EVEN EXPERIENCED protesters were amazed by the size and atmosphere of Thursday's magnificent protest. Thousands poured into the capital from all over Britain, from Aberdeen in northern Scotland to Plymouth in the south, and joined hundreds of thousands more Londoners.
The authorities tried to bully school students into staying at school, but still they came, bursting with confidence and energy. And huge numbers of university students danced and chanted through London streets that belonged to them.
They marched alongside post workers, tube workers, firefighters, health workers and council workers chanting 'George Bush-terrorist', 'George Bush, Uncle Sam-Iraq will be your Vietnam', 'George Bush, we know you-your daddy was a killer too.'
No section of the march was quiet or staid. Chants and whistles echoed from one end to the other. Placards festooned the demo, declaring 'George Bush-number one terrorist' and 'Troops out now-we don't want the organ grinder or his monkey.'
There were also many inventive and incisive home-made banners. One carried a hideous picture of Bush labelled 'The American war wolf in London'. Another said 'And you thought he was pro-life', while another read 'George Bush is a dangerous precedent.'
This was a demonstration that grew bigger with every step. All major London streets along the demo route were lined with people waiting to join the marchers. At Aldwych 1,200 LSE students burst through police lines to join in. On Waterloo Bridge 800 students from King's College swelled the protest with new energy. And hundreds joined from Imperial College, not usually known for its radical students.
The response from people passing on the streets was the warmest that has greeted any anti-war demo. The festive but determined marchers reached Trafalgar Square to find some 8,000 people already there waiting for them. This demo did not shrink as night fell. While some left to get coaches home, thousands of others came out after work.
Trafalgar Square was heaving when, at around 5.30pm, the climax of the demo came. A massive statue of George Bush was toppled, to the jubilation of the vast crowd watching. They had shown the movement has extraordinary life, energy and huge numbers. And for one day the streets were theirs.
'Standing up for what we believe in'
MANY SCHOOL students walked out of their schools on Thursday to join the demonstration against Bush. Some converged at Euston station. A crowd of 30 students from Fortismere School in north London were among the first to arrive.
They told Socialist Worker, 'We've been wanting to send a message to Bush for some time. The war in Iraq is not over-there are still lots of deaths. The Iraqis need their own government. We're not here to bunk off. We're standing up for what we believe in.'
Eventually some 2,000 people gathered outside Euston. Other protesters joined the school students. One student from Camden School for Girls told Socialist Worker, 'This is such a powerful image. Bush will see people walk out of school and work because of their hatred for him. It shows him what the majority feel. We are here because we don't like Bush-it's not about having a day off school.'
A student from Monoux School in London came to Euston with a group of ten friends. She said, 'We don't want Bush to rule the world, and we don't want him to invade other countries. We also want to send a message to people in the US. I don't think Blair really believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He just wanted to stay friendly with the biggest power in the world.'
'The US is pillaging countries'
OVER 2,000 demonstrators attended the alternative state procession organised by the Stop the War Coalition on Wednesday morning. A horse-drawn carriage with a fake Bush and fake queen led the procession, which included cyclists, taxi drivers and a giant pink tank that blew bubbles.
Jackie Turner, who cycled from Tower Hamlets in east London to join the procession, explained to Socialist Worker why she was demonstrating: 'I'm here because I'm against US foreign policy. I deplore the way that the US goes into countries and pillages them, stealing their assets. Our movement is starting to build global relationships to protest against what is happening.'