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G-8 protests begin: Hundreds take to the streets

By Ed Brock

Chanting slogans against the war in Iraq, in support of debt relief for African nations or calling for the release of United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors Leader Malachi York, protesters took to the streets of Brunswick.

They were there to send their various messages to the leaders of the Group of Eight, the G-8, who on Tuesday were landing one by one at Hunter's Army Airfield to attend today's summit.

Doug Waters of Fayetteville was there, near the historic courthouse in downtown Brunswick, wearing a shirt on which was written "Drop Bush not bombs" and a "If you work for peace stop paying for war" pin. Waters was there to protest the war in Iraq, but the name of the event was "March Against the War in Iraq and the War at Home."

The turnout of some 200 other protesters for the march, bearing signs and banners, a large black "G8 ball" and a wooden peace sign covered in flowers, disappointed Waters a little.

"I think all the cops scared people away," Waters said.

The police presence was heavy. An Army helicopter circled overhead and a line of officers stood guard over a war memorial, a set of marble monuments that stood just a few feet from the sidewalk where the protesters had gathered. In return, the protesters set up a cardboard monument of their own on which they would lay flowers.

Local residents stood on the fringes watching the gathering. Cher Coleman, who works nearby, said she wasn't afraid the demonstration would get out of hand.

"I think the police can handle it," Coleman said. "It doesn't look to be that many."

Vietnam veterans Steve Segura and Marion Moore found the gathering to be nostalgic of the 1960s.

"It's a free country. Obviously I don't agree with it," Segura said. "But it's a free country and that's what people are fighting and dying for."

At the Atlanta Independent Media Center the night before Clayton County native Carol Bass had spent a restless evening. For days before, Bass said, National Guard soldiers in Humvee military vehicles had been harassing them, driving around outside the center and even pulling up into the parking lot. Later one officer came by to hand out bottles of water, but Bass said she doubted his intentions.

The soldiers were back again Monday night as a small crowd sat outside St. John's Missionary Baptist Church where the media center was located and watched movies on globalization.

"We tried to get them to watch the films for a while," Bass said. "They were nice enough to turn off their big, loud military vehicle."

The Rev. Tim McDonald, past president of the Concerned Black Clergy and pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, spoke along with Joe Beasley, southern regional director for the Rainbow PUSH organization.

Other protesters would be coming, Beasley said.

"Where there's one or two it's sufficient," Beasley said. "What we're saying to the G-8 is there's more countries in the world than eight."

Beasley and McDonald also spoke at a press conference held by Jubilee USA on debt relief for African nations. Beasley dismissed the fact that the heads of several African nations had been invited to join the summit to discuss issues including economic development.

"If we're not talking about complete debt forgiveness we're whistling ?Dixie,'" Beasley said.

Many African nations are spending more on debt service to loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund than they receive in aid, said Marie Clark, Jubilee USA Network's National Coordinator. The network was sending a letter with signatures from over 200 members of the clergy calling for the debt forgiveness to the G-8 leaders.

The press conference was held at Coastal Georgia Community College where The Other Economic Conference was also being held. The college was also the end point for the peace parade in which Waters and the others had marched.

Proceeding past tenement buildings and parks, the march was proceeded by a police escort. At one point a group of teens dressed in black with bandannas over there faces who claimed to have no group name sat down in front of the cars and began playing "Duck, Duck, Goose."

The cars drove over a median to go around the youths who then cheered.

As they marched the group chanted slogans like "No war, no way, hear the words of MLK" and "No justice, no peace."

By the end of the march, one protester began chanting "We're sweaty and tired, G-8 should be fired."