Global Policy Forum

Thousands Flock to Poverty March

July 2, 2005

Thousands of protesters are taking part in a Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh, as musicians perform in Live 8 concerts around the globe.

Police estimate about 120,000 people are walking through the city centre to highlight their message to G8 leaders meeting at Gleneagles next week. Organisers say they hope the event will pass off peacefully. The start was delayed for a short time by the sheer weight of numbers and people turning up late along the route. Saturday's march is one of a number of events planned in the run-up to Wednesday's G8 summit at Gleneagles, when campaigners hope world leaders will make a commitment to tackle poverty in Africa.

The events also coincide with the series of Live 8 concerts being held on Saturday in cities around the world, including London. Some 200,000 people are expected in Hyde Park to see performers including U2, Pink Floyd, Madonna, REM and Coldplay. The concerts will span nearly 24 hours, with the first having started in Tokyo at 0600 BST. Organised by Live Aid founder Bob Geldof, they will call for more aid for Africa, debt cancellation and fairer trade.

Cranes Banner

People on the Edinburgh march have been urged to wear white. Five cranes have been constructed along the south end of The Meadows to display a giant banner bearing the message "Make Poverty History". Marchers began leaving the rally in The Meadows at intervals from 1200 BST, with the aim of forming a human chain around central Edinburgh.

The protest will be addressed by Chancellor Gordon Brown and First Minister Jack McConnell and religious leaders. A message from Pope Benedict XVI will be read out. Mr. McConnell watched the march as it passed onto Princes Street. He said: "This is fantastic, it is a great carnival atmosphere and it is a message of hope…We are in a beautiful city with a beautiful message and I hope it is being listened to". Lord of the Rings star Billy Boyd addressed the rally and said: "With so many people here today, the leaders have to do something - thank you for coming." Actor Pete Postlethwaite said: "We have had enough political spin, promises and downright lies." Beryl Chatfield, from Worthing, Sussex, flew from Gatwick to take part and said: "I came to put pressure on the G8 to change things, for fair trade, aid and to drop the debt." Hawkins, 24, from London, said: "I think we're united around a common goal and that is eradicating poverty and working for a fairer world." There were some minor scuffles near The Mound, where the Bank of Scotland has its corporate headquarters. It was spotted from a helicopter and police acted quickly to curb the protesters involved.

Police Photographs

A number of protesters complained of being photographed by police as they made their way to Scotland. Among them were three coach loads of people from Belfast who said they were held at Stranraer by police, photographed and had their bags searched. Elsewhere, campaigners who took trains from Euston said they were not allowed to make the journey until officers had taken their pictures. On Sunday, an Anti-War Coalition demonstration will take place in the city, followed by the Carnival for Full Enjoyment on Monday. The latter is giving police concern because of reports that hard-core anarchists will use the event to cause trouble.

Assistant Chief Constable Ian Dickinson, of Lothian and Borders Police, said: "We have a long and successful tradition of overseeing marches, demonstrations and other high-profile events in a sensitive manner and enabling protest groups to make their point without having to resort to conflict…We welcome people who wish to take part but will not tolerate anti-social behaviour or criminal disorder."

Protest group, G8 Alternatives, is promising peaceful demonstrations. Spokesman Dave Shields said: "When peaceful protesters get together to protest against poverty and war, then things will be extremely peaceful and there is going to be no cause for violence whatsoever."

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