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Dungavel: don't fence me in

Jim Jepps


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 transport.

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 Gleneagles.

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.


July 2005


For Socialist Unity ~ For Internationalism ~ For Peace ~ For Justice ~ For Unity ~ For Socialism