Dignity, respect .....and a big yellow tank
This week saw the 19th anniversary of the brutal military crackdown on pro-democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square.
All around the world Amnesty International organised events in solidarity with the Tiananmen Mothers, an organisation of those whose loved ones were amongst the hundreds (at least) killed when the tanks moved in to crush the tents, banners and people spread out across the Square.
For the last 19 years the Tiananmen Mothers, who have adopted the red rose as their symbol, have sought to mourn their dead by placing wreaths in the Square. Every year the regime refuses to recognise their loss, or allow any public mourning.
Obviously Scotland had to make its contribution to this worldwide demonstration of support. In London they had a tank, so we wanted to have one too. Having neither a budget, nor a local rent-a-tank business, we had to rely on our inherent Scottish ingenuity, resourcefulness and parsimony.
Into the breach stepped local artist Dave Sutton (Amnesty Scotlands current Best Friend) who converted our meeting room into a makeshift workshop and built us one of our very own.
A cunning construction it was too made up of glued together cardboard, painted yellow and able to be dismantled into bits, so that we could get it out the door, down the road and reassembled within a matter of minutes.
And so it was that the open square in the middle of Princes Street, beside the National Gallery (I really must find out its official name) saw a big yellow tank hoisted into place and a crowd of 70-80 Amnesty supporters gather with red roses and Human Rights for China placards.
We had originally planned to hold a die-in around the tank so when the one oclock gun fired from the Castle above us, we would all fall over and pretend wed been killed. But with the horrible toll from the recent earthquake in Sichuan, that really didnt seem appropriate.
So we opted for the dignified approach, with a minutes silence for the earthquake victims, followed by a solemn ceremony where all those attending processed up to the tank and placed their roses into pre-prepared holes so that the message Human Rights for China appeared.
We nearly lost the tank when it came under fire from the fierce Edinburgh wind. Fortunately we managed to maintain the dignified appearance in front, while several heroic volunteers fought to hold the great creaking beast together round the back.
Big thanks are due to all who attended. Photos from the event are available on our Flickr page.
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