Ulster Herald reporter Ryan McAleer travelled to Enniskillen last week with a group of local anti-G8 protesters amid a massive security operation preparing itself for war.
They came from everywhere in every shape and form. Anarchists, socialists, environmentalists, trade unionists, anti-capitalists, Irish republicans, anti-frackers, anti-war campaigners, Irish travellers and yarn bombers. All united in one message, “G8 not welcome.”
For weeks we’ve heard about the Gleneagles summit of 2005 and 300 arrests in one day. We’ve heard about windows smashed, shops targeted, the thousands who would descend on Enniskillen and cause chaos.
At least £60m was spent on barriers, razor wire and 3,600 extra officers. Police were ready for war.
What they got instead in Enniskillen on Monday evening was a peaceful all ages festival of song, colour and sunshine.
In all around 1,000 took part from all over Ireland. Small numbers also travelled from Britain, mainland Europe and beyond.
It was a loose collection of activists from along the broad spectrum of left-wing politics.
As they arrived at Enniskillen library, trickling from cars and buses, protesters were met with the sound of blues guitars jamming from a small stage and dozens of international media ready to quiz them.
“What are you angry about!?” One foreign reporter demanded of a local protester as she stepped off her bus, ultimately failing to provoke to any semblance of aggression.
Flyers were thrust into hands of arriving protesters, informing them of their rights and the telephone number of a local solicitor ‘in case of arrest’. It was an informative, yet ultimately fruitless enterprise by the legal hawks, because against the glorious evening sun, the calm waters of Lough Erne were infectious.
Police pattered about nonchalantly, chips were eaten, flags were unfurled and the foreign press gang attempted to make some sense of it all.
Many local anti-fracking campaigners took part, leading the cacophony of noise as it filled the centre of Enniskillen.
The causes and banners were innumerable. They called for an end to fracking, “Down with the frack, up with the craic.” Workers’ solidarity, “Belfast, Istanbul, Derrylin. We will fight, we will win,” and even an all Ireland referendum, “Damn your concessions England, we want our vote.”
Bemused locals looked on with raised camera phones to the pageant of colour erupting through their town.
As the town gave way to countryside, the once vociferous chants cracked under the heat and miles.
By the time the procession reached the outer ring of steel surrounding the resort, four miles had been walked.
Trailing at the back was a buoyant Eamonn McCann, who generously put the number of protesters at 2,000, praising those who had been undeterred by the “scaremongering”.
One of the speakers who addressed the crowd at the steel ring on the Shore Road, the veteran socialist Derry vented his fury at the amount of money spent on the huge security operation.
“I have never seen a more colourful, more friendly and more positive sight than all of us standing around here today,” he enthused from behind the microphone.
As the speeches wore on and became increasingly repetitive, a number of protesters peeled away in the direction of the steel ring fencing just 50 yards from the road.
Numbers surged as dozens managed to trample down the blunt steel wire and move toward a confrontation with police.
Led by protesters from republican groups including Éirígí and the IRSP, they were joined by a small hard-core of socialists and enthusiastic members of the media.
Wielding shields, dozens of police in boiler suits appeared over the horizon with only a hedge to separate the parties.
Tension gripped the protest as police sounding two warnings threatening arrest and violence should the hedge be breached.
But as the minutes wore on, the tired protesters slowly drifted away toward their buses, bringing the confrontation to a gradual anti-climax.
And that was it. Protesters left satisifed with a job well done, police praised the success of their massive operation in deterring violence and locals were left to wonder, ‘Was that it?’
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