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London marches against war

August 17, 2008

Thousands of Londoners took to the streets on Saturday, March 15, to demand that British troops be pulled out from Iraq and Afghanistan.

On that day, more than 50,000 people – official figures say over 20,000 – marched to Westminster.
All of them took part in a rally organised by the Stop the War Coalition, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the British Muslim Initiative (BMI).

Activists were heard chanting “What do we want? Troops Out! When do we want it? Now!” and “Occupation is a crime, free Iraq and Palestine” and demanding that all wars must be brought to an end.

The motives

Sophie Bolt, one of the Vice Chairs of the CND, explained that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were “illegal and immoral”. Bolt said the situation in the Middle East was a “total disaster” and advocated “some kind of dialogue and conflict resolution”.

Susie Helme, from the Stop the War Coalition, said that the demonstration, which also took place in Glasgow, “will give heart to activists in other countries”.

She added: “It´s very important for us to do something because we live in a free country and not everybody does”.

People like Ivonne Wilkin, from Bristol, took part in the demonstration to send a clearer message to the British government: “I am absolutely ashamed of the way our government joins with the Bush government to invade countries for reasons like oil supply, on the pretext that they are some kind of threat to us in Britain.”

From MPs to film directors

Several politicians and activists also had their say during the speeches at Trafalgar and Westminster.

Speakers included former Lib Dem MP, Baroness Jenny Tonge, MP George Galloway and human rights lawyer Louise Christian.

They were joined by Nick Bloomfield, director of Battle for Haditha and Ben Griffin, an ex British Special Air Force soldier. Griffin quit the air force after witnessing the conduct of American troops in Iraq, according to The Telegraph.

Also present was Tony Benn, president of the Stop the War Coalition and former Labour MP who served both in Harold Wilson and James Callaghan’s governments as Secretary of State for Industry and Energy.

Benn opined that demonstrations made a difference because “change starts at the bottom and ends up at the top”.

When asked about the likelihood of a world without war, he said: “It doesn’t happen automatically, but if every time there is a war, and there is a demonstration like this, people at the top will worry.”

Solidarity with Palestine

Onstage, deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain Daud Abdullah expressed his anger at what he called the “occupation of Palestine”. He said that “only the restoration of Palestinian rights, freedom and dignity will bring stability to the region.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas criticized the British government for talking to Israel, which “breaks every law in the book” and not talking to Hamas, “the government elected by the Palestinians.”

A Palestinian girl at the demonstration in Trafalgar Square said she had come because she had family in Gaza. “I think it’s disgusting how people are left to die with no resources. Even animals don’t live like that.”

Iran’s future

The Iran issue was also taken up at the demonstration. Kate Hudson, Chair of the CND, said in one of her speeches that “the danger of nuclear war is greater than it ever has been.”

She added that when nuclear attacks come, “it will be against countries of the third world deemed not compliant to the economic and political demands of US and its allies.”

Ricardo, a watercolour artist from Portsmouth who came to London to ‘sing’ against war, had more personal reasons to oppose any possible attacks on Iran.

“Teheran is a lovely city, full of people like my wife and her family, and Bush has got nuclear weapons down their throats,” said the former Royal Navy man. He also claimed to know the “real” reasons behind war: “There’s big money in war, it provides a lot of jobs and the economy revolves around it.”

Stop War Coalition

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

British Muslim Initiative

Palestine Solidarity Campaign

School Students against War

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