Police are preparing to use submachine guns and rubber bullets to defend George Bush and the G8 leaders who meet at Gleneagles, Scotland, in July. They are carrying out training in a mock-up village built on the site of a closed down hospital. Anti-capitalist and anti-war campaigners are already organising huge demonstrations and protests to greet Bush and the G8 leaders, starting with a Make Poverty History demo on 2 July, the Saturday before the summit.
The police plans to counter the protests with bullets and repression were met with outrage as details emerged this week. The closed down Law Hospital, Lanarkshire, has been turned into a mock village, complete with its own street names, in which to train police riot squads.
Ironically, the Law Hospital was closed in 2001 when it was controversially replaced in a £100m private finance initiative deal. Opposition to privatisation will be one of the main themes of the G8 protests.The police are practising with Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns, adapted to fire rubber bullets. Rubber and plastic bullets are notorious from their use in Northern Ireland, where they killed 17 people between 1972 and 1989. Many others were disabled or seriously injured.
One Scottish police officer was quoted in the press, saying, “They have created an entire village around the hospital with street names like Millport Avenue and Law Road.
“Instructors dream up scenarios which could happen and the officers, dressed in full riot gear, have to deal with them. They’ve even drafted in actors to act as protesters and terrorists. The officers are using rubber bullets and batons and are getting training on how to deal with large mobs or lone terrorists.”
Campaigners reacted with anger to news of the police plans. Members of the Scottish parliament were set to table questions and motions of protest as Socialist Worker went to press.
Gill Hubbard from the G8 Alternative steering group, which is helping to co-ordinate protests at the summit, said, “This is absolutely outrageous. We have a democratic right to protest and we’re planning a massive, peaceful protest.
“I’m shocked and horrified that they are practising using rubber bullets and batons. We have a right to protest without any intimidation from the police. They just want to put people off protesting. They’re scaremongering — and we’re not having it. The biggest health hazard we face is Bush coming to Scotland. He’s a terrorist target and he’s a threat to all Scottish people while he’s here.
“We want an explanation. We’ll take it up with the Scottish parliament and at our meeting with the police on Wednesday, and we’ll demand to know if this is what’s intended.”
The Scottish Socialist Party MSP Frances Curran said, “I’ve challenged the minister to comment on whether rubber bullets are going to be used in Scotland.
“Bringing rubber bullets onto the streets of Scotland is an affront to our democratic rights to protest. If the visit of George Bush to Scotland means we have to live in a more repressive society, then the only democratic thing to do is to cancel the visit. We should not let George Bush undermine our democracy.”
Mobilisation for the protests against the G8 is going well. Gill said, “It’s looking really good. We’re getting loads of people interested—trade unions, local communities and students.”
Pressure is also building in the unions for them to throw their weight behind the various anticapitalist and anti-war protests being organised around the G8.
Dundee trades union council has put a motion to the Scottish TUC, which holds its annual congress in the town in April, calling for backing for the protests.
Dundee TUC secretary Mike Arnott said, “We’re calling for support for the actions around the G8 and at Gleneagles itself. The unions have already put their weight behind the Make Poverty History demo in Edinburgh on the Saturday in the run-up to the summit.”