The potential for trouble tomorrow is now vast
RIOTING IN THE CAPITAL
AT least no-one can say we weren't warned. Those who said that the G8 protests would bring mayhem to the streets of Edinburgh were dismissed as doomsayers but sadly have been proved all too correct in the most spectacular fashion possible. And there's still tomorrow's threatened blockade to go.
Just when it seemed that yesterday's Carnival For Full Enjoyment was turning into a damp squib, Edinburgh City Centre was gripped by violence and confrontation virtually unknown since the Porteous Riot of 1736, illustrated brilliantly in the Heart of Midlothian by the man whose statue glowered down on the shocking events, Sir Walter Scott.
After the great success of Saturday's Make Poverty History march and the associated protests over the weekend, for Edinburgh the G8 chickens have well and truly coming home to roost.
In scenes reminiscent of the Miners' Strike of 1984, there was the unprecedented sight of English police officers in their distinctive red-badged helmets battling against surging anti-capitalist campaigners on the streets of Edinburgh. As the police spotter helicopter chattered over the city centre, flowers were torn up and memorial benches rammed at police in the normally tranquil Princes Street Gardens, running battles were fought in Rose Street and the West End was reduced to chaos.
Even before the worst violence broke out the city centre had a malevolent atmosphere unknown in living memory, with anarchists prowling the streets and nervous-looking officers defending major routes. Apart from those looking for trouble, only the curious and a few blissfully ignorant shoppers made the trip into town. By 3pm those shoppers were told to stay inside stores for their own safety, vendors cleared from the streets and all central Edinburgh business were advised to close down. Where now is the great economic boost G8 was supposed to bring the city? It was always complete hogwash and yesterday proved that beyond all doubt.
It's going to have to be some Edinburgh Festival to make up the losses incurred this week.
The potential for trouble tomorrow is now vast, given that the instructions from yesterday's organisers - if they can be called that - were that protestors should avoid arrest and remain available for the bid to blockade routes from Edinburgh to Gleneagles. The Murrayfield rally aside, there will be the added "incentive" that the G8 leaders are actually arriving in Scotland and if there is a time to make a violent point it is probably tomorrow.
The speed with which police have reacted to contain disruption seems to suggest that their intelligence has been accurate, although the weight of numbers yesterday may have taken them by surprise. Police actions were exemplary. At no point did the anarchists explain their intentions and no-one has the right to block our streets without giving the city the chance to make alternative arrangements.
The city has proved willing to accommodate protests of all sizes but those who think there is no difference between the right to protest and the right to disrupt found out yesterday how wrong they are. Police are no doubt aware that after Saturday's minor skirmish and yesterday's riot, frustrations are likely to intensify. Clearly there is a substantial mindless minority for whom peaceful protests like last weekend will never be enough, even though there is no evidence that the most powerful men in the world change their minds because of blocked roads or smashed windows. Quite the opposite.
The clearly-stated intention to disrupt tomorrow will mean that police will have to be on the highest level of readiness to ensure that the last big set-piece in the Capital does not make yesterday's scenes look like a teddy bear's picnic.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east