WORLD: 'A peace movement that is growing hour by hour'

April 2, 2003


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 short-notice 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 starting point 38 blocks away. Carrying peace signs and donning costumes, anti-imperialist and socialist banners and religious icons, demonstrators streamed toward Washington Square Park.

"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 Associated Press.

March organisers United for Peace and Justice said at 1pm the size of the protest was 100,000. By 3pm, the crowd had almost tripled. Other contingents joined the march from lateral streets all along the way.

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".

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".

Anti-war protests were also held on March 22 in Chicago, Los Angeles and dozens of other US cities. In most of these cities massive demonstrations are taking place from the very moment the war on Iraq was declared. One marcher outside the White House, Feza Baydur of Turkey, carried a sign reading: "CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC — Weapons of Mass Deception."

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people picketed the CNN studios in Los Angeles while others protested against the cable network's pro-war coverage outside its Atlanta HQ. "They make this look like a John Wayne movie", protester Elvis Woods told Agence France Presse. "You watch CNN and all you get are explosions and video of tanks and guns. Nobody questions whether this is right or not."

Veterans Against Iraq War launched a three-day "Operation Dire Distress" with a conference in Washington on March 22 and a demonstration, attended by several thousand former US soldiers on March 23.

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. London mayor Ken Livingstone stated that the march was "the largest demonstration against a war that is in progress in British history. Labour MP Alice Mahon noted that Bush and Blair have "radicalised a whole generation" and created "a peace movement that is growing hour by hour".

In other parts of Britain, more than 5000 people protested outside the Fairford RAF base in Gloucestershire, from where US B-52 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. Up to 2 million people took part.

More than 100,000 protested in Paris (with more than 50,000 people also demonstrating in cities across France, including Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse and Strasbourg), 40,000 in Berlin and more than 30,000 in other German cities. Around 40,000 turned out in Berne, Switzerland. More than 10,000 people protested against the war in towns and cities across Ireland, including 5000 in Dublin, who laid down outside Trinity College to symbolise the war's casualties.

In Spain, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets for the third day on March 22 to oppose the Spanish government's support for the US-British-Australian invasion of Iraq. Around 500,000 people joined a march in Barcelona, according to the city's authorities. Agence France Presse reported that 250,000 marched in Madrid, despite attacks by riot police. Tens of thousands more protested in towns and cities across the country. More than 35,000 marched in Lisbon, Portugal.

At least 25,000 people demonstrated in Amsterdam, 6000 in Brussels, 15,000 in Stockholm (with another 15,000 in Gothenburg), 20,000 protested in Helsinki and 5000 in Oslo. In Copenhagen, 10,000 marched to the the British and US embassies. Around 25,000 protested in Vienna. In Italy, several thousand demonstrators rallied outside a US base in Sicily.

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, according to a 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."

In Pakistan, Islam-online <> estimated that 200,000 Muslims took to the streets of the eastern city of Lahore. It was Pakistan's biggest demonstration yet to condemn the US-led attack on Iraq. Police also stopped about 2000 protesters from holding an anti-war demonstration outside a US airbase in Pakistan's southern Sindh province. The web site also reported that Afghanistan's first anti-war demonstration took place on March 22 when "more than 10,000 people swarmed through Laghman provincial capital Mehtarlam".

The US embassy in Wellington, New Zealand, was besieged by 4000 demonstrators, some blowing trumpets and banging drums.

From Green Left Weekly, April 2, 2003.
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