Socialist Worker

Up to 200,000 march in London against war and occupation

Issue No. 1943

Marching against war and occuptation, London, 19 March. (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Marching against war and occuptation, London, 19 March. (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Up to 200,000 people from across Britain marched through the streets of central London this Saturday 19 March to mark two years since the invasion of Iraq.

The march went past the US embassy where members of Military Families Against the War laid a coffin to remember all the dead caused by the war and a two minute silence was held.

The huge size of the protest showed the level of anger at the occupation of Iraq, attacks on civil liberties and George Bush’s threats against Syria and Iran. It also showed the vibrancy and determination of the anti-war movement.

Salma Yaqoob, from the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition, told the rally in Trafalgar Square, “I stand here with confidence because we have built the biggest movement which says that what unites us is more important than what divides us.

“The ‘war on terror’ is a war of terror. There is the economic terrorism killing 30,000 children a day. Let’s continue our fight to make war and poverty history.

Paul Mackney, the general secretary of the Natfhe lecturers union, said, “The TUC which represents seven million people has a policy to support a speedy withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

“The government says it acts in the name of human rights and for democracy — tell them that in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Belmarsh.

“Blair, if you want to win this election, you need to get out of Iraq — you need to allow the Iraqi people to rule themselves. You need to abolish top up fees, renationalise the railways, fund pensions and support justice for Palestine.

“We have to be prepared to keep going on demonstrations like this until the troops get out of Iraq.”

Tony Benn said, “This is a peace movement on a global scale, 99 percent of the people in the world support the aims of this movement.

“The war in Iraq was illegal. America and Britain broke international law. This was not only an illegal war, it was an immoral war, with 100,000 Iraqis dead, with Fallujah destroyed and with Iraqis tortured.

We are the first generation in history who could destroy the human race — and we are also the first generation who are able, who have the resources to solve the problems of the world.”

Billy Hayes, the general secretary of the CWU postal and telecoms union, said, “What a great day, after two years of an unjust war to see 200,000 people demonstrate.

“The government treated you, the British people and the world like fools. But you refused to be fooled.

“Despite the election in Iraq the occupation will continue unless we oppose it. Many people say we should put Iraq behind us, but we will not put Iraq behind us until we see the back of the last US or British tank leaving Iraq.

“Lets keep campaigning. Troops out!”

Lindsey German, the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, said, “Bush has said that the Syrian troops need to leave, that free and fair elections are not possible under foreign occupation. If that is right then US and UK troops get out.

“Blair has said that Iraq is not an issue for this election. Why not? If they are proud of what they have done, why not campaign on the issue?

“In July the murderers of the world will gather in Scotland for the G8. I hope to see everyone at the Make Poverty History demo.”

There was a deep feeling that people should use the expected general election to punish Tony Blair.

Tariq Ali, the activist and writer, said to huge cheers, “It’s no good simply marching. We need to get together and get the warmongering MPs out.

“We need to support those who voted against the war. We have to make sure that George Galloway MP gets back into parliament.

“If you don’t want to see Blair’s ghastly, triumphant face after the election make sure every MP is confronted over the issue of the war and make this a political campaign.”

George Galloway, the Respect MP, said, “Any US attack on any country will be opposed around the world.

“Every marcher should ask their MP whether they voted to kill 100,000 in Iraq and do they refuse to support immediate troop withdrawal.

“If the answer to those questions is yes, you must punish them at the ballot box. If they don’t pay for the crimes as big as this, why should they stop doing it? We should march and protest, but it is meaningless unless we vote in overwhelming numbers to clear out the warmongers in Downing Street and their puppets in Westminster.”

Part of the crowd in Trafalgar Square, London, 19 March. (Pic:

Part of the crowd in Trafalgar Square, London, 19 March. (Pic: Angela Stapleford)

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