BootsnAll Travel Network

The Carnival for Full Enjoyment

Monday July 4th, and the Carnival for Full Enjoyment was set to hit the streets of Edinburgh. Well, at least that was the name the anarchist organisers had given to these anti-capitalism protests.

I wandered down to Princes Street around 12.30 to go and have a look at the action. The plan was to get as close to the drama as possible so that I could take some decent photos, without getting whacked on the head with a shiny black stick.

The levels of violence seen at previous demonstrations didn’t quite eventuate, although there were some shocking scenes of mindless protesters attacking police. I saw one dufus go up and punch a riot policeman in the head – while he had his helmet on. Good one morom. Whilst police will be inevitably criticised for heavy-handedness, this spring chicken believes they handled the situation pretty well. The sheer number of police officers in attendance was staggering.

There were the horse-loving police officers, whose entire vocabulary seemed to consist of “Step…back…from…the…horses!” yelled at a stop-start pace at dramatic volumes at the photographers rushing about. This constituted the reply from one comedian in the crowd (you know there’s always one) “The horses have nothing to do with it, let them go”.

There were the film-making police, brandishing portable surveillance cameras. This bought about the weirdly self-referential scene of a photographer taking a photo of a policeman filming said photographer.

There were the Robo-cop police. Hard and tough looking men wearing black, with solid padding across their knees and elbows like some hard-core skater, lending them a menacing, almost mechanical appearance.

There were the riot police, who I was surprised weren’t uniformly chanting ‘hut, hut, hut, hut’ in deference to those guys from the Blues Brothers, as they ran single-file to take up their strategic positions; perspex shields at the ready, helmets on, waiting to be attacked.

And then, there were your local coppers, prepared for the most action-packed day of their careers. Dressed in fluorescent yellow, batons at their sides, standing shoulder to shoulder along the street. A little more eager to engage with the protesters, it was they who you may have seen in news footage wrestling with protesters and wielding those batons as though this was Whacking Day, and the protesters’ legs were venomous snakes trying to strike up and nab these coppers on the gonads.

Upon getting to Princes Street, the first type of protester I encountered seemed exactly like me. No, there weren’t thousands of bearded redheads desperately in need of a few alcohol-free days, but just ordinary looking folk who’d come along for a bit of a look-see and maybe a few photos.

Then there were your hippy protesters; standard music festival attendees who all seemed to be carrying expensive SLR cameras or Digi-8 cams, and yet couldn’t afford a razor. These guys mingled with the hippy-hippies. The hippy-hippies (bear with me here folks, I’m making this up as I go along) were the people who probably began as hippies, but may have puffed a few too many times on the old magic dragon, resulting in them dressing up as fairies, chickens (trust me, there’s photos to come) or, and there were a scarily high number of these, clowns. Despite what probably comes across as a cynical description, these guys actually bought some much-needed humour and music to the protests, putting the carnival into the Carnival for Full Enjoyment.

Next you had your freelance photographers, almost exclusively all guys, bouncing around like fleas on speed, with two or three massive camera slung over their shoulders, one in their hands, chasing the action. And I have to admit; I’ve seen some damn fine photos on the few news websites I’ve checked out so far. Those guys know what they’re doing.

And finally, you had your hard-core anarchists, with bandanas covering their faces, looking like a cross between an Arabian camel rider and a bikie gang member. They truly looked scary, dressed mostly in black, hoods up over their heads Rocky-style, only their cold eyes peering out at the police inevitably close-by. They were the troublemakers. They were the reason for the massive police presence.

The day proceeded with a repetitive pattern of demonstrators gathering near a police line, taunting them as best they could for a half hour or so, then each side would push against the other for a bit, before the protesters would disperse and re-gather at a new location, where more police would be waiting for a push-and-shove. This could be happening at two or three locations simultaneously, essentially contained around a single city block. It was akin to a rock concert mosh pit, but with no fence separating the crowd from the burly security guards defending the band. Rather than trying to get on stage, the crowd just wanted to get, well, anywhere, provided it was past the police line. It was a fruitless battle to gain a few metres of meaningless territory. But then, World Wars have been fought on the same principle, just on a grander scale.

Now, if you were a protester, and you were going to throw something at police in the hope of inflicting as much damage as possible, what would your choice be? A rock lying nearby? Perhaps a glass bottle? An anvil you ordered from ACME? Now, how many of you answered that question with…….flowers and dirt? I’m serious.

Standing in the gardens running along the South side of Princes Street, I saw some commotion about 20 metres away. With the batteries in my digital camera having died, and the film in my old school point-and-shoot camera being full, I didn’t move any closer, but stepped up onto a bench seat to gain a better view. What I saw in the middle of the wild pack resembled a food fight, but with peas and cream pies replaced by flowers and wet soil. Dirt seemed to be flying back and forth in a frenzy. Well, it takes all manner of ways to bring down capitalism.


One Response to “The Carnival for Full Enjoyment”

  1. Adam Says:

    I enjoyed your version of the Carnival the devolved into a Circus. I am surprised that there were not more good blog posts about it. I wrote my own experiences on my blog.

  2. admin Says:

    Thanks Adam. If people want a more detailed experience of what went down, check out Adam’s blog (just click on his name). It’s amazing that you didn’t arrive until 6pm and still saw all that stuff. I was only there from 12.30 until about 3pm, before I had to go back to work.

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