Activists who have converged on this Scottish capital for the Group of 8 summit said Tuesday that they were hopeful that a worldwide clamor for action would compel President Bush and the leaders of seven other industrialized nations to take firm steps to aid Africa and protect the climate for future generations.
On the eve of the three-day meeting in nearby Gleneagles, a diverse coalition was promising a “final push” to put pressure on the leaders, following a series of 10 concerts around the globe Saturday that attracted nearly 1 million people and aimed to raise awareness about fighting poverty in Africa.
The activists in Edinburgh were planning another concert and a mass march to the meeting site, to press the leaders to double assistance to Africa, relieve African debt and ease trade barriers, as well as take meaningful steps to combat global warming.
The flurry of activity “shows you that people are passionate about ending poverty,” said Elaine VanCleave, a selfdescribed “soccer mom” from Birmingham, Ala., whose organization Bread for the World belongs to the coalition of American groups working to influence the world leaders. She arrived here with about 150 activists from the anti-poverty One Campaign in the United States.
“They’ll do crazy things, like travel across the Atlantic Ocean, or ride a train from Italy and sleep in a tent. I mean, we’re passionate about this, and we believe we can do it,” VanCleave said.
Raising the stakes, Irish rock singer Bob Geldof, the lead organizer for Britain’s Make Poverty History campaign, said activists would hold the politicians accountable if they did not heed the global push against poverty.
“Believe you me, if they fail [to use] the mandate that we collected on Saturday ... then we will ensure as much as possible that they too will fail the next time they stand before the ballot box,” Geldof said in an interview with the BBC, referring to the Live 8 concerts held last weekend.
Police were braced for a massive security operation to prevent demonstrators from disrupting the meeting of the leaders from the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia, who are to begin assembling at the Perthshire golf resort about 40 miles northwest of Edinburgh starting this morning.
As part of the preparations, authorities have built a 5-mile-long fence, dubbed the “ring of steel,” around the resort. Checkpoints were put up on the main road leading to Gleneagles from Edinburgh, with officials saying that only 5,000 demonstrators would be allowed to reach the gates of the resort.
A total of 10,600 officers drawn from all over Britain have been brought to Scotland to provide security, said John Vine, the local chief constable.
In his interview, Geldof condemned the anarchists and anti-globalization protesters who clashed with police in Edinburgh on Monday, calling them “a bunch of losers” whose antics detracted from the serious purpose of the campaign to reduce poverty. About 100 protesters appeared in court here Tuesday. Most of them were charged with being a public nuisance.
Moving African poverty near the top of the summit agenda has been a significant achievement, the activists say, but they will not be satisfied unless the leaders give more than lip service to the problem.
“There is a confluence here of people coming here to tell the leaders that they need to make a difference,” said John D. Brennan, a Washington-based spokesman for Bread for the World. “And to hold their feet to the fire ... after the G-8 ends and after the pledges have all been made and the political speeches have all been made.”
He likened the anti-poverty push to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “You have faith-based people coming together in the United States, along with the youth in the United States, who are reaching out to our leaders, saying it is time to do something,” he said.
Among the activists here was the Rev. Lee De Leon, pastor of a mostly Latino Pentecostal church, the Templo Calvario, in Santa Ana. Even though his congregation has its own economic problems, its members are increasingly aware of and compassionate toward people suffering a world away, he said.
The usual image abroad of an inward-looking America, concerned mainly with its own interests, has been proved false, De Leon said.
“The reality is that a lot of Americans care. In the last few years, I have seen a lot of change,” he said.