G8 Leaders Gather at Gleneagles, Amid Protests, Celebrations

EDINBURGH, Scotland, July 6, 2005 (ENS) - At least 100 people have been arrested in the South Perthshire area in the vicinity of the Gleneagles Hotel where leaders of the world's eight wealthiest countries gathered this evening for their annual three day meeting. Despite attempts to disrupt it, the G8 meeting began as planned with a black tie dinner hosted by Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.


The G8 leaders with Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom this evening at Gleneagles. (Photo courtesy G8)
Earlier today the leaders landed separately at Prestwick airport and headed for the Perthshire hotel. First to arrive was European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, closely followed by the Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Later U.S. President George W. Bush, French President Jacques Chirac, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan, and Russian President Vladimir Putin landed, greeted on each occasion by Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell and flag-waving local youngsters.


U.S. President George W. Bush arrives at the Prestwick airport en route to Gleneagles. (Photo courtesy G8)
Also in town were the Live 8 and Make Poverty History organizers Bono, Bob Geldof, Midge Ure and Notting Hill screenwriter Richard Curtis. Geldof took the opportunity to urge the world leaders to stand firm on aid for the developing world or run the risk of a "terrible human failure."

Blair and Geldof each has something to celebrate today. The British Prime Minister was delighted that London has been chosen as the site of the 2012 Olympic Games, while Geldof today was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for spearheading the organization of the free Live 8 concerts that have raised public awareness of African poverty and the need to take immediate action to combat global warming.

In the morning, groups of protesters blocked the roads around Gleneagles as well as hotels in Edinburgh. Trains from Edinburgh to Stirling were cancelled, a convoy of G8 Alternative coaches due to leave Edinburgh for Gleneagles was held back by police, vehicles were stopped and searched crossing the Forth Road Bridge, some roads and bridges to Gleneagles were closed by police. Some G8 delegates were forced to delay their trips to Gleneagles.

About 5,000 protestors taking part in the prearranged and permitted G8 Alternatives demonstration gathered in Auchterarder at around 2 pm, and the majority of protesters walked peacefully along the agreed route. The cheerful, colourful demonstration, including many locals and musical groups, moved from Auchterarder park to the fence close to Gleneagles Hotel.


The lawful protest march near Gleneagles Hotel (Photo courtesy Indymedia Scotland)
Two hours later the Auchterarder march was disrupted when some protestors breached the agreed route and attacked a small section of the outer security cordon, which was temporarily damaged.

The protesters say that late in the afternoon police decided to close the route and send half of them back to Auchterarder. "The frustration caused by the constraints put on the marchers has led to a number of people breaking through police lines to cross the fields in order to demonstrate at the G8 perimeter fence," said one demonstrator.

"They were swiftly dealt with by officers on the ground and the fence was quickly secured," said Tayside Police. Officers trained in maintaining public order were helicoptered into the area and deployed along a stretch of the outer cordon to bolster security. They were assisted by a team of police dog handlers and mounted officers on police horses.

At one stage officers were attacked by a group of protestors who threw missiles, but Tayside Police said no officers were seriously injured and the protestors were brought under control.

A number of protesters who threw missiles and fencing were arrested, bringing the total arrest figure in the South Perthshire area to around 100, Tayside Police said.

The Legal Defence and Monitoring Group said over 400 people were arrested since July 4 during blockades and protests against the G8 summit.

Assistant Chief Constable of Tayside Police, Willie Bald, said, "In the main those who came to represent G8 Alternatives, and the aims of the demonstration, conducted themselves in a peaceful fashion. What we have seen today follows on from scenes across the central belt of Scotland a determined group of people intent on causing disruption."


Police clash with protesters near Gleneagles today. (Photo courtesy Indymedia Scotland)
"We have a considerable police presence in the area and this will remain in place for however long it takes to bring the situation to a successful conclusion," said Bald.

The Auchterarder march was unable to go ahead as planned at 1 pm because groups of protesters the police termed "anarchists" caused disrupted much of the road network across Central Scotland by sitting down, locking down and blockading the roadways.

Protest actions began at 5 am in Stirling as between 600 and 1,000 people started off from the rural convergence camp to march on Gleneagles, but many groups were met by police who forced some people into a nearby industrial estate. By 6 am a junction of the M9 was blocked by a couple of hundred people from the camp, while police closed roads to the site.

Stirling residents were outraged that some cars were smashed by protesters, and local shops were trashed. "Stirling welcomed protestors to the eco-village," said one resident, "but their trust has been as smashed as Burger King and PC World. Please leave NOW! You are no longer welcome!"

Meanwhile, a demonstration this morning in Edinburgh was surrounded by police who are alleged to have used violence in arresting protesters. Local people watching the police actions shouted "outrage" and "disgrace."

This afternoon, Edinburgh police closed city center roads to ensure public safety as "significant numbers of protestors were walking along Princes Street," police said. The protest is trouble-free at this point and the police said people involved are cooperating with them.

This evening, almost 60,000 music fans gathered at Edinburgh's Murrayfield Stadium for the final Live 8 concert. Called the Final Push, it aims to put more pressure on the G8 leaders to address poverty in Africa.

The show featured U2 and leader singer Bono, who said 157 million people signed up for the global action against poverty in 75 countries and held up a box containing their names. He introduced former South African president Nelson Mandela who appeared on a giant TV screen at the back of the stage.


Sir Bob Geldof, former member of the Irish band Boomtown Rats, was today nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Norwegian parliamentarian Jan Simonsen. (Photo courtesy Commission for Africa)
Actress Susan Sarandon brought Live 8 organizer Sir Bob Geldof onto the stage, where he assured the crowd the effort to relieve African poverty would not end with this concert.

The final element of the celebration in Edinburgh saw eight individuals leave Murrayfield and head for Gleneagles. There they delivered to the G8 leaders the full international list of millions of people who are no longer prepared to tolerate the deaths of 30,000 Africans each day from preventable causes.

At the Gleneagles Hotel today, 12 children from schools across the UK and from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States urged G8 leaders to change the world for the better, when they presented their written communiqué to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The 14 to 16 year olds drafted their communiqué after attending the Junior Eight, or J8, in Edinburgh, a three-day forum, in which they heard from leading academics and experts on Africa and climate change, and took part in discussions and workshops.

Twelve representatives of the J8 Summit delivered a call to G8 leaders to increase funding in Africa to meet the Millennium Development Goals, improve access to education, strengthen the relationship between the G8 and the African Union, encourage energy efficiency and invest in renewable energy, and promote better public understanding of climate change.