BY EMMA MURPHY
ADELAIDE — On hearing US President George Bush's declaration of imminent war on March 18, 500 people flocked to Parliament House at 5pm. The spontaneous crowd was passionate, loud, and articulate in its outright rejection of the war drive, with or without UN approval.
A large number of high school students attended, including Woodville High School, Mitcham High School, and Urrbrae Students Against War. Visible contingents also included the Australian Education Union, Australian Services Union, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the Socialist Alliance, Resistance, Network Opposing War and Racism and the Democrats.
Socialist Alliance speaker Leslie Richmond said "This war is no accident. It has been engineered. It's a war that Bush, Blair and Howard want. This war is immoral and wrong — and a rubber stamp of UN sanction won't make it right." Richmond motivated a new Socialist Alliance initiative which calls on the opposition parties in the Senate to block supply. This would mean the government pays a huge political price for its actions. "Howard has refused to listen to the people, so we've got to make sure that he is forced to hear us. If the Senate blocks supply we can force an election."
Greens State Secretary Anne McMenamin observed "There was no crisis in Iraq until the US created one. The vast majority of tyrants in the world have been installed, aided and abetted by the US."
Speaking from Students Against War, Romie Graham stated "At the heart of any movement- be it East Timor or Vietnam- students have been there." Refuting Howard's recent claims that young people should be at school rather than running amok, she insisted "Young people have consciences and brains; this is why we protest."
This sentiment was certainly attested to on Thursday, when — by 2:30 — hundreds of high school students had walked out of school in protest.
Two hours after the striking students had dispersed to leaflet the city, up to 4000 people were once more drawn to parliament. The mood this time was distraught but defiant; speakers drew the crowd's attention to the fact that bombs were falling on Baghdad even as we gathered. Once again there was a strong union and High School presence, as well as Resistance banners and a Palestinian flag.
Tears flowed freely as the crowd sung "Give Peace a Chance". Mike Khizam from NOWAR told the crowd "Today it is very hard to feel proud to be Australian. Our government has once again committed us to war with the Third World."
Sadness turned to anger and determination as speakers urged the people to continue the struggle. Greens MP Kris Hanna lamented "today's vicious attack was not just on Baghdad, but on the system of international law which has existed since World War II." He observed that Howard was trying to gain support for this war by instilling fear into the Australian population, and refuted with "We, the people, will stand up for peace. We won't believe the lies."
Speaking from the Socialist Alliance, David Scrimgeour delivered a passionate speech which moved many to tears and many more to angry and heartfelt cries for peace. "In a world where 1 billion people go hungry every day" he said, "it is wrong to spend billions on this war."
He went on to say "Not long ago 'US Imperialism' was dismissed as leftwing paranoia. Now it is a fact of life. We, the people of the world, are the second super power. We do not hold weapons of mass destruction, but we do have the weapon of mass disaffection."
From Green Left Weekly, March 26, 2003.
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