Tens of thousands of people clad in white marched through Scotland's medieval capital yesterday, demanding that the leaders of the world's richest nations act to better the lives of the poorest.
The "Make Poverty History" marchers said the world must no longer tolerate the extreme poverty that blights the lives of millions in Africa and elsewhere. They planned to form a huge human bracelet around Edinburgh later yesterday as part of the kickoff to a week of anti-poverty activism.
The marchers aimed a peaceful but powerful message at politicians gathering for the summit of the G8 group of rich countries at Gleneagles next week.
"We're not here to march for charity; we are here to march for justice," said Walden Bello, of the advocacy group Focus on the Global South.
The atmosphere was festive, with an African percussion band playing and some demonstrators wearing masks depicting the faces of G8 leaders including US President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Britain's two main Roman Catholic leaders headed the procession and Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of Scotland's Catholics, read a message from the Vatican.
He said Pope Benedict XVI urged those in rich countries to bear the burden of reducing debt for the poor and call on their leaders to fight poverty.
"His Holiness prays for the participants in the rally and for the world leaders soon to gather at Gleneagles, that they may all play their part in ensuring a more just distribution of the world's good," said the message from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
Before the march began, tens of thousands of good-spirited protesters turned the Meadows, Edinburgh's main park, into a sea of white, the anti-poverty movement's trademark color. Many held white balloons bearing the names of aid groups.
The demonstrators -- organizers expected more than 100,000 -- urged the G8 leaders to heed Blair's call to erase Africa's debt, pony up for a massive boost in aid and eliminate trade barriers that make it difficult for impoverished nations to sell their goods overseas.
About 150 anarchists and anti-globalization protesters dressed in black joined the marchers, many covering their faces with bandanas. Some had T-shirts bearing the anarchist symbol of the letter "A" inside a circle; one had a placard that said "No nation, no order."