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U.K.: Geldof's Plan To Pressure G-8 Leaders In Scotland Strikes Sour Note With Authorities

A new proposal by Irish rock musician and humanitarian Bob Geldof is creating a major security headache for British authorities. In addition to the five massive "Live 8" concerts scheduled in Europe and the United States on 2 July, Geldof is urging 1 million people to descend on the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, a few days later. He wants them to attend a protest rally coinciding with the G-8 summit of the world's richest countries nearby. He believes this show of force will push world leaders toward adopting more serious proposals to help eradicate poverty in Africa. But police and city authorities fear such an influx of people will create serious security concerns.

London, 9 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Bob Geldof is hoping at least 1 million people will gather in Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh.

"July 2nd isn't the end of our 20-year trek. It's the beginning of the final leg. And after the concert, we will ask people to begin getting to Edinburgh. I don't care how you get there. I don't care. You got to get up there. You've got to get to Edinburgh and let them know what we think about. And we will be giving you a series of movements and events that are huge. They will be occurring throughout Europe and will involve massive fleets of planes, trucks, trains, ferries, private boats -- all moving towards the north of Great Britain," Geldof said.
Others say the problems in Africa stem not from a lack of funds, but from corrupt regimes in Africa who are simply stealing the aid money.

Police say the G-8 summit on 6 July -- with the presence of so many world leaders -- presents a security nightmare in itself. Coping with 1 million visitors in a city of only 500,000 is simply too much to ask. There are fears that extremists could exploit the situation. Several members of Parliament have called Geldof's idea silly. Queen Elizabeth has canceled her annual holiday visit to the city.

The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Lesley Hinds, tells RFE/RL that city authorities are urging people to stay away.

"I think most people see that it wouldn't actually be feasible to have that number of people in our city, even to travel, to add that number to our city on one particular day. So what we're saying to people is, 'If you don't have accommodation and you don't have plans, maybe you just should think twice about whether it is the best thing to do to come to Edinburgh," Hinds says.

Hinds says she was surprised by Geldof's plan, considering the city is planning its own march on 2 July in support of the "Make Poverty History" campaign, which Geldof has been involved in.

Interest in the "Live 8" concert itself has been overwhelming. Some of the world's best-known bands and singers, such as U2, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Coldplay, and Sting have promised to perform. When 66,000 free tickets for the London show were offered to cell-phone users on 6 June, responses came in at the rate of 600 messages per second.

Since the concert looks to be a huge success, many Edinburgh residents are questioning the need for a second show of force.

Fifty-five-year-old Fiona McCulloch thinks Geldof's plan is crazy and that the money that will be spent on security and other expenses would be better donated to charity.

"Absolutely. No way. Crazy idea. Donate the money to the poverty fund. That would be far more sensible," McCulloch says.

Others say the problems in Africa stem not from a lack of funds, but from corrupt regimes in Africa who are simply stealing the aid money.

Twenty-four-year-old Ian Macpherson accuses Geldof of foolishness.

"I've been trying to ignore that fool. It's as simple as that, if that's a viewpoint you'd want to report on."

But some share Geldof's passion. Tracy Strachan is a 33-year-old Edinburgh resident: "Bring us a million people if you want. That's fine with me, because I agree. I think it's an amazing thing that means us individuals coming together. It means that the governments will have to make some decisions, and that can only be a good thing."

The Edinburgh protest will go ahead. Lord Provost Lesley Hinds says the city and the protest organizers finally appear to be speaking to one another about the event.

Geldof, however, is unrepentant. This week, he asked private boat owners to volunteer to ferry people from France for the event.