Don's Diary

August 3, 2001

Our red London bus stands ready in Millennium Square, Leeds. Colleagues, Drop the Debt campaigners, a councillor, an MP and a bishop arrive bearing gifts and good wishes. We set off. Will we make it to the G8 summit in Genoa in a vintage bus with a top speed of 40mph?

Trafalgar Square. Park under Nelson and crowds gather in the sun. There are more interviews, speeches and then the launch. En route to Dover, set up the laptop and mobile for communication with supporters in Genoa.

Fireworks explode as we drive through Paris - sadly not for us but for Bastille Day. It is a difficult city to navigate in a double-decker bus.

Drive to Auxerre and rest. Set off for a late-night drive to Dijon.

Busy evening on the mobile. Learn that a BBC film crew might fly out to film us.

In Lyon, supporters gather with posters, cymbals, drums and much enthusiasm. We talk to journalists and celebrate with French counterparts.

Nimes - more supporters and more wine. Learn that the BBC has discarded us for Michael Portillo.

Leave sunshine in Cannes for rain and the steep hills into Italy. Ideal weather for a London bus. Met by 50 armed Italian guards. Passports taken. Bus searched. Eventually pass through to the hoots of lorries.

Phone ahead for our instructions. We need to leave the motorway at Nervi to the east of Genoa. Motorway shut - sent off to the west helped by Italian motorcyclists. Joined by helpful Metropolitan Police. Drawn over by the Carabinieri . Held for three hours. See smoke rising from the city centre and helicopters overhead.

Get to destination to be greeted with shouts and cheers by Italian bus drivers. See the smashed banks and hear that a protester has been killed. Drop the Debt discusses contingency plans.

Decide not to march. Hold a peaceful vigil by the church. Some of us climb on to the top of the bus with banners. For three hours the marchers pass by - thousands of peaceful protesters cheer, clap and chant " Cancella il debito ". Tangible sense of peaceful unity. Bono and Bob Geldof hold a press conference.

Genoan life starts to return to normal. Road sweepers clear the debris and church bells call people to mass. Frustration with the focus on physical violence of a minority when economic brutality is leading to the death of thousands of children each day. Greater resolve to campaign peacefully to bring about change for the world's poorest peoples.

Joanna Brown is computing and IT project officer, University of Leeds.


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