THERE WERE a number of local anti-war demonstrations last weekend.
AROUND 8,000 protesters marched through Leeds to send an eleventh hour message to Bush and Blair. The biggest demo in Leeds for 20 years was boosted by feeder marches from around the city, including a large contingent of school students. The march was colourful, noisy and very determined to continue opposing war on Iraq.
There were dozens of banners, many from local schools, and a tablecloth with the message 'Buns not bombs'. Organisers were especially pleased with the turnout because the demo was built in just two weeks.
'THE BIGGEST demonstration we've ever seen in the city' was what many people said about the stop the war march in Exeter. Over 3,500 people marched, far more than we were expecting.
Anti-war groups from Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset joined the rally. Coaches brought protesters from Penzance, Bodmin, Plymouth and Barnstaple. Many school students joined the march. Speakers at the rally included a local Iraqi man and musician Billy Bragg. Those speakers who talked about building mass action when war started received the best reception from the crowd.
Lizi Allnatt from Exeter and Pete Heddle from Plymouth both announced they would be standing as Socialist Alliance Against the War candidates in the May local elections. They both got an enthusiastic response.
SOME 3,500 people joined an anti-war demonstration through York, making it one of the largest marches the city has ever seen. Five feeder marches from colleges and local areas gathered at Clifford's Tower. A group of 15 year olds from Eastmoor Comprehensive said, 'We came 15 miles on the bus this morning to get to the demo. A local doctor has been told to get ready to go to join the army out there, and he has a new baby. Why should he have to go and do something he doesn't believe in? Tony Blair should listen to us. It's us that will be paying for it all in the long run.'
The medieval city streets were full of chanting, whistle-blowing protesters marching to a rally outside York Minster. They heard speeches from a broad range of campaigners and peace activists. Chris Fuller from York Against the War got a huge cheer when he said, 'If Bush and Blair launch a military strike, we should launch an anti-war strike. 'If they try to occupy Iraq, we should occupy our schools and colleges.'
THE STOP the War Coalition march in Bournemouth was very successful, with up to 1,000 marchers. There were lots of banners. The march was very lively, with whistles and shouts echoing round the town.
A rally was held in Central Gardens after the march with speeches and music. It all made a great day.
Valerie French and Bob Cox
UP TO 2,000 people demonstrated in Newcastle. At the end of the march around 100 people gathered to hear a reportback from the People's Assembly in London. There were brief animated reports from the delegates followed by a serious discussion about opposing the war.
Then the meeting split into local groups. People living on streets next to each other met for the first time. People had been on their feet for hours, but the gathering was really lively.
AROUND 500 people marched through Tower Hamlets in east London in a protest directed at the two pro-war local Labour MPs. Oona King and Jim Fitzpatrick have ignored the overwhelming anti-war feeling among their constituents and have backed Bush and Blair's war. 'No war-Blair out! No war-Oona out!' was one of the chants of protesters who marched down Brick Lane, the heart of the area's Bangladeshi community, and through Bethnal Green.
A majority of local councillors, from the ruling Labour and opposition Liberal groups, have come out against war.
Tower Hamlets Stop the War Coalition
SOME 500 people turned up to the Coventry stop the war rally on Thursday of last week. Jeremy Corbyn MP, Andrew Murray and Salma Yaqoob from Birmingham Stop the War Coalition spoke before some brilliant contributions from the floor.
Over 200 names were collected from people wanting to get involved in stop the war activities. The rally voted unanimously to support the motion put forward at the People's Assembly.
STUDENTS FROM Hampstead School, Glenda Jackson MP, novelist Maggie Gee and local trade unionists were among the speakers at a lively rally organised by Brent Stop the War on Saturday. The most enthusiastic applause came when speakers emphasised the need to take action on the day war breaks out.
In the morning Stop the War supporters had picketed Paul Boateng MP's surgery in Harlesden. He met ten of them. When one constituent mentioned oil Boateng went ballistic and completely lost his cool.
UP TO 1,000 school students protested in the centre of Oxford against the war last week. We planned the walkout the week before, after our school, Cheney, refused to let us join the national protest.
We produced posters and advertised the protest through word of mouth. The police underestimated how many would show up and only had two people on duty. There were hundreds of students from Cheney, Cherwell, St Augustine's, Isis Middle, Cardinal Newman Middle, Oxford School and Gosford Hill.
The police overreacted and called in police horses. They didn't allow us to assemble near a war memorial, and pushed and shoved us up to the University Parks instead. But the authorities had shut the gates. We were crushed together. That's when we broke through the police lines to get back to the city centre. This wasn't a riot, but a serious protest. We forced them to pack up an army recruitment stall and people now know a lot more about the issues.
ON MONDAY of this week over 300 school students protested in Edinburgh. Most were 13 or 14 years old and from James Gillespies high school. We sat down in Princes Street blocking the traffic for 45 minutes and getting a great response from the public.
The police prevented the protest from getting near the US consulate, but people managed to get back there later to join another planned protest. The most popular chant on the day was 'Down with Bush, Down with Blair!' We left the demonstration with more organisation and plans for future action.
OVER 700 students from two schools in Sussex walked out on Friday of last week to protest against the war. About 500 students at Longhill High School in Rottingdean, about half the total, shouted 'Peace now' and 'No war' as they swarmed on to their playing fields. At the same time over 200 students at Warden Park school in Cuckfield held a sit-down protest on their tennis courts, singing anti-war songs for over an hour.
One of them, Karen Styles, said, 'We want to put our point across about Tony Blair spending so much money on bombs instead of spending it on people who need it in the Third World.
'We're raising money for Comic Relief today and the money spent on bombs should be spent on helping children and people in need.' Longhill student Tim Whibley said, 'I have been following the news and feel very strongly about it. I don't agree with war, as much as Saddam has done stuff in the past. I think we should be able to solve this in a peaceful way.' Longhill head teacher Geoff Ellis said, 'It's the students' initiative and what they said is they want to be heard. I think they have done it in quite a responsible manner.'
But students at another Sussex school, Blatchington Mill school in Hove, were suspended last week for taking part in a national pupils' protest on 5 March.