30,000 Perth people say 'No War!'

Issue 

BY ANTHONY BENBOW

PERTH — Within hours of Bush's declaration of war on March 18, people in Perth were protesting in their thousands. Protests continued throughout the week, culminating in a massive rally and march through central Perth on March 22. Organsiers estimate 25,000 to 30,000 people attended this event.

On March 18, students at UWA organised a lunchtime protest, less than three hours' after Bush's speech was broadcast here. By 5pm, 2000 people were rallying in Forrest Place to protest Bush's declaration of war. The five Greens WA MPs walked out of state parliament to attend the rally, which marched to the US Consulate on St George's Terrace. For over an hour a peaceful protest blocked traffic while people chanted, shouted, drummed and danced.

Thursday 20-03-2003 — As soon as the bombing began, construction members of the WA CFMEU walked off the job on all Perth CBD construction sites in protest. They then joined other unionists for a 500-strong union rally against war in Forrest place at 3:30pm, called by Unions WA. Students at Armadale High School also walked out of class. The planned NOWAR Alliance "emergency protest on day of bombing" drew 6000 people to Forrest Place by 5pm, and again people voted to march on the US Consulate. After another peaceful blockade of St George's Terrace, police gave protesters an ultimatum to move on, and eight people were arrested. A peaceful all-night vigil outside the US Consulate took place on March 21. Also on Friday night, unknown activists painted anti-war slogans on Parliament House, Government House and the Belltower: "No War on Iraq; War is Terror".

On Saturday March 22, as thunderclouds gathered threateningly overhead, thousands upon thousands of people streamed onto Perth Esplanade, to join the NOWAR Alliance rally and march. The crowd of between 25-30,000 was addressed by Rahim B Ghauri from the WA Islamic Council, WA CFMEU Secretary Kevin Reynolds and Greens (WA) MP Dee Margetts. Reynolds commended those taking part in the rally and called on people to oppose the government: "If Howard won't stop the war then we have to bring down Howard; and elect a Labor government — but one with some balls".

People then marched through the city, chants included "No War", "Bring the troops home now". After the march people heard Julia Perkins from Socialist Alliance, Fiona from Youth & Students Against War; Ruth Weber and MP Bob Kucera from the ALP, Phil Chilton from Refugee Rights Action Network, and Father Brian Morrison from the Catholic Church.

After the rally several performers entertained the crowd, including the band "Monsoon". Another group of people returned to the vigil outside the US Consulate. Protesters reported at least one arrest here.

From Green Left Weekly, March 26, 2003.
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