Inside the secret world of anarchists preparing for G8 summit
By Adam Luck April 16, 2005
<table><tr><td>A REMOTE farm in the Lanarkshire countryside was transformed last weekend into a city of well laid-out army tents and marquees resembling a military encampment.
The military aspect was no accident. This was a â€œwar summitâ€?, where about 300 anarchists â€” some dressed in urban guerrilla garb in freezing temperatures â€” had gathered to draw up plans to paralyse Scotland during the G8 meeting at Gleneagles in July.</td><td><img src="files/festival_dissent.gif"></td></tr></table>
At this so-called Festival of Dissent, held on the land surrounding the imposing 17th-century Birkhill House at Coalburn, a secretive group of militants drew up plans to blockade the summit by cutting road and rail links.
Under the plans, tens of thousands of protesters are to be housed in three camps strategically placed across Scotland and will be deployed through a communications network designed to outflank the police.
Despite the groupâ€™s obsessive secrecy, The Times was able to penetrate it to discover the nature of many of its plans â€” and the willingness of some militants to resort to violence in their determination to disrupt the summit.
After attending a series of meetings under an assumed identity, a Times journalist also established that two key figures in the network are a university dropout named Alessio Lunghi and Mark Aston, a university administrator.
Mr Lunghi, 27, is a leading light within the Wombles, the hardcore anarchist group that was behind the May Day chaos visited on London in 2002. The son of an Italian wine importer and a primary school inspector, Mr Lunghi, from South London, has been directly involved in anti-G8 groups in the run-up to the summit.
He favours combat trousers and heavy, military-style boots, and admitted at one meeting that there was no point to the anti-globalisation protests if there was no violence.
Mr Aston, who works at Cardiff University and was the vice-president of the Cardiff branch of the Association of University Teachers last year, is a key organiser of the anti-globalisation group Dissent, which was behind the festival.
Set up in 2003, Dissent is an umbrella organisation for anarchists and other radical groups, which say that they wish to see the overthrow of capitalism through â€œdirect actionâ€?.
The event last weekend at the farm 32 miles southeast of Glasgow attracted radicals from Canada, France, Germany, South Korea, Spain and Iceland, along with a broad section of Britainâ€™s anti-globalisation movement.
These included a PhD student from Cambridge University, a sales representative from London, a professional artist from Cambridge and an assortment of eco- warriors. They were housed in a tent city set in the farmâ€™s 50 acres that included a military-style mess hall, where activists lined up in orderly queues for vegan meals.
Using a large map of the Gleneagles area pinned to the canvas wall of the main marquee, Mr Aston explained to the listening militants the benefits of cutting off the A9 trunk road from Glasgow to Perth and the Forth Road Bridge. â€œThis would effectively cut off the north of Scotland,â€? he said. â€œWe have to make sure that we can transport the protesters around the area and make sure they have maximum impact and blockade Gleneagles.â€?
Protesters from outside Scotland would converge on three camps â€” in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling. Their exact locations are a closely guarded secret.
Activists at one meeting boasted that they knew the intended location for the main police camp, which will house many of the thousands of officers whose task will be to prevent any disruption of the summit. It is believed that some groups intend to target that camp. Mr Aston noted the success of text-messaging in marshalling protesters during anti-globalisation protests abroad and also discussed using motorcycle couriers to disperse information.
Among the foreigners were two Icelandic activists who gave their names as Oli and Runar. Runar, who said he was an art professor in Iceland until being made redundant when his radical activities upset the authorities, said: â€œWe are here to learn about the techniques required for direct action. In Iceland we have serious campaigns against developing hydroelectric dams coming up this summer and felt we needed to come here to understand what we can do.â€?
The main action â€” which is scheduled for July 6 â€” is designed to prevent support workers, journalists and international and British civil servants, rather than the main leaders, from reaching Gleneagles. Several thousand foreign and British civil servants are expected to set the stage for the G8 leadersâ€™ three-day meeting, where Tony Blair, as the host leader (if Labour is re-elected on May 5), has pledged to push forward his plan to relieve debt and poverty in Africa.
As plans for the summit are being polished in Western capitals, the organisers of the campaign were preparing their own detailed designs in the hope that they can plunge the event into chaos. The festival focused on a series of workshops that included using blockading techniques, surveillance and counter-surveillance, arrest role play, first aid and â€œdealing with traumaâ€?.
Activists were told not to use inflammatory language or discuss detailed strategy or tactics in open meetings because of fears that undercover police or journalists were present. Security was tight, with mobile phones and cameras banned.
Nevertheless, activists openly discussed their involvement in previous anti-G8 riots at Evian in France, and Genoa. They also made clear their hatred for the â€œBritish Stateâ€?.
One organiser of an â€œarrest role playâ€? workshop, who did not give his name, said: â€œThe British State has a soft and fluffy image, but it is not. It can be as violent as the Italian, German and Swiss police. Do not be fooled.â€?
More than 10,000 police are expected to be drafted in from across Britain to protect world leaders, including Presidents Bush and Putin, in an exercise expected to cost Â£20 million. Just how seriously the G8 anarchists treat the prospect of violence can be gauged by the setting-up of a trauma group to help protesters to deal with not only the aftermath of any physical injuries received during the G8 summit but also with their long-term effects.
One organiser also stated that they needed to pool funds to â€œsue the police as fast as we canâ€? because it would â€œhelp the recovery processâ€?.
In a â€œblockading workshopâ€?, activists openly discussed paralysing Scotlandâ€™s rail network by using equipment to simulate a signal that there was a train on the line, and methods of interfering with level crossings.
One clean-cut English student, who did not give his name, explained the use of â€œtrack circuit operating clipsâ€? â€” which resemble battery jump leads â€” to turn the signals red on a rail line and effectively close it down. â€œThere is an electrical current and you attach the clips to the tracks and it breaks the circuit,â€? he said. â€œThis makes it look like there is a train on the line and stops everything.â€?
The blockading workshops also saw discussion about methods to block motorways, including the scattering of waste metals and plans for activists to dress as motorway maintenance workers before placing cones to create traffic jams.
Although Mr Lunghi did not attend the festival, he was at a meeting this month at a community centre in Reading of a â€œSouth East Assemblyâ€?, gathered to deal with the logistical difficulties of helping protesters to reach Scotland from London.
It was at an earlier meeting of the South East Assembly umbrella, in East London, that Mr Lunghi addressed the question of violence during the protests against the Gleneagles summit. Asked whether it was likely, he smiled and said: â€œWell, I would hope so. Thereâ€™s no point going otherwise.â€?
Asked yesterday about the campaign, Abby Mordin, 29, a resident of the Talamh co-operative that owns Birkhill House and its estate, said: â€œDissent is not about riots but peaceful protest. It is a way to get a strong message across and making sure the world leaders have important issues on the agenda. We had workshops about dealing with the media and peaceful blockades to block roads.â€?
Mr Aston said: â€œI would really rather not give an interview to The Times.â€? Alessio Lunghi refused to comment.
SECURITY IN NUMBERS
100,000 people expected at the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh on July 2
50,000 protesters expected at a rally outside the Gleneagles Hotel on July 6
10,000 police on standby during the summit, from Scottish forces and from England and Wales
1,151 the regular strength of Tayside police force, which covers the Gleneagles Hotel
1,500 delegates from the eight countries attending the summit
3,000 members of the media covering the summit
Â£150m estimated cost of hosting the summit
Â£20m amount provided by the Treasury for security