Protesting, policing and monitoring the G8

Police watch as a security fence is put in place at the Lough Erne resort for the G8 summit.

Police watch as a security fence is put in place at the Lough Erne resort for the G8 summit.

By Andrew Coffman-Smith

THE G8 summit hasn’t even started in Enniskillen and across the Irish Sea, London police have already clashed with and arrested 57 anti-G8 demonstrators after raiding a property in Soho on Tuesday.

Here in Northern Ireland, human rights monitors will be keeping an eye on the local policing of the protests as world leaders gather to meet at Lough Erne golf resort Monday and Tuesday, June 17 and 18.

For more background on the G8, click here.


Protests at G8 and the larger G20 summits have escalated over the years as part of a wider “anti-globalisation movement” against the perceived global injustices caused by multi-national corporations, capitalism, war and neoliberal policies.

Local G8 protests have been organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Britain’s largest public service union, Unite; People Before Profit and Amnesty International, among others.

“The G8 represents a committee for the rich and the elite and does not represent ordinary working people,” the anti-G8 campaign Another World is Possible states.

“We have nothing in common with them and we will not collude with the rolling out of the red carpet while the world suffers the consequences of their actions.

“It is entirely appropriate for us to organise, protest, debate and hold cultural events which question the world we live in and seek to carve out a better tomorrow.”

Alternative anti-G8 events, films, discussions, concerts andpublic talks by notable leftists such as Scottish MP George Galloway and writer Tariq Ali will be heldthroughout this week and weekend in Belfast.

A planned march and rallyby trade unionists will be held in Belfast city centre on Saturday starting at noon and another separate demonstration against world hunger will be held in Botanic Gardens later that day.

Police expect a total of 5,000 people to attend each event. During the summit on Monday, a protest march will start at the Enniskillen Library at 6.30 p.m. and end at the security fence.


Already mindful of the threat posed by dissident republicans, both London and Dublin are taking preventive measures to stop any possibility of the repeat of Gleneagles, Scotland’s G8 summit in 2005.

That summit saw around 350 protesters arrested on the first day and the breaching of a security fence by 200 protesters during an anti-poverty protest march involving 200,000 people.

“That would be very much the worst case scenario,” said Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Superintendent Paula Hillman in a statement.

“We are eight years further on, it is in Northern Ireland, at quiet a remote location as well. Really we will be watching and responding to what happens operationally.”

With the price tag for policing the summit expected to be at a total of £60 million (of which £6 million will be paid for by Northern Ireland), 3,500 police officers are being shipped in from Britain to join their 4,500 local PSNI counterparts while 1,000 Garda will patrol their side of the Irish border.

Security will also include a £4 million “ring of steel” fence around the Lough Erne golf resort, two unmanned air drones and US security including the deployment of US Marines alongside untold number of UK military personnel.

According to the Department of Justice, 260 jail cells are waiting to be occupied by arrested protesters in Belfast, Maghaberry Prison and an old army base in Omagh that was renovated for the summit.

Eight courts, with extra judges standing by, will be in session around the clock, including Sunday, to quickly process anyone arrested.

These preventive security measures for the G8 have some worried about the potential abuse of human rights and liberties within Northern Ireland.

“Although the reason given by the PSNI and their supporters is these measures are designed to ‘protect world leaders’ the fact is, this works as a normalising process,” said the G8 Alternative and People Before Profit protest organisers in a statement.

“So, the next time there is big student protest or anti-bedroom tax protests, these same measures can be wheeled out without much objection.”

The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) on the other hand is concerned that the special courts for G8 protests won’t be tough enough.

“This Sunday opening regime could lead to overly lenient judgements, designed to process an abnormally high number of arrests, rather than providing an appropriate and proportionate legal response to criminality,” the UUP told The Detail.


The human rights and civil liberties watchdog the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) has been asked to monitor the G8 protests by the Northern Committee of the ICTU, who have organised Saturday’s march and rally.

Having regularly monitored the policing of public order events in Northern Ireland in the past, Director Brian Gormally said CAJ ceased doing so in 2001 as they didn’t think it was necessary anymore but the recent flag protests raised questions of whether the PSNI is staying within its legal policing powers.

Wearing high visibility jackets and carrying ID, CAJ monitors will be known and recognisable to both police and organisers at the rallies. The role of the eight monitors being sent to Saturday’s Belfast march and the six to Monday’s Enniskillen march will be “purely to observe and not to intervene”.

On their extensive monitoring list, CAJ will be on the lookout for everything from the displaying of badge numbers to effective communication between police and protesters, crowd control tactics, whether the police help or delay protesters in getting to the rally and physical interactions like the use of a baton or tear gas.

CAJ are monitoring “not necessarily because we think there will be a massive abuse of human rights, as much as anything, if it goes right, to have some evidence of what has gone right as well as what went wrong,” said Gormally.

“The PSNI is, as far as I am aware, the only police force in the UK commited explicitly to human rights based decision-making and in principle, that should be that freedom of assembly is a human right.

“Any restrictions on the right must be for a specific, lawful and socially necessary end.”

Focus won’t just be limited to the police either as monitors will need ”to know what the protesters are doing to put it in context and see if any response is proportionate”.

CAJ doesn’t expect “hordes of foreign anarchists coming over” to cause disruptions, as happened in Gleneagles. If any trouble does occur it will probably be a result of flag protesters, republican protest groups such as éirígí, and the EDL-styled Ulster Defence League, making an appearance to Belfast’s Saturday rally as they all intend to.

Long after the G8 summit and protests end, CAJ will compile its findings and publish a report later in the year to help improve Northern Ireland’s policing of public order events.

© The Detail 2013

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