FALMOUTH, England (Reuters) – Blimps of Joe Biden and Boris Johnson floated off the Cornish coast on Friday as hundreds of protesters targeted the G7 summit in southwest England to demand action on the climate, poverty and COVID-19.
As leaders of some of the world’s richest nations gather in picturesque Cornwall, so have dozens of campaign groups that want to court publicity for their causes and send a message to the Western political elite.
Several hundred climate activists – some dressed as blackbirds as a symbol of warning and others banging drums – gathered in St Ives, just a stone’s throw from the heavily guarded G7 summit venue at Carbis Bay, and marched along the beach.
“Carbis Bay is where the most powerful leaders in the world are,” said Jenny Shackleford, 59, who with along with her husband Murray, 55, was dressed as a blackbird. She had walked for 6 days to get to St Ives.
“We are terrified what will happen if they don’t take action,” she said. Her husband said that G7 leaders had to do more than simply make grand promises that people have heard over and over again.
Behind police cordons and layers of security, the leaders from the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Canada gathered for a three-day summit that they hope will show the West can still act decisively on major global issues.
There is, though, some scepticism from many protesters.
“We want the real Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and other G7 leaders gathering in Cornwall to be like these blimps and join the wave of hope,” said Jamie Drummond from the Crack the Crises group which organised the blimp protest.
“That means they should stop hoarding and start sharing – sharing the money, doses and the tech to vaccinate the world; and deliver an historic green recovery deal.”
Police have mounted a major security operation for the summit, with thousands of officers drafted in from across Britain. Some of those planning demonstrations have said they intended their protests to be noisy, disruptive and annoying.
On Friday officers said they had arrested seven people after stopping two cars in which they found paint, smoke grenades and megaphones.
“We continue to support the facilitation of safe and legal protest, but criminal activity and public disorder will not be tolerated,” the police said in a statement.
However, those organising some of the protests accuse the authorities of oppressive tactics.
“When talking about how local people feel about protesters, it’s really important to remember that lots of protesters are local,” Resist G7, an ad-hoc collection of about 20 activist organisations, said on Twitter.
“It’s the G7 that’s disrupted us not the other way round.”
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Raissa Kasolowsky)