Monday, 20 June 2005

Biggest demonstration Scotland has ever seen

Organisers and police said there were 225,000 there. Old demonstration hands put it at nearer 300,000. There were certainly lots of us with the trade union contingent marching off five hours after the first of the continuous line set off to circle the city centre.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis was even called away to make his speech before the march set off.

UNISON banners were there from Aberdeen to Hounslow via Edinburgh, Nottinghamshire and Bristol. UNISON members from across the country were dotted around the march.

This was the political demonstration, as Billy Bragg said. While Live 8 concerts were a welcome addition to the campaign, it is sad that they took the media eye away from the hundreds of thousands who came to Edinburgh to make their voices heard - and who will go on doing so long after the marches and concerts are finished.

Eddie Izzard, who flew in from Los Angeles, couldn't have put it better. "I felt this was the place to be. It's where the activists are, the people who are in it for the long haul".

The patience of old and young who had to stand for hours in the Meadows waiting to set off was a testament to how deeply they felt about the issue - and how determined they were to be part of making history, making poverty history.

Some from further afield had to leave before they even got on the march because of travel arrangements. But even they took part and if they had been counted, the 225,000 estimate would have been even higher.

They were part of the sea of white that covered the Meadows. Almost everyone responded to the organisers' request to wear white to create a band around the city.

They were there for the unforgettable minute's silence at 3pm which brought an unprecedented hush to an almost traffic-free city. Unforgettable too was the cacophony of applause, cheers and whistles from all around the city centre which followed it.

They were there from trade unions, campaigning organisations, churches and a host of other groups.

They were months old and in their 80's. The friendship, patience and willingness to help each other was yet another indication of the common purpose - to demand that world leaders take this historic opportunity to stop building our wealth on Africa's poverty.

Almost 300,000 people and only one arrest. No-one on this huge demonstration of the will of people to make their leaders listen, wanted anything to detract from the message.

Although, a tiny few were more interested in their own agenda. A group of anarchists in black wanted their own show but they were soon controlled by a careful police operation.

Broadcaster Jonatahan Dimbleby summed it up to the crowd, "I'm here because like you I know it is an obscenity that 50,000 die every day unnecessarily as a consequence of poverty."

Despite the delays, the organisation from police and stewards was excellent - over 200,000 people and no crush.

The stewards, many of them from UNISON who provided the jackets, had a long hot day and did a wonderful job.

Largely too, the police also joined in the carnival atmosphere, even the two black clad figures on top of the Royal Scottish Academy! After the G8, the marches are over but quarter of a million people were clear that the fight continues.

MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY has published a full analysis of the G8 decisions and what they mean. See

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