Socialist Worker

What a day it was!

Issue No. 1821

AS YOUNG people who live in the north of England in a small town called Burnley, it seems near impossible to get our voices heard on anything in the world. Feelings of helplessness and uselessness are always associated with our concern for Palestinians, or any other oppressed people. But the 'Don't attack Iraq' demonstration gave us a voice we've never had before and helped us to conquer these feelings of helplessness.

To shout, to express what we felt, gave us an indescribable natural high. People of countless different cultures, religions and backgrounds surrounded us. It seemed as if we all put aside our different labels and united together as one to protest against the injustice of this supposed 'war'.

Usually on visits to London if you ever bump into someone you receive growls, but on Saturday 28 September 2002 all we received were reassuring smiles. We would like to thank members of the Anti Nazi League for giving us the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing event.
Nicola Han and Shehryar Malik (both 17 year old A-level students at Burnley Sixth Form Centre)

WE CAME from Scotland in coaches and trains to be part of the anti-war demonstration on 28 September. When we joined the back of the huge demo tens of thousands of people were forming up behind us. It took so long to get going that our Fife contingent moved up a side street to the Strand.

Our banner read 'Capitalism + oil = war. Don't attack Iraq. Liberate Palestine now'. The CWU postal workers' union banner was just behind us, and we led 10,000 people past Trafalgar Square and up to Oxford Circus. The police were powerless to stop us. The traffic came to a halt, and Oxford Street stopped.

Building workers waved stop the war placards. We chanted 'Join the march and stop the war', and all the way up Oxford Street shoppers came off the side to join us. Outside Marks & Spencer we burnt the stars and stripes. The police tried to stop us but they were quickly surrounded and decided to retreat. We then joined the massive crowd in Hyde Park.

We were hot, hoarse and happy when we set off back to Scotland. Many people joined the Scottish Socialist Party on the coaches. Even old stagers like myself had never seen anything like this demonstration. What a day!
Colin Cameron, North East Fife Scottish Socialist Party

I WAS proud to be one of the lesbian and gay people who marched behind the Out Against the War 'Don't attack Iraq' banner on the demo. At the Embankment we were happily surprised to find around 50 people gathering around the banner.

Everyone was really determined to march as a group. They waited for around two hours before moving off, but nobody wandered away. We got a brilliant response from everyone on the march. Some people had predicted that we would get abuse from Muslims or even be beaten up.

But in fact, like all the rest, Muslims were pleased to see us there. As we moved through Trafalgar Square our chanting drew young people round us. When we got to Hyde Park a gay Iraqi man came up to the banner. He was so pleased to see us and very interested in the group's future activities.

There were so many positive aspects to the demo. As well as the joy of being part of such a mass movement, it was great that we organised an 'out' contingent.
Jill Elder, East London

SOCIALIST Worker would like to say a big thank you to all the photographers, including Nic Psaria, Richard Searle, James O'Nions, www.arbeiterfotografie. com, Angela Stapleford, Ray Smith and Jess Hurd, who sent in pictures of the march.

A tale of two protests in 'liberal' paper

NATURALLY, THE 'Don't attack Iraq' march was atrociously underreported in the right wing press which had gone overboard to report the reactionary rag, tag and bobtail that had marched through London the week before. But surely the 'liberal' Guardian would give the anti-war march full, fair and sympathetic coverage?

The Countryside Alliance march had claimed more than half the Guardian front page. The organisers' own estimate of 400,000 marchers, with which (surprise, surprise) the police agreed, was trumpeted in large type above this article. Further reports and photographs covered the whole of pages 4 and 5. Written material totalled 115 column inches.

By contrast, our march got no mention at all on the Guardian front page. A very much shorter report, a large, uninformative cartoon and some interviews with marchers that didn't quite fill page 4. In terms of column inches, the paper devoted a measly 25 inches to the anti-war march. The report quoted an attendance of 'up to' 400,000, but this was 'according to organisers'.

It then went on to repeat, without any qualification, that 'the Liberty and Livelihood demonstration drew more than 400,000 supporters.' The Guardian devoted over four and a half times more words to the essentially reactionary, incoherent and contradictory Countryside Alliance demonstration than to the liberal and progressive anti-war demonstration.

It reported their number estimate as fact while ours was opinion. With friends like the Guardian, who needs any enemies?
Michael Green, Knighton, Powys

Remember Vic's case

MANY EVENTS and writings marked the anniversary of the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Centre. But another 11 September anniversary went by unnoticed. On 11 September 1991 British soldier Vic Williams was court-martialled for objecting to the US-led attack on Iraq.

Vic took a very brave stand under very difficult circumstances. As British armed servicemen and women are again being asked to go and risk their lives for the sake of US oil companies, they should pause and remember Vic Williams.

They should question whether it is right that while the oil bosses sit in their leather chairs thousands of miles away from the area of conflict, rubbing their hands at the prospect of getting extremely rich, they will be left disabled or dead.
Mark Campbell, South London

There's a new mood in 'old' universities

THANK YOU for your report on the Unison London weighting dispute in 'old' universities (Socialist Worker, 28 September). This dispute has erupted because of a freeze on London weighting for 11 years. It currently stands at £2,134.

This strike was a huge success which culminated in an impromptu march around colleges in Malet Place in central London, and a rally. Yours was the only coverage I have seen in the media. However, I must make one important factual correction to your report. The strike did not involve only 'admin' workers but all the low paid support workers in old London universities.

The majority of these are manual and ancillary workers. The dispute is important for this section of workers, as London weighting makes up a higher proportion of their wage.
Tom Silverlock, UCL Unison branch secretary, and member of Unison Higher Education Service Group Executive (both personal capacity)

Postal points

SOME politicians claim that it will be OK to have a war against Iraq so long as it is sanctioned by the United Nations. We should remember the UN's real history. With the particular backing of Stalinist Russia and the US, the UN created the state of Israel in 1948. It immediately allocated over half the land to Jews who made up less than one third of the population.

This is still the basis of the injustice and violence in the area. The UN was also centrally involved in the bloody Gulf War of 1991.
Jamie Rankin, West London

THE PICTURES from the anti-IMF demonstration in Washington depicting protesters being hauled off by riot police illustrates a growing protest movement in the US. One of the protesters commented that such heavy handed policing 'shouldn't be happening in America'. Such protests are becoming more and more frequent, and the government's response is more and more repression.

There is a slow realisation among many Americans that something is seriously wrong with their nation, and that batons and arrests have been used before, and failed to stop diverse and rooted movements such as the Vietnam War protests.
Derek Fraser

A FILM called Free Wheelers, which dealt with life in a wheelchair, was shown on BBC2 last week. The individuals featured were inspiring, particularly a young schoolgirl called Krystie who has Friedrich's Ataxia. I was constantly saying to myself, 'Good on you - I think like that too.'

However, it was noticeable that the programme only showed individuals from a fairly comfortable middle class background, and didn't face the dreadful drive to force disabled working class people off benefits.

Our slogan 'Welfare not warfare' rings especially true. Our rulers can always find the money to drop bombs on some poor souls but not to improve lives.
Colin Yates, East London

I REMEMBER seeing pictures of Kurdish families fleeing to the mountains in 1991 after they were abandoned by the US. Now Bush claims to care for the Kurds. US foreign policy regarding the whole of the Middle East is hypocritical. They back Israel to the hilt with aid and weapons of mass destruction because Israel is a satellite of US imperialism.
Andrew Garbett, Bournemouth

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Article information

Sat 12 Oct 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1821
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