HAYLE, England – Palestinian and Kashmiri flags fluttered in the wind at a gloriously sunny Hayle Beach in Cornwall, southwest England, this weekend, as the beautiful, rugged coastline favoured by tourists became a magnet for G7 protesters.
It came as leaders from the world’s seven biggest developed economies gathered to discuss their response to the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, corporation tax and other world affairs, as well as to pose for press photos with the Queen.
On Saturday, the Resist G7 Coalition of over 20 grassroots groups held an “Internationalist Day of Action” in Hayle, just to the southeast of Carbis Bay, where the summit has been taking place.
About 200 protesters gathered in a public square in the town before marching off to Hayle beach. They came to urge the G7 to take action on climate change, and raise concerns about a number of issues that were not on the G7 agenda – the crisis in Kashmir, the situation in Palestine, high levels of military spending, dropping patents for coronavirus vaccines, and redistributing wealth to the developing world.
The protest looked a little incongruous among the tourists relaxing at the beach in the sunshine, who looked up from their books or interrupted games of badminton to watch on bemused or in some cases, applaud.
Tony Staunton from the Resist G7 Coalition and a trade unionist with the TUC in Plymouth, Devon, said, “The G7 represents war, imperialism, and every exploitation you can think of for the rich to get richer, and make the world a poorer place, both for the environment and for the humanity. So there's every reason to protest against this mob.
“I think the worst of it is that they're elected politicians who are supposed to be accountable to the people and do the people's bidding. But in fact, all they're doing is carving up the world for their friends to profit, for the shareholders, the corporate executives, the big transnational corporations, to dominate and rule the world. So it's corrupt. I consider them gangsters.”
The exclusive Carbis Bay Hotel and Estate, where the conference has been taking place, was not visible from the golden sands, but it was nevertheless the closest the protesters could get to the summit. The town of Carbis Bay has effectively been out of bounds to the public, and the summit has been protected by a police “ring of steel”. 5,500 police officers have arrived in Cornwall from around the UK as past of a massive policing operation. The police designated four official protest sites, miles from the conference, which protesters boycotted. The police have been a constant presence at the protests.
On Thursday, seven activists from Animal Rebellion, an animal rights protest group, were arrested on their way to chill out on a beach because they had paint, smoke grenades and loud hailers in their car and van. Police searched the vehicles for two hours “trying to find a reason to arrest people”, protesters said.
In a separate incident, at least 15 people, most of them activists, were arrested at a campsite seven miles from where the protests have taken place.
On Saturday, Navy warships were visible in the bay as protesters dipped their feet in the cool, crystal clear water.
Most of those present at the protest didn’t hold out much hope for the G7 actually improving anything.
“You hear the good things, and then you dig a bit deeper, and you find out they're not that great,” said Mike Gurney from the National Education Union. “So plan to tax, transnational corporations – which sounds great, because they've been a tax avoiding and all the rest of it – then you actually dig a bit deeper, and you find that actually, most of those big transnational corporations will back it, because actually, they see tax advantages in it, you know, Amazon won't pay it.”
Protesters have pointed out the irony of Cornwall, one of the poorest regions in Europe, hosting a summit of the world’s richest nations.
On Friday at an Extinction Rebellion protest on Porthminster Beach, Tamara Rosewyn from Porthleven, a town 14 miles from the conference, said, “It's just like a really bad festival isn't it? Like a really bad festival that police officers were invited to and nobody else was invited.
“St Ives has always been a place where locals don’t feel welcome anyway. And then suddenly, there's just like an influx and they're just being told to kick out.
“Hopefully, like G7 will expose what's going on, because there is a homelessness crisis in Cornwall, and so many food banks now popping up everywhere, and since coronavirus, has been so much worse.”