Scottish Capital Sees Peaceful and Violent Protests Ahead of G8

By Kevin McCandless | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

London ( - As a weekend of peaceful protest turned into a Monday of street clashes with police, Scotland is bracing itself for what could be the most violence-plagued G8 summit in years.

With most of the shops in the central part of Edinburgh already boarded up, hundreds of protesters entered the financial district and then fought running battles with an estimated 2,000 police officers throughout the city center.

Several anarchist and far-left groups took part in Monday's riots, which resulted in more than 90 arrests.

Speaking at a press conference late Monday afternoon, police spokesman Tom Halpin said officers had recovered maps, radios and mobile phones from protesters.

In addition, he said that stones and other crude weapons had been brought into the city to be used as weapons against the police, all of which indicated that yesterday's actions had been carefully planned.

In contrast, two other protest marches over the weekend, through many of the same streets, went off peacefully and were praised by the police.

On Saturday, the Make Poverty History march became the largest protest march ever recorded in Scotland, with an estimated 225,000 people marching in favor of Third World debt relief. Only a few "scuffles" were reported and a handful of people arrested.

On Sunday, controversial British lawmaker George Galloway led an anti-Iraq War march which drew about 2,500 people, but led to no arrests.

Halpin said that Edinburgh has a long tradition of peaceful protest but the police would not tolerate groups who used violence.

"We have always said that we wanted to assist those who wish to make peaceful protest, but in our view it is clear this was never on this group's agenda," Halpin said.

"This is not about protest. This is unacceptable and irresponsible behavior."

On Wednesday, the three-day summit of the G8 leaders begins at the Gleneagles Hotel about 50 miles north of Edinburgh, with a planned focus on African poverty and global environmental problems.

On Friday, local authorities concluded weeks of negotiations with the G8 Alternatives, the umbrella group for mainstream protestors, on their own protest march Wednesday.

Though G8 Alternatives had wanted to march directly past the Gleneagles Hotel, the route eventually agreed upon will bring protestors within 547 yards at the closest point.

On Friday, group spokesman Aamer Anwar said that he was happy enough with the agreed route. Although world leaders would not be able to see the march, they would hear it.

"I think it's a victory for the right of protest," Anwar said. "I think it would have been unacceptable when a war criminal like George Bush comes to Scotland and we're denied the right to protest."

Anwar said that if there was any large-scale rioting, it would not be the fault of anyone from his group.

"If I'm worried about anyone, it's not about my people on my side of the fence," he said.

Late Monday night, G8 Alternatives issued a press release condemning police tactics during the day's protests as "over-the-top."

VisitScotland, the Scottish tourist board, has estimated that a successful summit would help Edinburgh attract more than $1.7 billion in long-term tourism and convention business.

Spokesman Barry McPherson said Monday that while images of overturned cars and clouds of teargas billowing through the streets wouldn't help the city's image, it wouldn't hurt much in the long run either.

"If there was rioting seen across the globe, people would see that in context," McPherson said. "People would know that this isn't an everyday occurrence on the streets of Edinburgh."

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