FAST-FOOD giant McDonald’s is planning to close two of its city centre branches during this summer’s G8 protests.
Restaurant bosses fear the company’s outlets on Princes Street and South St Andrew Street will be prime targets for hundreds of anti-capitalist protesters expected to descend on the city.
A two-day closure would cost McDonald’s more than 50,000 in takings, but it is so concerned about the welfare of employees and customers that it is set to take the unprecedented step.
The burger chain has been hit by angry protests at all recent G8 summits, and branches have been trashed while customers and staff were still inside. Now McDonald’s chiefs admit they are drawing up special security measures to prevent activists targeting their two biggest Edinburgh restaurants on the first weekend in July.
More than 200,000 people are expected to join the Make Poverty History march in the city on Saturday, July 2.
And although the demonstration is expected to be generally peaceful, protest leaders today admitted there is likely to be a "rogue element" of anarchists determined to attack McDonald’s.
G8 Alternatives spokesman Willie Black said: "McDonald’s is part of what we think is wrong with the world, and there are certainly people who think the company is a legitimate target.
"However, I will be working hard to avoid any violent clashes in Edinburgh, because we are not in the business of wrecking property. And any protests aimed at McDonald’s would not be aimed at workers or customers."
Security experts have already warned that oil company offices, branches of McDonald’s and the BP oil refinery at Grangemouth will be the main targets for disruption when the leaders of the world’s richest nations meet at Gleneagles this summer.
During protests at all recent G8 summits, McDonald’s restaurants have been smashed up by anarchist groups. In Calgary in 2002, a shoving match erupted between protesters and police at one of the burger outlets. And branches in London have also been severely damaged during May Day riots and other anti-capitalist marches.
One McDonald’s employee today said there was a feeling of unrest among workers.
"We haven’t officially been told that the stores on Princes Street and South St Andrew Street will be closed, but managers have said it is likely," the insider said.
"I know a lot of staff feel they could be targeted. We all know what happens at these protests so it would be sensible to close the restaurants."
Justine Turner, northern corporate affairs assistant for McDonald’s, said: "We will not be commenting on our specific security arrangements in relation to the G8 summit. We are working closely with Lothian and Borders Police and other local businesses to ensure minimum disruption."
A police spokeswoman said the force was working hard to ensure the march passes off peacefully and said Edinburgh should remain "as open as possible".
"We have had a lot of contact with local businesses and we have no intelligence to suggest there will be any problems during this protest. There will be a heavy police presence on the streets."
Richard Saville Smith, who is helping organise the Make Poverty History march for Save the Children, said: "The event is going to be a family day out. Everyone knows what has happened in the past, but this is going to be a peaceful protest."
David Henry, 76, retired medical scientist, Swanston: "I won’t be going anywhere near the city centre during the protests. I don’t want to be trampled by a baying mob. People have the right to attend organised protests, but events often get taken over by extremists."
Alanna Notman, 25, financial assistant, St Katharine’s Crescent: "The city centre is definitely a stay-away zone . It will be hellish for residents in Edinburgh."
Jim Sherry, 65, metalworker, Northfield Drive: "I’ll stay as far away from the protests as possible. I’m sure the protestors have concerns, but they are unlikely to achieve much."
Christopher Fentiman, 70, retired driving instructor, Polwarth Gardens: " This G8 summit is not about making money, it’s about distributing money to those who haven’t got any. If there is violence, I think those people will have a very red face."
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