Why are people protesting against the G7 summit in Cornwall?

Development work at the Carbis Bay Hotel in March | Photo365/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

With several demonstrations having already been organised, protests are expected to take place during the G7 summit next month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in January that the 47th annual G7 summit will be held in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, near St Ives. The event will be hosted by the four-star Carbis Bay Hotel from 11-13 June.

The G7, or Group of Seven, is an intergovernmental organisation consisting of some of the world’s most powerful countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Leaders from Australia, India, South Korea, and the European Union will also attend the summit.

While Visit Cornwall estimates that the summit could provide a £50 million boost to the local economy, the planned event remains controversial.

The Resist G7 Coalition (RG7) was established in February and has been at the forefront of protests against the summit.

Explaining their opposition to the summit, the group’s website says: “The G7 is a meeting of the world’s most powerful political leaders. These leaders govern the richest countries in the world and the G7 exists to keep it that way. Global capitalism is the default setting. The system that creates vast inequalities, both in the UK and around the world, is presented as the only option.”

It adds: “Boris Johnson has chosen to host the G7 in a luxury resort in Cornwall with its own private beach. But Johnson is bringing the G7 to one of the poorest places in Europe. Behind the beauty is severe poverty.

“World leaders will not see the real Cornwall. Holed up in their fancy hotels that locals couldn’t afford to spend a night in, they won’t see the rundown estates, the child poverty, the fuel poverty and the misery their unjust system creates. But it’s there.”

Protestors demonstrated in front of the Carbis Bay Hotel in April against the construction of three buildings for nine meeting rooms for the summit.

Campaigners were angered that construction had begun before a planning application was submitted, with environmentalists claiming that the work was damaging nearby woodland.

A planning application has since been made but is still awaiting a decision. Cornwall Council has urged the hotel to stop construction while the application is being considered.

Devon and Cornwall Police has said that it is preparing for protests on land and water. Chief Superintendent Matt Longman said: “People will turn up to protest. We expect that and they’re welcome to.”

Cornwall Council neighbourhood chief Sophie Hosking said: “We recognise people’s right to protest, and will work with our colleagues to ensure this can take place in a safe and controlled manner, allowing people to have their voices heard while minimising the impact on local residents and businesses.”

Local councils and police this week announced four dedicated sites in Plymouth (the Hoe), Exeter (Flowerpot Playing Fields), Falmouth (Church Street car park), and Truro (Lemon Quay) where people can protest during the summit. However, RG7 has called on protestors to boycott the sites, adding: “We don’t need permission to protest.”

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesperson said: “Whilst we support the right to peaceful and lawful protests, we cannot tolerate activity that places protesters, the public, officers or the event at physical risk. We must also ensure that any demonstrations take place in line with the current COVID legislation at that time.”

“The public can be assured that any public order or criminal offences will be dealt with robustly and adequately”, they added.