Huge Anti-War Demonstration in London

Paul Flewers hatchet.job at virgin.net
Sun Feb 16 06:28:46 MST 2003


I've never seen anything like it in my life, nor has anyone else. It was a
whopper! Trains up to London were full, just like a weekday rush hour. I
arrived on Waterloo Bridge just after midday, and it was filled with people
walking towards where the demonstration was assembling, and it took
half-an-hour to get from the bridge to the assembly point, about a quarter
of a mile away. The demonstration filled the Embankment by the river from
Westminster Bridge back to Blackfriars Bridge, about a mile and a half.
There was also another demonstration starting to the north, this joined us
at Piccadilly. It took four hours to get to Hyde Park, about three miles
from our start. We completely filled the streets on the way (normally
demonstrations, including the big one last September, take up half the
road). Leaving the park at about five o'clock, there were still streams of
people coming into the park. The buses for the marchers parked nearby were
revealing. Three from Bradford on Avon, a sleepy small town in Wiltshire; at
least 39 buses from Bristol. I saw a banner noting a small Devon town,
nearly 200 miles away, a bloke from the town said they had three bus-loads
of people. The police reckon 750 000 people, that makes it the biggest
demonstration ever in London even on their figures. One can usually multiply
their figures by one-and-a-half or more to get a more realistic amount.

Blair was on the telly last night, speaking at a New Labour conference in
Glasgow, the usual stuff about the need to get rid of Saddam Hussein,
threats from terrorists, etc. He tried to bait the demonstrators on Friday,
saying that such a demonstration would be illegal in Iraq -- exactly the
same sort of argument that the Tories used against CND anti-cruise missile
marches in the 1980s! He is clearly rattled by the recent events -- the huge
marches worldwide, but especially here; the French and German manoeuvres;
the inconclusive inspectors' reports, but I'm convinced that he will follow
Bush to the bitter end.

Quite a few people are saying that this could be the start of Blair's
political death. Let's hope so! One can almost hear the knives being
sharpened as his New Labour pals line up to chop him down when this war goes
wrong. It's interesting that very few New Labour politicians are openly
supporting Blair's rabid pro-war line. They're not opposing it and will give
support when asked, but they are not coming forward to address meetings, go
on the telly or wireless or write newspaper articles on the subject. There's
little enthusiasm even amongst New Labour stalwarts.

We won't stop this war, and I reckon that the veto will not be used at the
UN Security Council. But Bush and Blair and other poodles like Howard know
that it will go ahead without public support. I don't think that even a Bay
of Tonkin-style incident will bring them support. People do not believe in
this Al Qaeda/Iraq link up that Bush & Co keep touting, and quite rightly
so!

Paul F


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