by Tina Louise
Of course I have no idea which number demonstrator I was during the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh but I recall an early announcement as I arrived, saying over 100'000 had shown up. It was the first demonstration I have ever attended and it was worth every kaleidoscopic moment. Alongside housewives, mums, professionals, unemployed, disabled, hippies, the retired, babies, first timers, veterans, clowns, children and dogs, my sister and I marched in unison. According to the figures, more than 225'000 turned up to march in advance of the G8 meeting, hoping to highlight the need for fairer trade, better distributed aid and a cancellation of debt – with no strings attached. The environment issues, globalisation, and the war were also highlighted by campaigners from CND, the Socialist Party and others. The news coverage since, has questioned the point, mocked the outcome and hinted at our lack of effect; but for those of us on the march, I doubt these thoughts have crossed our minds. All 225'000 that marched that day and felt the impact of the one minute's silence at found worth in the day. The world may not have changed when we, in one voice, cheered, whistled and clapped in the end of the minute; but each of us was moved, enriched and changed. We had found others who cared enough and we shared our camaraderie. The day was perfect, peaceful and fulfilling; the outcome though, yet to be decided. The Meadows at on Saturday morning were already filling with people, clad in white, as per the well relayed instructions of the organisers. Marquees were in place with signs announcing their purpose, from Muslim Aid, Christian Aid, Catholic Aid, African Aid, to First Aid. Little fenced off areas encouraged the many children to come paint their own protest banners and T–shirts, helpers handed out banners, children were labelled with their parents' mobile phone numbers and all was extremely polite and well organised. Speakers that included Eddie Izzard, Pete Postlethwaite, Billy Bragg and others, kept us informed as to the swelling numbers, times to march, safety advice and lost children. The queue to march was long but slim when we joined it, too deep to count when we opted out of it. The police had erected barriers and fences to feed us out in a controllable stream. The pressure was quite intense, but the mood remained up. We decided to break off until the queue was less intense and made our way back into the field. silence happened soon after we reached the open space of the meadows. I was glad we weren't on the march for this bit. Although, I read a fellow demonstrator who was marching at the time and he said it was an amazing experience out on the road too. Apparently they all stopped marching and remained silent until the most incredible noise rose up from the meadows, letting them know the minute was over. The sound had surged from the start and the end of the marchers within reach of the meadows and grew louder till at the centre of the march, there was a crescendo with the voices, whistles and clapping of the marchers until all were aloud. For us, in the meadows, the tranquillity of the minute was intoxicating. It was true silence, even the dogs and babies remained mute and it was incredible; one of life's treasured minutes. Then, we made noise, as much as we could and reached the marchers who echoed back. We rejoined the queue to march at around, the start had been at, but the organisers had not expected so many to show up. Once past the barriers, surly security guards and polite police, we marched the 2 mile route. Noise was our protest; voices, whistles, claps, anything, so long as it was loud. Bemused onlookers smiled, suspicious sniper types in black peered down from the rooftops, McDonalds staff put on brave faces, historic buildings wore banners declaring 'Make Poverty History' and stewards and police yawned at the lack of violence. The march gave us our voice, which was what we wanted. Obviously we wanted to call for debt relief, fair trade and aid, but more than that, we wanted to voice our desire for justice in the world. For a voice for people everywhere. We were nicknamed the 'Pants Protesters' by some tabloid paper, we were not very threatening. But that was our point, we sought peace, respect and justice, not violence and aggression. Indeed I was changed but of course I know that I didn't really 'fix' anything for my fellow man. Simply acknowledging the existence of a group of rulers of the richest nations bothers me; the lack of respect, compassion and fairness they represent are the reason a G8 even exists. My feeling is that they are simply paying lip service and whatever the outcome, they will ultimately benefit. I cannot feel the heart of these men, only the power and greed. So was there a point? Was there an outcome that made it worth it? For me, yes; for my fellow man in ,probably not yet. I hope that as each person feels his need to protest, that he acts and that eventually we will have voice, truth and justice. The politicians jumped on a few bandwagons by supporting the Live8 concerts that happened on the same day around the world as the Make Poverty History March, but I don't think they gained much credibility. As they pour more young lives and money into the war in Iraq, prepare to find reasons to invade Iran and Syria and generally set about creating need; how on earth can we achieve anything? Whatever the outcome for at the meeting in Gleneagles this week, the hypocrisy of the men involved will be what strikes me the most. Our governments cannot hope to be perceived as compassionate when torture is allowed to continue. They cannot expect to be seen as humanitarian when Napalm is an accepted weapon. They cannot expect our trust when they have so blatantly lied about weapons of mass destruction. The hypocrisy of handing out aid and writing off debts whilst creating a need for aid and loans in new lands would be laughable if it wasn't so damn tragic.


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