part of an ancient community tradition to use fire to warn others far away when danger approached. This time, protesters were warning against the invading G8 leaders themselves.
As the Beacons continued to burn despite heavy rain, the first of the morning blockades in the Stirling area began at around 4am this morning when some 1000 people left their rural campsite, split into smaller groups and converged on target sections of motorways and roads, including the M9, which runs from to Stirling to Gleneagles. Activists locked on to vans blocking roundabouts, laid branches across the road, staged sit downs all morning and some directly fought the police with rocks and stones, leading to a number of key routes being blocked for hours and several delegates cars and convoys. There were a few isolated window smashing actions against corporate symbols like Burger King and Pizza Hut on an industrial estate near the Stirling eco-village camp. Trains were cancelled from Edinburgh to Stirling from mid-morning until at least 4.30pm.
The stirring morning efforts of Stirling contrasted sharply with Edinburgh and Glasgow where the pre-announced public blockades turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. The Sherraton Hotel blockade of G8 delegates at 6am was effectively abandoned when activists saw just how many police were lying in wait in the pouring rain. In fairness, the action was not completely unsuccessful - one of the press buses was briefly stopped and later on a dozen or so protesters regrouped and managed to later briefly block some of the Japanese delegation's buses. This disruption was reinforced by the Queensfeery Road blockade at the height of rush hour when two cars were deliberately crashed into each other. Glasgow, meanwhile, was a complete washout - hardly any blockaders travelled there and there was again a heavy police presence with stop and search hampering those intent on shutting down hotel entrances and roads. However, despite the absence of political actions in Glasgow, there was a dramatic late twist to the day when at least eleven well-known London activists were arrested in bizarre circumstances and are tonight spending a night behind bars.
Perhaps the day's most unexpected victory came at Gleneagles itself where hundreds of protesters on the much-hyped 'on-off-on' G8Alternatives march past the gates of the Gleneagles Hotel took the opportunity of chaotic policing, a narrow road and a flimsy barbed wire fence to break away from the main procession and pull down two panels of the main perimeter fence as Chinook helicopters swooped down just 30 feet away from protesters to deliver new police reinforcements. The paradox is that for most of the day it looked extremely doubtful whether the G8Alternatives march would even take place. With blockades up across Stirling, autonomous hillwalkers skipping across the Ochil Hills around Gleneagles and some trains stopped from Edinburgh and Perth, police had given an early morning indication that they wanted the demonstration to be called off on grounds of public safety. Many coaches were subsequently pulled off the road, stopped and searched and some 20 were forced to turn around and return to Edinburgh.
This led to an unexpected but welcome demonstration of an estimated 1000 angry people denied the right to protest in Gleneagles on Princes Street, the scene of Monday's violent 'Battle of Princes Street' when riot police turned on protesters during the Carnival for full policing. While not as hairy, the overwhelming police presence again saw a number of arrests, including three members of the Scottish Socialist Party who were allegedly asked to come forward to negotiate with police officers only to be arrested. In the end, after having successfully reduced the numbers, police decided to allow the march after all with an estimated 5,000 demonstrators descending on the luxury golf resort. To see the full range of actions from dawn till dusk, check out today's Indymedia UK coverage of the protests, which is fantastic.
Tonight, much of Scotland is in an uneasy calm. Rumours are circulating that the already paranoid Stirling eco-village, from which many of today's blockaders launched their dawn battalions, is under threat of being raided by riot police gathering in the nearby fields. There are several unconfirmed reports of journalists heading to the campsite to cover any flashpoints and Chinook army helicopters dropping in fresh deployments. These are only rumours and both Indymedia volunteers and Red Pepper tonight spoke with some of the campers who assured us that there was no police build up. Tomorrow (7 July) sees the continuation of the blockades and a day set aside by the Dissent! network for prisoner support. The big question is whether activists can keep this effort up over the next few days. They will have to manage with far less activists in Edinburgh from tomorrow as the Globalise Resistance-SWP crowd are heading back to London for the start of their annual Marxism conference and the council-provided campsite down at the Jack Kane Centre in Craigmillar will also finish.