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Scottish Town Prepares for G8 Protests

The people of Auchterarder -- the small town adjoining the Gleneagles golf resort -- never asked to host a summit of the world's most powerful leaders, but they are doing their best to put up with it.

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Protesters have already marched on Edinburgh

Dozens of police, many brought up from England for the week, pounded the main street on foot or horseback Tuesday, past shop windows covered with plywood with ironic "Welcome to Auchterarder" signs stapled onto them.

Overhead, dark Chinook military helicopters shared the bright skies with a white airship reportedly fitted with infrared scanners, looking for anyone trying to breach the eight-kilometer (five-mile) fence that rings Gleneagles.

What has everybody in jitters is the risk of violence during an anti-G8 march planned for Wednesday that will see up to 5,000 protesters go to within shouting distance of Gleneagles' main gates.

Edinburgh protests set scene

Scenes of anarchists hurling bottles and stones at police in Edinburgh on Monday, with scores arrested or injured, did little to reassure residents. Nor did a morning bomb scare at the local branch of the Bank of Scotland that saw a stretch of the main road sealed off for two hours. The premises were searched but nothing was found, a police spokesman said.

G8-Gipfel Protestaktion

Peace protesters gather at the fence surrounding the Royal Navy submarine base at Faslane, Scotland, Monday July 4, 2005. Campaigners say they expect thousands of activists to join the planned blockade of Faslane naval base on the River Clyde. Demonstrations are due to take place throughout the day at the nuclear base in protest at the amount of money spent by G8 countries on weaponry.

"A big damp squib. That's what we want," hoped Diane Lockhart at the door of the Salon 20-20 hairdressing parlor, taking in the passing parade of police and international news media waiting for the summit to begin.

Tayside police chief constable John Vine tried to be reassuring, even as more than 10,000 officers fanned out over Scotland for the biggest security operation of its kind ever seen in Britain.

"We will deal robustly with any people who want to break the law. Let's make that very clear," Vine, whose jurisdiction takes in Gleneagles and Auchterarder, told reporters.

He noted that the time, route and size of Wednesday's march has been negotiated with its organizers, the leftist G8 Alternatives coalition, in contrast to the spontaneous protests in the Scottish capital.

"We have large numbers of police officers who are well prepared and well equipped should anything arise," he said.

Residents behind the cause

Protests aside, one of the summit's core issues -- battling poverty in Africa -- has clearly struck a chord in Auchterarder, with many shops sporting "Make Trade History" signs.

A Global Village Cafe is up and running for the week -- "proceeds to wind-powered pumps for Africa" -- while the Glendevon pub is laying on a "Make Poverty History" buffet featuring Scotland's national dish, haggis.

"We've all got our opinions," said the pub's owner Kevin Grigsby, who nevertheless isn't boarding up his windows because "it looks too tacky."

Gleneagles Hotel in Schottland Tagungsort G8-Gipfel

Gleneagles hotel in Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland

Bernadette Malone, chief executive of Perthshire Council, the local authority, said the G8 summit would be "worthwhile" if it can boost the region's international profile for tourism and conventions.

But she pointed out that Prime Minister Tony Blair, the summit's host, never consulted local people before selecting Gleneagles more than a year ago as the place to welcome his fellow world leaders.

If it is any consolation, Auchterarder can take comfort in the fact that, amidst McCallum's butcher shop, the Bear Necessities charity shop and the Golf Inn pub, there is not one McDonald's or Starbucks outlet on the main road to lure the attention -- or stones -- of an anti-capitalist troublemaker.

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