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Issue No. 1842

'NO WAR! Blair out!' was the chant as thousands of protesters converged on Manchester city centre from three separate starting points on Saturday of last week. Some 15,000 people defied appalling weather to join the protests, which coincided with International Women's Day.

From the south of the city came 7,000 people. There were 4,000 from Salford, and 2,000 from Cheetham Hill in north Manchester. The march was backed by the Labour-run Manchester City Council. Numbers on the Cheetham Hill march grew as groups of young people came out of shopping centres to join in.

'Down with Blair! Up with the people!' was one common chant. Joan Horniman told Socialist Worker, 'It makes me really angry that Blair and the government are ignoring public opinion. They should remember who voted them in, and we can get them out.'

Neelam Butt, aged 15, was marching with a group of school students at the head of the feeder march from Cheetham Hill. He said, 'They talk about fighting terrorism, but Bush and Blair are the ones using terrorist methods.

'We have to say no to this war and do everything we can to stop it. If Blair ignores us he should be out of his job.' George Galloway MP won a huge reception. He began by holding up his mobile phone saying, 'This telephone has an open line to a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. I want you in Manchester to send a message to the refugees in the camp where Israeli tanks are murdering people: 'Free, free Palestine!''

The chant was taken up with passion throughout the crowd. He continued: 'If this barbarism of war begins in the next few days, school children should stream out of their schools, the students should stream out of their colleges, and the workers should stream out of their workplaces and head for the centre of Manchester and bring this city to a halt.'
Paul McGarr

OVER 2,000 people braved bad weather to march through Nottingham on Saturday for the biggest political rally in the city in years. Whole families turned up with their homemade placards.

At the rally, the focus was on what to do if Tony Blair insists on going to war. Ghada Razuki from the national office of the Stop the War Coalition made it clear that we were opposed to war even if the US manages to bully and bribe the other members of the UN into passing a second resolution.

Local left Labour MP Alan Simpson highlighted the growing rebellion in the Labour Party.

Steve Ainley from the Fire Brigades Union also spoke, and school student sisters Aurora and Daisy did a rousing double act on the microphone to call for walkouts and stoppages in all schools, colleges and workplaces if the warmongers go ahead.

People queued up to buy their advance coach tickets to London for the demonstration on the Saturday after any outbreak of war. Nottingham protested on Saturday and Nottingham is prepared for the next round.
John Shemeld

AROUND 5,000 people took to the streets of Sheffield against the war last Saturday. There were feeder marches from nearly a dozen districts. Some 1,000 people marched from the west of the city. Hundreds of school, college and university students made up the bulk of the vibrant march.

Many of the school students had struck against war on the Wednesday. 'Around 500 students have marched down from the university,' Ellie Downes from Sheffield University told Socialist Worker.

'There is a big feeling against war in the university - many people feel they have to say something in opposition to this war.' 'This war is a disgrace,' said Donna Upwyle, who had joined the demonstration with her young family. It hardly warrants being called a war. The US and Britain are going to flatten Iraq. Where does it stop? If we get rid of Blair it will stop him doing other crap.'

At the rally demonstrators endorsed Sheffield's 20 delegates to the People's Assembly for Peace in London. Protesters enthusiastically cheered speakers who called for mass civil disobedience.
Matthew Cookson

UP TO 2,500 people marched in Aberdeen, in the largest anti-war protest the city has yet seen. Emma Morrison, chair of Aberdeen Coalition for Justice not War, urged those attending to respond to Tony Benn's call for direct action in the event of war.

Protesters, who included a large number of school, college and university students as well as pensioners and trade unionists, were urged to take the anti-war message into workplaces, colleges, streets and schools.

Gill Thackray, speaking on behalf of the Unison union, said, 'Today, on International Women's Day, I have a choice whether to take my children to McDonald's for lunch, or to feed them something nutritious. 'Women in Iraq do not have that choice. Children are starving because of sanctions, and now our leaders are talking about bombing them.'
John Conon

TWO MARCHES brought 8,000 protesters together outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Thursday of last week. They heard speakers including Tommy Sheridan, George Galloway and Margo MacDonald.

The march from the US consulate started with a humorous attempt by some 'artists against the war' to conduct a weapons inspection on the building, and protesters carried a giant Palestinian flag measuring 60 feet by 20 feet.

People joined the chants of 'Bush, Sharon, you can't hide, we charge you with genocide!' and 'Hell, no! We won't go! We won't die for Texaco!' At the rally loud cheers greeted Tommy Sheridan from the Scottish Socialist Party.

He described the horrendous World Health Organisation report that suggests that in the first five days of the war there could be between 100,000 and 500,000 casualties.

Leading Palestinian, Dr Mustapha Barghouti, spoke by phone from Palestine. He spoke of the double standards applied by the West over the enforcement of UN resolutions.
Paul O'Hanlon, Edinburgh Stop the War

BRIDGEND SAW its biggest demonstration for decades on Saturday when 250 people marched despite pouring rain. The loudest cheers at the rally were for calls for walkouts if war begins and for regime change in London, for Blair to go. The rally elected three local campaigners to the People's Assembly in London.
Jeff Hurford

OVER 500 anti-war protesters from peace groups throughout Somerset marched through Taunton. The demonstration was organised by the newly formed Taunton Stop the War Coalition.

A rally at the town hall heard speakers from Glastonbury, Sedgemoor, Exeter and Taunton pledge their determination to do everything in their power to stop the war.
Patricia Rowe

ALSO ON Saturday 1,000 people marched in Chichester. The police succeeded in alienating large numbers of people by videoing everyone who took part. On the same day 200 people marched in Wakefield, where there were significant numbers of Labour Party members and school students.

Some 400 demonstrated in Sunderland despite an outrageous police ban. School students led a large and loud demonstration through Plymouth, the second in a fortnight.

SOME 50 local residents including pensioners and school students took part in a lively protest in Hackney in east London last Saturday. Victoria Park Stop the War Coalition activists occupied a zebra crossing for an hour to highlight opposition to war.

We received a warm response from car drivers held up by the protest. Many took leaflets calling for civil disobedience when war breaks out.
Carol Williams

THE SEDGEMOOR Peace Group has started distributing 10,000 anti-war leaflets door to door in the Bridgwater area in order to highlight local actions opposing war. These include a weekly Saturday vigil in the town centre, Monday evening meetings and coaches to the national demonstration at the Fairford US military base on Saturday 22 March.
Jeff Brewster

SOME 100 people packed into the Blackwood Miners Institute in the South Wales Valleys to hear a debate between Labour MP Don Touhig and Blackwood Coalition to Stop the War on Sunday.

Don Touhig argued Blair is right to go to war if that is what the 'family of nations' decides. The audience overwhelmingly rejected his arguments and pressed him on the US's role in propping up dictators around the world.

Touhig attempted to argue that those who stood behind Blair were standing in the tradition of those Welsh miners who went to Spain to fight Franco in the 1930s. This was met with some laughter!

A firefighter who had been in Northern Ireland with the British army and whose son is now in Kuwait spoke against the war to huge applause. He said the US was only after oil.
Huw Williams

SOME 100 people protested outside the surgery of David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, on Saturday. They were outraged that he voted in parliament for the war and is reported as saying Tottenham residents are not interested in the issue.
Simon Hester

OTHER LOBBIES of MPs last week included 150 to 200 people in Oxford against government minister Andrew Smith MP.

IN THE biggest local meeting many people can remember, 100 people packed a meeting in the small border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed on Saturday. The discussion focused on the role of the UN and how to take the campaign forward. The meeting sent three delegates to the People's Assembly for Peace.
Gerry Jones

SCARBOROUGH and Whitby New Labour MP Laurie Quinn was taken apart by members of Scarborough Stop the War Coalition at a public meeting on Saturday. Quinn, who voted for war, had agreed to meet us following mass picketing outside his surgery.

The MP, a specialist in gruff northern affability, obviously expected to melt his audience into going along with a polite question and answer session. What he got was a direct, angry, informed challenge from the very outset. He was clearly rattled when 65 out of 70 people voted to give arms inspections as long as necessary and the other five said they should last several more months.

Quinn then left to take a phone call on a subject 'of far greater importance to the people of Scarborough' - the sea wall.
Sue Ram

THERE WERE also public meetings in Spinney Hill in Leicester (100 people) and in Preston (over 80 people).

SOME 70 people turned out in driving rain on Friday of last week to tie ribbons with anti-war messages outside Earlsdon library, Coventry, and 30 people did stop the war stalls in three areas of the city at the weekend.
Penny Hicks

TEACHERS AT St Paul's Way school in Tower Hamlets, east London, have voted to strike if war starts. A union meeting agreed that 'we recognise the need to move from protest to action in order to stop the war. If, and when, the conflict begins, this union group intends to mark this by refusing to treat this like any other day.'

And the meeting agreed they would 'leave school, as a protest strike, at 1.30pm on the day the US and Britain begin bombing to join a local protest.' The meeting also agreed to 'leaflet parents and students informing them of our decision, and encouraging them to join us in a local protest against the war'. The decision was reported to an excellent meeting of Tower Hamlets Stop the War Coalition last week.

It saw representatives from local unions, anti-war groups, community and faith groups, school students and several local councillors discuss building protests against war. The local PCS civil servants' union has voted to walk out on the day war starts, and council workers are discussing the same.
Tower Hamlets Stop the War Coalition

OVER 200 students from Glasgow University walked on Wednesday of last week and blocked various road junctions on the way to Caledonia University. We held a rally, which drew around 500 people, and marched to Strathclyde University where we took over the main building.

The demo then went and blockaded the army recruitment office. Many spectators were pleased and we had a little singsong along the line of 'Everybody come and join us and we'll stop this fucking war'.

Then we forced the closure of the Scottish Labour Party headquarters. We asked to see the general secretary, Lesley Quinn, but she refused saying it was not an 'official demonstration'.

We elected several delegates to go to the People's Assembly and vowed to return and rip the Labour Party headquarters apart.
Aftab Anwar and Peter Nicholls

OVER 200 students at Dundee University struck and occupied the main administration building on Wednesday of last week. About 150 students marched from Dundee Art College to join the protest against war. There was also a students' strike at Monifieth High School.

The feeling in the university occupation was fantastic. The management was powerless as students chanted 'No war on Iraq' and 'Bush and Blair go to hell, we won't go to war for Shell.' The protest elected delegates to the People's Assembly in London and students went away encouraged to build a massive walkout if war starts.
Jamie Allinson

SIX UNISON union members in Manchester have met to campaign for a walkout of council workers at Salisbury House on the day war starts. One of the six reported, 'There are about 100 Unison members here. We're each aiming to win a few more to the idea of striking against the war. 'We'll walk if we can get about 20 members to agree.'
Mike Killian

ABOUT 50 anti-war and anti-pollution protesters joined forces for a noisy lobby of Peter Hain MP at his Neath office on Friday of last week. He seemed rattled when one of the anti-war protesters asked him if he was on the side of Nelson Mandela or George Bush.
Huw Pudner

WEDNESDAY OF last week was Ash Wednesday. So the Stop the War Coalition and Pax Christi, the Catholic peace campaign, on Merseyside marked with ashes the army recruitment centre in protest against war on Iraq and militarism. 'Peace' and 'No war on Iraq' marked the front of the building.
Martin Timson

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Article information

Sat 15 Mar 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1842
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