First wet day and have spent it with
the midges out in the middle of nowhere.
Dungavel detention centre to be
exact. This was one of the key protests that I wanted to make sure that I
attended and, with certain reservations, it's been a successful day.
The first thing to say is that the
police have been practising for tomorrow. Not simply awkward, irritatingly
interfering and intimidating but also flexing their muscles disrupting
Many people were searched on the way
to the demonstration, coaches were stopped, and in some cases boarded. Whole
groups were surrounded, filmed by police and 'detained' outside of the protest
area. I think this is the prototype of what we can expect tomorrow at
Even Scottish Socialist Party MSP
Carolyn Leckie was charged at the protest after refusing to allow police to
search her handbag as she travelled to Dungavel to take part in protests there.
Police informed Carolyn that they were invoking Section 60 of the Police and
Crime Prevention Act 1994 and insisted on searching her handbag. Carolyn said
afterwards; "Yet again we see totally over the top and heavy handed policing.
"Quite what they expected to find in
the way of weapons in my handbag I don't know.
"I regard it as an infringement of
my civil liberties and of all those who the police searched without a shred of
evidence that we were anything other than entirely peaceful demonstrators."
Under these circumstances it's
certainly difficult to determine how many people were there. People were
arriving and leaving all the time - I'd say a conservative estimate would be up
to 2,000 at any one time and 5,000 across the day - but don't shoot me if I'm
wrong on this (or for any other reason).
The other police tactic had been to
move the asylum seekers out of their prison for the protest (I believe they are
returning tomorrow) I know for a fact this did put some people off coming, but
made others more determined. Why we should allow the police to tell us what we
will or will not protest about is beyond me - and the asylum seekers detained
there will, I hope, take the fact that they had to be moved as a sign that there
are some people in this country that don't believe having a heart only applies
if you're from this country. Asylum seekers are not criminals and should be
supported not criminalised.
So as we allowed the insects to get
the taste of our blood the demonstrators from all over Europe held an
impressive, if rather static, rally/demonstration next to the wire of the
detention centre. The speeches were passionate but with the heavy police
presence it was clear there was to be no attempts at breaching the wire, and
perhaps with no occupants there genuinely was no point.
One organiser appealed to the police
that "they had kept their side of the bargain - will the police keep theirs?"
and allow us to leave safely - it was a bit fluffy for my taste, appealing to
the cops to be nice and *not* bash us up - but in the circumstances probably
just as well.
The demonstrators set off at four en
bloc having assembled to the chords of the fantastic US singer songwriter Dave
Rovics and his "we will shut them down" - stirring stuff. Then the long trip
back to Edinburgh, the protesters seem keen to get to Gleneagles tomorrow. Let's
see how near we can get.