Belfast Telegraph

Obama G8 arrival sees ring of steel for McDonald's, jubilant crowds and pockets of protest

Small group gathered at City Hall as US President Barack Obama made his address at the Waterfront Hall

As President Barack Obama addressed an enthralled audience in Belfast's Waterfront Hall a tiny group of protesting dissident republicans opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process - some masked - marched to City Hall.

But they were quickly moved on by police into a neighbouring street where they were hemmed in on the footpath for almost an hour.

Police made one arrest today after the small number of protesters marched to Belfast City Hall in opposition to the arrival of the G8 leaders.

At around 11am, a 19-year-old man was arrested for a number of offences.

Following the demonstration, the protesters then made their way back to the west of the city.

Yesterday, a 48-year-old man was arrested in the East Bridge Street area of Enniskillen on suspicion of criminal damage.

He was released later the same day.

On Sunday night a teenage boy was arrested over reports of a petrol bomb being thrown in East Belfast.

PSNI officers were called to Cluan Place just before 8pm.

They removed an object for further examination and there were no reports of any injuries.

Over the weekend 5,000 protesters had been expected to take part in a rally in Belfast, in the end the total was closer to 1,500.

Rain poured down almost constantly as trade union and environmentalist demonstrators, advocating a range of both local and global issues, marched through the city centre ahead of the rally at City Hall.

The march clashed with around 100 union flag protesters who were outside City Hall for their weekly picket.

Flag protesters shouted verbal abuse at some members of the G8 rally, but the two groups were kept well apart by hundreds of police officers.

A ring of steel was thrown around Belfast city centre as police drafted in from across the UK stood guard at landmarks as the march passed.

Scores of officers flanked McDonald's on Donegall Place, which had been named as a potential target by protesters.

The security operation was on a scale never before seen in Belfast, with dozens of police Land Rovers lining the streets while helicopters circled constantly overhead.

Some trade union leaders and other campaigners spoke to the drenched crowds from a temporary stage outside City Hall.

Pamela Dooley, chair of the Northern Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, told the audience the G8 did not act in their name.

“As we meet here today over one billion people on the planet are living in extreme poverty and are facing starvation, malnutrition and early death,” she said.

“Much of the responsibility for that crisis lies at door of the West and those meeting in Fermanagh.

“We have long worked in solidarity with our brothers and sisters facing oppression, poverty and starvation. We are today confronting real power with the demand for justice.”

She added: “Across this planet women and children face rape, abuse, exploitation and death while the profiteers and war mongers grab more profit, more land, more power.

“We know the difference between right and wrong. We are calling the leaders to account. No amount of political spin can disguise the blood on their hands.

“We say — not in our name.”

A separate concert for the IF anti-food poverty campaign, spearheaded by charities working in the developing world, was staged in the city’s Botanic Gardens yesterday afternoon, with acts including indie rockers Two Door Cinema Club.

Hosted by Zoe Salmon, the concert was a sell out with around 8,000 people braving the rain to attend. Speaking at the event, Oscar winning actor Jim Broadbent called on the G8 leaders to end world hunger by tackling tax avoidance.

The star of Iris also appealed for the world’s richest countries to examine how they distribute aid.

Broadbent joined the anti poverty campaigners in the pouring rain where he recited a poem to the crowd.

He said: “With so many people turning out, even on a day like today, it shows there is an enormous will to get people to listen to the issues and to correct what is clearly not right.

“Many people are not happy with the situation.

“There is enough food to go around but it is not getting to one in eight people. It is very, very serious.

“I would like them to redress some of the tax issues where the biggest companies are not paying the tax that

they should be and how the aid is distributed.”

The Big IF event was organised by a range of charities including Oxfam, Trocaire and the Enough Food For Everyone If campaign.

Tanzanian teenager Frank Kadeta, 16 — who almost starved to death after drought hit his home village when he was a child, spoke out.

“Sometimes I was so weak it was painful because of hunger. It affected my life,” said the Save the Children ambassador.

“I want to tell world leaders to stop the hunger because many children and people die every day.”

Awajuma Tulsibas, 17, who experienced hunger growing up in a family of 13 in Tanzania said the G8 leaders must listen.

She said: “Through this we will tell world leaders to stop hunger because I believe they have the power to stop it.

“Three million children die every year of hunger, so it is so painful.”

The Ulster Orchestra opened the gig — which included performances from Britain’s Got Talent finalist Jordan O’Keefe, and actor Richard Dormer.

But a silence fell over the crowd as Broadbent took to the stage and performed Seamus Heaney’s poem on Ireland’s Great Famine, For the Commander of The Eliza.

Security is expected to be just as tight tomorrow as it was yesterday when President Obama gives a speech to 1,500 young people and 500 other invited guests at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall before travelling to Lough Erne Golf Resort in Fermanagh for the start of the two-day G8 summit.

For the days around the G8 police have made 260 temporary holding cells available for potential trouble makers while 16 judges are on stand-by to preside over special courts.

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