By Oliver Farrimond
A CROWD of angry protesters directed jeers and boos at Pope Benedict as the papal convoy made its way up Lothian Road in Edinburgh today.
Around 100 protesters greeted the Popemobile, which appeared to visibly accelerate as it moved past the angry crowd.
The protesters – who were moved into a designated “protest pen” shortly before the Papal cavalcade made its way past – waved signs reading “Condoms save lives” and “Papal Bull” and loudly booed the convoy.
Shouts of “Real justice here and now” and “Stop protecting paedophile priests” were directed at His Holiness, who waved back at the crowd seemingly untroubled from the confines of the Popemobile.
As a protective cordon of roughly 20 police officers looked on, other protesters waved blown-up condoms and blew vuvuzelas as the Papal cavalcade made its way past Festival Square.
Flanked by a land rover mounted with roving CCTV cameras and a host of police escort vehicles, the Catholic convoy disappeared toward Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s official residence in Morningside as the protest passed peacefully.
The crowd dispersed shortly after, and Lothian and Borders Police reported shortly afterwards that no arrests had been made.
Elaine Doherty, 30, said that she was pleased with how the protest went.
Elaine, a law student from Battlefield in Glasgow, said: “I think that the protest went well.
“We were all respectful, and I definitely feel a sense of achievement .
“I saw him read our sign as well – I’m certain he focused on it for a second before turning away in disgust.
“He seemed to be aware that he had an audience, which is good because it shows he has at least taken notice of the message we were trying to send.
“I came to protest because we felt that this was a big political occasion.
“It’s a protest against the Pope’s bigoted views on a range of issues, from homosexuality to women’s right, none of which have any place in modern Scottish society.”
However not all of the Protest the Pope activists were happy with the afternoon’s events.
Johnathan Elders, from Leith, said that the police were unreasonable in moving the protestors into the fenced-off zone.
Johnathan, who works as a supervisor in a sports centre, said: “I’m very disappointed that the police tried to contain us in such a small area.
“I think that the small area was deliberately designed to make the protest seem much smaller than it actually was.
“There was no conflict or aggression whatsoever, so they had no reason to put us in such a small pen.
The 32-year-old added: “The Pope waved away, but I think he got the message that not everybody supports him or the Catholic Church.
“I’m very unhappy that as a taxpayer I’ve had to partially fund this visit.”
Lee Symes, 35, said that he was pleased that Pope Benedict paid attention to the protests.
Lee, a nurse at Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary, said: “I think that the protest was very successful.
“The Pope definitely saw us and I think that we got the message across.
“He has come out with statements saying that gays and other minority groups are basically less than human.
“If he had said the same thing about black people there would be been a much bigger outcry – I think it’s disgusting.
“However I think that the behaviour of both the protestors and the police was more or less impeccable.
“I didn’t see any real reaction from the Pope when he looked across at us – he had a real politician’s neutral face on.”
Ian Scott, who leads a student group called Glasgow sceptics who promote freedom of speech, added that he was present to protest many of the pope’s “fundamentally wrong” views.
Ian, 17, said: “I read that vuvuzelas had been banned from the open-air mass at Bellahouston Park, so the first thing I thought was to bring one along to protest in Edinburgh.
“It’s about getting your voice heard in any way possible.
“The fact that they are covering up child abuse is wrong.
“And the lies and misinformation that the Catholic church spreads about the AIDS virus is also fundamentally wrong, and has no doubt contributed to the deaths of thousands of people.
“These are very dangerous lies.”
Andrew Hoolachan, 25, a researcher from Dundee, said: “I am protesting to show the world that there is visible opposition to the catholic pope and his leadership.
“Specifically, his un-scientific dogma about the use of contraception and homosexuals.
“I find the church’s position on homosexuality particularly awful when you consider the child abuse scandal of recent years.
“I just want people to realise that protesting and active opposition to the pope’s views can help people reconsider their views if they’ve been indoctrinated by the Catholic church.”
Student Andrea Weiler, 32, from Zurich in Switzerland, added: “I am here because I disagree with the pope’s policies on condoms, child abuse and homosexuality.
“I find it preposterous that he is coming here because he offends non-Catholics almost on a daily basis – it isn’t even the majority religion in this country.
“He should not be being treated as a Head of State.
“If you asked the majority of people in this country if he should be here, the answer would be ‘no thanks’.”
Aman Saggu, 24, a PHD Researcher from London, said: “I’ve paid to take a day off work and come here because I feel that it is my civic duty to do so.
“I’m protesting for the same reason that others are – because of the church’s position on contraception and because of the hypocrisy of the child abuse scandal.
“I think that it’s a waste of money and resources to stage all these preparations, especially at a time when we’re supposed to be sharpening our belts.
“The Catholic church should be funding it – or the Pope himself.”
Police maintained a visible presence throughout.
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “The crowds are now starting to disperse with no arrests having being made.”