July 03, 2005

Blog Poverty History

As I understand it, it's sort of my duty or something, as a blogger, to provide an independent source of information about world events, so that the evil corporate media filter can't continue to poison our minds with its doublespeak. So, uh, yeah.

Yesterday was the Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh, at which an estimated 225,000 people went on a big march around town to send a message to world leaders: "We Like Walking". Also, "Make Poverty History". On BBC News 24, they had a reporter out in the crowds interviewing people, and the poor journalist happened upon the most uncommunicative young man in town:

Journalist: So, are you enjoying yourself?
Youth: Aye.
Journalist: And why are you marching here today?

[Uncomfortable silence]

Journalist: ...I mean, uh, what is the message you're hoping to send?

[Uncomfortable silence]

Journalist: ... "Make Poverty History", I suppose?
Youth: Aye.
Journalist: And do you think that this march will make a difference?
Youth: Aye.
Journalist: So, you think that the world leaders are going to take note of what you're doing here?
Youth: Aye.
Journalist: O-kay... My producer is telling me not to talk to you anymore...

Oh, alright: that last line is actually from the Simpsons.

For me, the idea of spending eight hours crushed up among 200,000 people didn't hold much appeal, so I decided instead to circumvent the crowd on the Meadows and go up Arthur's Seat for an aerial view of the action (highlighted is the Meadows, filled with white-clad demonstrators in what looks dangerously similar to a Klan rally). At the summit of Arthur's Seat, you could hear pretty clearly much of what was being said over the loudspeakers, as well as occasional cheers from the crowd, most notably when Bono appeared on the video screens.

Even at the top of the hill there were some (Christian, presumably) anti-poverty demonstrators, who had pretty impressively schlepped up three giant wooden Crosses and were spending their day saying prayers while holding up the Crosses for all to see:

The novelties of Arthur's Seat having worn off, I decided to make my way home by cutting through the university-- where, rather, uh, serendipitously, I happened upon the only mildly violent protest that happened in Edinburgh yesterday. I was just walking along, minding my own business, when I ran into a wall (literally) of police:

They were calmly trying to contain a group of seventy or so anarchists (complete with black hoods and bandanas drawn over their faces) who were making a lot of noise and pitching wildly from side to side as they tried to rush past the police and towards the main event on the Meadows. Every time the black mass lurched, a stream of neon-yellow jackets with bobbing heads would quickly pour in to clog up any gaps through which the anarchists might have squeezed. As I walked around, trying simultaneously to get a better look and find a safe route out, more and more police continued to arrive, including, eventually, fourteen minivans full of riot cops.

Initially, the aim seemed to be merely keeping the anarchists away from the the Meadows, and several times I very nearly found myself right in the midst of the swarm as they ran to and fro, trying desperately to get around the neon perimeter. But like a game of Reversi, the police would gracefully fall back and form new lines, blocking the group at every attempt. It went on like this for about fifteen minutes; advance, counter-advance, push forward, fall back. Finally, out of what I can only assume was frustration at finding themselves continually fenced in, the anarchists started overturning tables at an outdoor cafe, and at this point the police made their final offensive, boxing the protesters into an area about twenty feet square for the remaining few hours of the official march.

Tomorrow is the official, organized anarchist march-- which if nothing else will prove to be an interesting exercise in contradiction.


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