Socialist Worker

Thousands take to the streets in fury

You would hardly know it from the mainstream media, but the start of war saw militant protests in every corner of Britain.

Issue No. 1843a

ALL THROUGH Thursday people marched, protested, blocked roads, occupied buildings. At the heart of the protests was a magnificent mobilisation of school and further education college students.

Delegations of workers joined them during the day in many towns on lunchtime protests. In some places workers went further and walked out. Everywhere there are reports that only management threats of sacking and disciplinary measures prevented more workers walking out. In major towns thousands protested during the day, and more joined angry evening demonstrations.

Sheffield saw 2,500, Birmingham 6,000, Bristol, Glasgow and Manchester at least 5,000 each, and York 4,000, join protests. Smaller towns also saw impressive protests, with 500 staff and students walking out of Blackburn College, and 300 marching in Swindon, 500 in Stirling, 200 in Worthing, 1,200 in Exeter. In London school students showed the way as they walked out of classes. Many then walked miles to converge on parliament.

As day turned to evening many of the younger school students left to travel home, but their place was taken by older people pouring in after work. In all over 20,000 people managed to make their way to Parliament Square, determined to carry their message of 'No War! Blair Out!' to the heart of government. By 7pm the crowd has swelled to fill the whole of the square.

Even as many protesters began to leave later in the evening, more were arriving. Cheers went up as groups of protesters marched in. Around 700 students and staff from University College London were applauded as they poured into the square in the early evening.

A succession of speakers addressed the ever changing crowd throughout the day. George Galloway MP, Tariq Ali, Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition and many others all expressed the anger people felt, urged people to build Saturday's national demonstration and keep up the anti-war protests.

'We will continue to oppose this war. Never before have we had a movement this big on the day after a war has begun. This is only the beginning,' said Lindsey German.

Clare Short slammed by aid agencies

CLARE SHORT is supporting the slaughter of Iraqi civilians to keep her career. Her 'friends' in the aid agencies are furious. The Red Cross say they did not ask her to continue in government. War on Want added, 'If she thinks the UN will have anything to do with reconstructing Iraq she is really quite naive.

'I can only describe her behaviour as bizarre. We would support her resignation and were very disappointed with her decision to stay. The point is not to rebuild the country. It is stopping the war in the first place.' Short has insisted part of her decision to stay in her £120,000 job was to co-ordinate the humanitarian relief effort in Iraq.

But Graham Payne of Rapid UK, one of the emergency aid agencies, said, 'We've heard not a word. No one has. We've had no meetings, nothing. Meanwhile one of the lies used by Bush and Blair has been exposed. They claimed that Iraq had mobile laboratories for making chemical and biological weapons.

But one of the weapons inspectors has now rubbished Bush and Blair. 'None of their hot tips was ever confirmed. I do not know of a single truck that did not turn out to be a fire engine or a water truck,' said Jorn Siljeholm from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 'It's sad to see unfinished business completed by other means,' says another inspector, Miroslav Gregoiic.

East London

Schools show the right spirit

TOWER HAMLETS in east London saw an inspirational day of protests. Thousands of school students exploded in anger at the war. Council workers, college lecturers, as well as some teachers and tube workers, walked out to join marches which blocked roads and won applause from bystanders.

At its height up to 3,000 people formed the biggest demonstration the borough has seen for years. Around half the protesters then marched six miles through the City of London to reach parliament.

The driving force was the spirit of the school students, from all sections of the borough's ethnic mix, Bengali, Somali, black and white. They pushed the protest on with their energy and militancy. Hundreds of students from Stepney Green school had taken the lead when they walked out.

At lunchtime hundreds of students and staff at Tower Hamlets College walked out and started a winding, improvised and amazing march. Council workers walked out to join them, as did delegations of civil servants and local health workers.

As the protest made its way onwards there was a magnificent moment as hundreds of students and striking teachers at St Paul's Way School walked out too and took to the streets. Huge cheers went up as the two marches met. Minutes later the swelling protests were joined by hundreds more people who had rallied at Mile End Park, including a group of tube workers who had walked out. At the other end of the borough the Stepney Green students had now been joined by more school students and workers.

There were more amazing scenes as they took to the streets and again two marches met. Led by school and FE students, a huge chunk of the march then set off for parliament, five miles distant. They pressed on as police attempted to block the route.

As the march finally reached parliament school students were keeping up their tireless chants of 'We don't want your bloody war!' They, and exhausted workers who had managed to keep up, had a mixture of anger and pride - anger at the murder being committed by Bush and Blair, pride in the determination shown to fight that barbarity.
Paul McGarr

Exeter occupation

AROUND 800 school students walked out from Priory, West Exe, St Peters and other schools in Exeter. They went up to the city centre and met the lunchtime rally where university students joined them. Around 1,200 people protested during the day.

The main road bridge was blockaded and the tax office was occupied. Elsewhere in Devon 500 kids walked out of lessons from Clyst Vale school and held a protest meeting on the playground that went on all day.
Lizi Allnatt and Fran Chuoles

Ouse Bridge?

UP TO 300 school students walked out of schools across York and marched. They were joined by up to 40 City of York council workers and 24 staff who walked out from York University.

Around 1,000 people assembled at 6pm. To chants of 'Ouse Bridge? Our bridge!', we blocked one of the main bridges over the river Ouse.
Frank Ormston

Disobedient day

LIVERPOOL EXPERIENCED an entire day of civil disobedience, beginning with school and workplace walkouts at 11am, and continuing long into the evening. Two hundred school students walked out of Calderstones School at 11am.

By mid afternoon seven other city schools had joined the city centre demonstration. Workers held protests at civil service offices, the AC Delco factory and elsewhere.

At 5pm the rest of the city arrived, and around 3,000 people assembled and marched through the city, with union banners from the NUT, RMT, Unison and FBU unions.
Daniel Swaine, school student

Coventry marches

WE HAD 1,200 tonight at Coventry Cathedral, then marched round the city. Dave Kersey, from the Unison union, reported to cheers that 100 workers had walked out at lunchtime and held a rally. Workers at Marconi held a factory gate meeting.
Penny Hicks

Nottingham demo

WE HAD one of the biggest, most amazing demos Nottingham has ever seen on Thursday evening. Around 3,000-4,000 people attended. We decided to have an impromptu march. We blocked the main road into the city centre.
Kim Harrison

STOP THE WAR COALITION Phone 020 7053 2153/4/5/6 E-mail Web here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Sun 23 Mar 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1843a
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