WORLD: Huge anti-war demonstrations on March 22

Issue 

Those in the US, British and Australian governments and their mainstream media toadies who hoped the anti-war movement in the US and around the world would collapse following the launch of Washington's barbaric blitzkrieg against Iraq would be disappointed after the March 22 mass mobilisations.

More than 250,000 marched through the streets of New York City. The demonstration was so big that as the first contingents arrived at the rallying point, people were still leaving the start point 38 blocks away. Carrying peace signs and donning costumes, anti-imperialist and socialist banners and religious icons, demonstrators streamed toward Washington Square Park.

"I believe if you really want to show 'shock and awe', you should show love and justice", said Bob Edgar, an officer at the National Council of Churches, told Associated Press.

"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the desire of the US ruling class to control oil and politics in the Middle East", a young student from Syracuse University told the US socialist journal Frontlines.

March organisers United for Peace and Justice said at 1pm the size of the protest was 100,000. No arrests were reported. Frontlines correspondents witnessed thousands upon thousands more demonstrators continuing to show up from all sides of the city. By 3pm, the crowd had almost tripled. Other contingents joined the march from lateral streets all along the way.

Carol Laverne wore a pair of angel's wings and carried a sign saying "Thou shall not kill'. Susan Sonz and her nine-year-old son, Ruben, came to the march from their home near the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attacks. The boy carried a sign saying, "Ground Zero kids against the war". "We don't want to see more innocent people die", Susan Sonz said.

Other banners were more specific: "No Empire, No War"; "Hands off Iraq".

Some celebrities joined in, including actors Roy Scheider, Ossie Davis and Rudy Dee, and singer Patti Smith.

About 2500 police were assigned to the rally, including undercover officers with beeper-sized radiation detectors and other counter-terrorism measures.

In San Francisco, thousands upon thousands of demonstrators started to assemble at noon for a rally at City Hall followed by a march. In Washington, several hundred protesters, chanting "No blood for oil", strode through the streets and rallied in front of the White House. Their pink and orange signs read "No war against Iraq" and "Money for unemployment, not war".

Since the outbreak of war, from marches to civil disobedience, the anti-war movement had been present on the streets as never before. Hundreds of thousands marched long before the war started and many are still demonstrating. Since the outbreak of war, peace demonstrations have spread to dozens of US cities large and small in one of the widest outpourings of anti-government protesting in many years. Anti-war activists have blocked traffic, sat in at federal buildings, prayed at candlelight vigils, and laid down on sidewalks to symbolise the war dead.

Anti-war protests were also planned for March 22 in Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities. In most of these cities massive demonstrations are taking place from the very moment the war on Iraq was declared. "This is a movement that is here to stay", one of the organisers of the LA demonstration told us. "Bush propaganda and polls are not working. We are still on the streets", said a member of the leadership of the United for Peace and Justice Coalition in New York.

In London, reports Green Left Weekly's Natasha Izatt, organisers estimate that 500,000 people turned out to protest on March 22, way above police estimates of 100,000.

In other parts of Britain, more than 5000 people protested outside the Fairford USAF base in Gloucestershire, from where US B-52s bombers are taking off to pound Iraq. A peace camp has been established there. In Glasgow, at least 5000 protested and Edinburgh also attracted 5000.

Based on the notorious underestimates of the mainstream press, across Europe there were dozens of demonstrations involving tens of thousands of people in Germany, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and other countries. More than 90,000 protested in Paris, 40,000 in Berlin and more than 30,000 in other German cities, according to Associated Press.

According to Canadian press reports, up to 250,000 "chanting, banner-waving protesters crowded a major Montreal Boulevard Saturday in the largest protest in Canada, and possibly the world... The Montreal rally was similar in size to one that brought 250,000 people downtown last weekend", prior to the start of the US attack. There were also mass protests in St Johns, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

"It is fine for the Prime Minister [Jean Chretien] to declare that Canada will not participate in this war. We see in this declaration the result of citizens' mass mobilisation. However, in order to be consistent, the Canadian government must bring back all military equipment and personnel", declared Francine Nemeh spokesperson of the Echec a la Guerre Collective, accoreding to report in the Montreal Muslim News. "Furthermore, we are asking the Canadian government to condemn this illegitimate, illegal and criminal aggression."

"This war has nothing to do with the liberation of the Iraqi people. It is a war for empire, oil and power and we say: 'Not in our name'", declared Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, a specialist in US foreign policy in the Middle East. Isabelle Cyr, visibly emotional, addressed the crowd, saying: "We are two hundred thousand citizens holding hands with the entire planet."

[Compiled by from AFP, AP, CNN and Frontlines reporters. Additional reports from Green Left Weekly correspondents)

From Green Left Weekly, March 26, 2003.

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