About 3,000 people gathered in front of the Belfast, Northern Ireland City Hall on Saturday, June 15 to voice their opposition to the G8 Summit that began on Monday, June 17. The demonstration, which included activists from social justice, environmental, and labor movements, was organized by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).
“We are here to send a message of unity,” said Brian Campfield, vice-president of ICTU. “This is those of differing causes coming together to say, ‘a different world is possible.'” Campfield went to say that there is an alternative to “cut-throat capitalism,” and to the “selfish and dog eat dog world” upheld and policed by the G8 leaders.
Leaders of the G8 countries, the US, the UK, France, Russia, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Canada, are meeting at the Lough Erie golf resort in Fermanagh, a rural county located in Erne river basin.
Recently, Fermanagh has been the target of Tamboran Resources, an Australian energy exploration company that plans to build 60 fracking pads covering 40,000 acres of the county.
Among those at the Saturday G8 protest were local opponents of the fracking process, which has the potential for polluting groundwater.
“People across the UK, including Northern Ireland, are rightly concerned about the threat fracking poses to their communities, local environment and the global climate,” said James Orr, director of Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland speaking at the rally. “It’s time to put the long-term future of the planet first – and develop a clean energy future we can all afford.”
Anti-poverty activists made up a large contingent at the rally.
Pamela Dooley, chair of the Northern Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, told the audience that G8 policies had done little to help those who live in extreme poverty around the world.
“As we meet here today over one billion people on the planet are living in extreme poverty and are facing starvation, malnutrition and early death,” said Dooley. “Much of the responsibility for that crisis lies at door of the West and those meeting in Fermanagh. We have long worked in solidarity with our brothers and sisters facing oppression, poverty and starvation. We are today confronting real power with the demand for justice.”
G-8 meetings have for the last 15 years been the target of protests.
This year’s demonstration was smaller and more restrained from those in the past.
A heavy downpour saturated the route of the march that led up to rally and continued throughout the rally. Organizers said that the bad weather kept many away from the event.
They also said that the extremely tight security measures was the more important reason that many stayed away. The route of the march was lined with police in full battle dress, and the rally was surrounded by police. Helicopters patrolled overhead and police Land Rovers were stationed at strategic points near the march route. Local authorities set up 260 temporary holding cells and put 16 judges on standby to preside over special courts.
The tight security and heavy rain didn’t dampen the spirit or message of those at the rally.
“The eight people meeting in Fermanagh are leaders of some of the richest and most powerful countries on the planet,” said Dooley. “They do not have our consent to form a gang of eight, nine or 20 in order to force their damaging policies on the rest of us.”
“We are here to remind [the G8 leaders] that they are not all powerful,” said Kerry Fleck, chair of the Belfast Trades Council. “To remind them that the real power lies with us, the working class, the people of the world who are seven-billion strong. Without us they are nothing. They have no power and no influence when we unite.”