Dead Men Left

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Ich bin ein Edinburger

After a slight delay, I've finally got over to the independent media centre in Edinburgh. The nice people here have provided PCs and internets for the free use of the technologically-inclined protestor. Think of this as front-line live-action blogging. Feel the heat of battle, breathe the stench of unwashed anarchists, get smacked in the mouth with a truncheon: okay, there's no pix, but if it's riot porn you're after today's sensational soaraway Scottish Daily Mail promises "Full story and more incredible pictures: pages 2, 3, 4 & 5." (Alas, the only "anarchist" really casting aside bourgeois convention and getting nekkid yesterday was a slightly tubby fortysomething gent who streaked between the lines of riot police on Princes Street. Cue tuts of disappointment from picture editors the length of the country, fingers vainly crossed for perky French altermondialistes flinging their t-shirts into the dustbin of history. The dirty foreigners.)

Sort of. Lenin's got a report over here, Indymedia has plenty to say for itself, so I'll just make a few comments:

1. The sheer bloody inanity of Live 8 unsettled me. I foolishly thought it would be merely a big concert with a vaguely progressive edge, irritating, but largely harmless and potentially a good mobilising call; instead, like a great blanket of self-righteous pap it has smothered much of the message and purpose of protesting at all. I think it was the vast, faux-pop, faux-protest slogans they insisted on flashing above Paul McCartney's head - "EIGHT MEN CAN CHANGE THE WORLD", "LIVE EIGHT - G8 - UNITED", "EAT AN AFRICAN BABY", that sort of thing - that reduced me to sobbing tears of wordless contempt. Of course, the crowd (by all accounts) were more clued up than the horrifyingly stupid events on stage, and it hasn't quite been sufficient to slaughter everything else.

I will find the quote when I get home, but a climactic moment occurs in Michael Moorcock's King of the City when Bill Clinton and Tony Blair play their guitars before a crowd of thousands gathered for a monstrous benefit gig. It was all so gloriously vomit-inducing that I assumed nothing like such a beastly foul thing could ever, ever happen. Why do the children of the revolution still think rock music can change the world? Overgrown adolescent circle-jerking bastards, the whole stinking crowd of them. Grrr.


I think there is actually some kind of scientifically detectable perceptual event horizon about 6 inches in front of Bob Geldof's nose, all sensory data coming from beyond which is attenuated to a dog-whistle-pitched whine leached of all capacity to transport information into his brain.

Naturally sensory information pertaining to Geldof himself contains a harmonic resonance frequency that vibrates sympathetically with the Him-field inside the horizon, restoring sense to the message and allowing it free passage into the cerebrum for self-adulatory processing.

(Bionic Octopus. An angry, angry woman.)

2. Good protestor/bad protestor. The ground is being well-prepared for Wednesday, with hints on BBC news last night that there are now "some" "questioning" whether protests then can go ahead at all. We've just about won the staring contest with the authorities, who - after months of refusals - have finally given the green light for a protest to Gleneagles (as expected). Four Scottish Socialists MSPs have been suspended from the Scottish Parliament for a month, both them and their staff being deprived of pay and banned from the grounds for protesting inside Parliament against the prevarication of the Scottish Executive in authorising the march. In current circumstances, however, I'm a little apprehensive as to how solid that legal approval is. Terrifyingly, even the good protestors may be secretly bad:

"There is evidence of weapons being brought into the city, into the city centre by protesters, despite their apparent outward display of good humour."

(Where, I wonder, is this evidence? Later, I'll call Lothian and Borders polis and ask them.)

3. To condense yesterday's events, there are two important points:
- Stone-throwing, such as it was, was lead, organised and mainly perpertrated by local youths - by their accents and their clothing, they were easily identified. "Outside agitators" were few and far between, melting away shortly after the riot police turned up. Those the police lifted yesterday are very unlikely to be the dreaded (and near-mythological) "Black Block". No stones were thrown until after the riot police appeared.
- The grossly disproportionate response of the police to an initially very minor public order issue - a street carnival - was not just produced by the desire of competing police forces to strut their stuff. As the line being pushed by the BBC indicates, there appears to have been a deliberate attempt to achieve two aims:
a. to pick out as many likely "troublemakers" before Wednesday as possible (which, for the reason above, may be difficult);
b. to intimidate everyone else.
By moving very quickly from blocking a protest with ordinary coppers (as is usual and expected), to baton charges and (in short order) to riot gear, the police deliberately escalated the situation. (On good authority, it seems the police here have been briefed to the effect that four of their number are expected to die over these few days. Ludicrous, of course, but it explains some of their agression.) I do not think I have seen such aggressive policing in Britain before.

4. It's been a pleasure to see the high degree of unity amongst the generally fissiparous ranks of the UK anticapitalist movement. The legacy of epochal defeats for the Left in the Britain, a debilitating sectarianism has too often gripped the whole movement here. What has been heartening - and it has been developing for a while - is seeing this die a long-awaited death - mostly; there's still a certain amount of carping, sniping and bitching from some quarters, but on the whole everyone appears to be rattling along just fine.

5. Confronted with the actions of the police yesterday, the need to demonstrate in Gleneagles is all the more pressing. Deliberate, organised intimidation by the police should not be tolerated. It is nothing more than the attempt to squash freedom to protest. 12 noon, Gleneagles station; by any means necessary, get there.