International Day of Protest

Report from: London

By Nigel Chamberlain
CND Press Officer
Pictures from CND web-site


CND Vice-Chair Kate Hudson began her round of interviews from home soon after 7.00 am while CND Chair Carol Naughton started her round of TV and radio interviews in Hyde Park at 7.30 am. As well as being in constant demand for interviews, they also managed to help steward the march and organise the rally from the plinth of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.

Being in Hyde Park very early on this unseasonably warm and sunny day gave us an overview of just how many people, from diverse cultures and political groupings, were descending on central London from right across the country. In fact two tired looking youths approached us at 9.00 am wondering where the march was! We told them to come back around noon by which time they would have no difficulty in finding people gathering for what promised to be the largest demonstration in London since the Gulf War.

As noon approached, it became clear that not only were we not going to be disappointed but that this demonstration was going to exceed our expectations in terms of both breadth and numbers - despite our having been inundated with phone calls and e-mails asking for more information or telling us that more and more coaches were coming.

  

The press of numbers behind the lead 'Peace and Justice for All' banner forced the platform speakers holding it to move further and further forward towards the Cumberland Gate from which we were due to leave Hyde Park to march down Park Lane down to Piccadilly and into Trafalgar Square. The pressure became so intense and the atmosphere was electric that the stewards took the decision to move off early. Coaches were still arriving and disgorging their human cargoes to swell the ranks of the noisy yet peaceful march which was already attracting much interest from those it flowed past.

90 minutes after the front of the march left the Cumberland Gate, the last protestor against the bombing of Afghanistan crossed the starting line around about the time the head of the march pulled into Trafalgar Square. There was a wonderful and appropriate start to proceedings with unaccompanied singing from the combined ranks of the London Socialist Choir.

  

This was followed by powerful and moving contributions from the podium by Carol Naughton, Darren Johnson, Afif Safieh,, Salma Yakhoob, Adrian Mitchell, Mark Seddon, Caroline Lucas, Alan Simpson and Paul Marsden. There was also a heartfelt rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' from Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners.

There was much reference to the inhumanity of war and its consequences for civilian populations, either directly or indirectly. Concern about growing anti-American sentiment and fear of retaliation on retaliation was also a recurring theme as was the changing war aims of the US led military action. We were reminded that arguments opposing the bombing of Afghanistan should in no way be taken as excusing the atrocity of 11th September and the absolute requirement that those who planned it must be brought to justice.

Some speakers also made reference to the danger, futility and irrationality of trying to press ahead with National Missile Defence and Star Wars programmes. Carol reported that over 100 protests against the militarisation of space were going on in 19 countries and that we must continue the campaign to prevent any deployment of these destabilising systems.

Carol acknowledged the co-operation of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and Al-Awada in cancelling their proposed march and rally and offering it to CND for a peace demonstration. She also thanked the different organisations for mobilising their supporters so that their collective voices could be heard and encouraged them to support protests called by other organisations and to go back to their communities and continue to campaign there.

  


From Sara Payne

About 130 CamPeace supporters joined the 50,000 plus demonstraters marching through Central London yesterday to oppose the bombing of Afghanistan.  The BBC reported 20,000 on the march.  There were far more than that.  We say 50,000.  It was entirely peaceful.

I wouldn't have been anywhere else in the world than on that march yesterday.  I felt proud to be one of the Lilliputians taking on Gulliver.

I heard a comment the other day that viewed from Europe this so-called "war" is not a war. It is seen as an Anglo-US aggression.

Best wishes,

Sara
 


Surprise at large turnout for national anti-war rally
By Cole Moreton
The Sunday Independent
http://news.independent.co.uk/...

Old men in Islamic dress marched with former Greenham women and dreadlocked anti-capitalists who booed when they passed McDonald's. Yesterday's peace rally in London was the first major public show of strength for a diverse coalition of people opposed to war which has grown up by website and e-mail faster than in any previous conflict.

Even the organisers were surprised at how many people turned up. "The police expected 10,000 but we have far, far exceeded that,'' said Carol Naughton, chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which cancelled a planned demo against Star Wars in order to host the rally.

The police estimated 20,000 people were on the march from Hyde Park Corner to Trafalgar Square, while the organisers put the numbers at 50,000.

It was a noisy and unruly demonstration on a hot day but people danced in the fountains instead of causing trouble. Attempts by far-left groups such as the Socialist Workers' Party to dominate the gathering were thwarted by weight of numbers.

Salma Yakoob of the Stop the War Coalition in Birmingham addressed the crowd from the plinth in Trafalgar Square. "If only the leftists had been here today people would have said we were all lefties," she said. ''If only CND had been here they would have said it was the middle-class elite. If it was only the Muslims they would have called us extremists. If it was only Asians and black people they would have said it was the ethnic minorities. Tony Blair, we are here united against this war. You cannot dismiss us all.''

The poet Adrian Mitchell performed a piece which he had first read out in Trafalgar Square in 1964. "It is about Vietnam,'' he said. "But it is still relevant. It's about sitting faithfully in England while thousands of miles away terrible atrocities are being committed in our name.''

The Stop The War Coalition announced that it intended to hold another national rally on 18 November.



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