120,000 join weekend protests against war



After a week of emergency anti-war actions, tens of thousands of Australians continued to protest on the March 22-23 weekend. Protests in eight cities mobilised around 120,000 people. This included a whopping 30,000 on Parliament House lawns in Canberra on March 23, kicking off two days of national anti-war protests in the city.

On the same day, between 50,000 and 80,000 people flooded into Sydney’s Belmore Park and 1000 rallied in Newcastle, while on March 22, 30,000 people protested in Perth, 8000 in Brisbane, 3500 in Hobart, 400 in Launceston and 300 in Mackay.

The protest in Canberra was the largest seen in that city for many years. Many of the attendees came in contingents from more than 20 different cities and towns, and from organisations as diverse as Clowns for Peace and the Socialist Alliance.

Greens senator Bob Brown received a standing ovation from the crowd as he sharply condemned the lies and hypocrisy of the warmongers. He and Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Leigh Hubbard were cheered by protesters, as they tapped into people’s sense of outrage and anger against the Coalition government.

In Sydney, while the march began soon after the meeting time, anti-war activist Nick Everett told Green Left Weekly that people were still joining the march for at least an hour, and the main march took more than half an hour to move off completely.

As protesters arrived at the Domain, they were greeted by speeches from Susan Nassar from the Palestinian community, who spoke to huge applause, Andrew Ferguson from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Sister Susan Connelly and Hannah Middleton, from the Walk Against the War Coalition, which organised the event.

“You could tell that people were determined to keep protesting”, Everett commented. “Although the speaking platform finished fairly quickly, around 500 of us hung around, including some drummers, continuing to protest in the Domain.”

The Perth protest was overhung with thunder clouds, activist Anthony Benbow reported to GLW, which were defied by the enthusiasm of the tens of thousands of protesters. Speakers at the protest included WA CFMEU secretary Kevin Reynolds, who told protesters: “If PM John Howard won’t stop the war, then we have to bring him down”.

From Brisbane, Marce Cameron reported to GLW that a protest of 5000 people swelled to nearly double that as bystanders joined the march. Protesters stopped outside arms manufacturer giant Boeing’s offices, before heading to Waterfront Place, the official finishing point. Many were unhappy to stop here though, and the protest continued, ending in a sit-in in Adelaide Street. Around 1000 young protesters occupied the street for some time, drumming, chanting and giving speeches opposing the war.

The overall “feel” of the Hobart protest was “very positive”, anti-war campaigner Alex Bainbridge told Green Left Weekly. Environmentalist Peter Cundell received a huge roar from the crowd, when he called on people to keep protesting until the war was stopped.

Unions Tasmania — which initiated the Peace Coalition — told Peace Coalition members on March 21 that it was withdrawing administrative support for the group. Liz Osborne from the Australian Education Union read out the Unions Tasmania statement that appeared as an advertisement in local newspapers. She urged people to continue to protest.

From Green Left Weekly, March 26, 2003.
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