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The G7 Protests in London 1991

Although there was no mass mobilisation for the 1991 G7 in London, it is definitely not true to say, as the PGA website used to that the meeting 'passed by quietly. There were no protests and there were no 'red zones'.

In fact a small group of activists held a string of protests during the meeting concerning the destruction of the worlds rainforests in solidarity with the Dayak tribespeople of Sarawak who were, at that time, blockading logging roads to defend their lands against multinational logging companies. At this time rainforest destruction was the key environmental issue for the G8 and gettting the same kind of top-down corporate proposals as climate change is now.

On the final day a Swiss campaigner who had lived for many years with the Penan hunter gatherers chained himself to a top of a lamppost outside the meeting for 3 hours, with two other campaigners chained around the bottom. They were all arrested. Another protester obtained a press pass and launched a personal tirade inside John Major's press conference and brought it to a standstill until security finally jumped on him and threw him out. The actions achieved blanket media coverage.

The protests had a wider agenda because all of us who were involved were committed to introducing a new form of confrontational grassroots direct action into a campaign scene that was dominated by large and often timid NGOs (who spent the G7 holding press conferences in their alternative summit). The actions were among the first organised in the name of Earth First! and the individuals involved spent the next 12 months in intense networking which fed the rapid growth of the direct action movement in the early 1990s. This was the first wave leading to the far larger protests 7 years later at the Birmingham G7.

Sometimes small events can be as signifi cant as large ones, especially when they mark a new beginning. We should never forget that all movements start with small groups of highly committed people.

George Marshall Rising Tide (Oxford)

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