Thursday 4 November
This was a day of protests rather than being on the inside of COP26, and it felt foreign not to be surrounded by the metal constructs and royal blue carpets of the SEC gazebos. Luke and Hailie had been covering an Extinction Rebellion protest in Cessnock which, it appeared, was a lot less exciting than it had been made out. The group were planning to walk to the BAE buildings on the Clyde, but the crowd was mild and modest, lacking the momentum that had been expected in the first week of COP26.
We’d been alerted by someone on Twitter that the police had turned up to a disused homeless shelter in Tradeston being used by activists and weren’t letting anyone leave or enter. With the morning’s protest sounding a little tame, police drama was a welcome distraction. I joined them with camera in hand to have a nosy.
When I got there, there was a small number of people huddled at the gates on Centre St. Police stood on a faraway corner, keeping an eye, but at a distance. The gates were held closed by a young guy on the inside. Behind him a number of people sat on a makeshift bench playing with an incredibly terrifying looking dog, so I was relieved when another one of the men from inside the shelter started wrapping a weighty chain across both gates, presumably to keep police and press out.
The guys weren’t particularly forthcoming. They wouldn’t answer Hailie when she asked about how many people were inside the shelter, and they appeared to use fake names. They did tell us they’d been accused of “housebreaking” by the police, and that some squatters had been “unlawfully detained” by the police. “You can use that,” one said, jabbing a finger towards us: “Unlawfully detained. That’s what’s happening.”
We were the first newspeople there – from what we could tell – and optimistically decided to publish within the next half hour, before protest number two – some fish thing? – started in the afternoon. My laptop, however, was on 5%, and we had somehow landed in the least hospitable part of Glasgow, with more car parks than cafés in sight. Luke decided to Google map us towards the Pacific Quay, in the direction of the next event, but we definitely spent ten minutes going the completely wrong way. On getting there, the Costa at the cinema was shut, and so, unfortunately, was literally everything else… bar Burger King. We stumbled towards there, desperate for a seat and a plug, but the latter was nowhere to be found, must to our frustration. It’s 2021: do Burger King regulars never need to charge their phones?? Our day of high-level journalism was tumbling swiftly down. Composed via phone notes, there was a stressful few minutes of praying the laptop wouldn’t die – it somehow retained function for at least two minutes after battery levels hit “0%” – as we uploaded the article.
I’d been told that Ocean Rebellion – a branch of Extinction Rebellion – were protesting near the BBC building, but by this point, it was getting cold and our enthusiasm was, honestly, flagging. We wandered over in the direction of Cessnock, and stood around the pavement for a while. No drums or chanting was audible. What we did see were bins overflowing with rubbish that was not so insidiously spreading across the street; a sign of the refuse worker strikes, but also an irony, with the international climate conference about 50 metres away.
It was getting on, and a protest about fish – though the cause was worthwhile – didn’t really sound appealing. The march from the morning was still kicking about the BAE systems building. There was something else happening afterwards, but we had other reporters covering that. Calling it a day sounded the preferable option for everyone, so we did.