Socialist Worker

Opening rally of Time to Go demonstration

by Anindya Bhattacharyya
Issue No. 2019

Thousands of anti-war protesters streamed into Albert Square in Manchester today at the start of the Stop the War Coalition's Time To Go demonstration on the eve of the Labour Party conference.

A short rally was held in the blazing sunshine at the beginning of the demonstration before marchers headed off on the circular route around the city centre.

Protesters were set to hold a 'die in' at 2.30pm, lying on the ground to symbolise the countless deaths across Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine caused by Tony Blair's wars in the Middle East.

John Rees of the Stop the War Coalition was one of several speakers to note that it was the anti-war movement that represented majority opinion in the country and had created the political crisis now surrounding Blair's premiership.

'We are still here marching, but Blair is on his way out,' he said. And he added a warning to Blair's probable successor. 'To Gordon Brown, we say if you leave the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, then the same thing that happened to Tony Blair will happen to you.'

The rally was also addressed by Eamonn McCann from the Derry Anti-War Coaltion, who is one of the Raytheon Nine - a group of anti-war protesters currently facing charges for occupying the Raytheon factory in Derry during Israel's recent assault on Lebanon.

He explained how Raytheon produces the cluster bombs and guided missile units used by the Israeli army against the people of Lebanon

'We will face the court not as the accused, but as the accusers of companies like Raytheon that fuel war for the sake of their profits,' he said.

'We are here as part of the growing global resistance to war and imperialism - the real 'international community and the last, best hope for humankind.'

There is a strong trade union involvement in today's anti-war demonstration, with contingents of striking workers from NHS Logistics and Merseyside Fire Brigades Union set to join the march.

Seven national trade unions have provided sponsorship, including the T&G, NUJ, UCU, RMT, PCS, CWU and for the first time Bectu, the broadcasting workers' union.

Bectu national official Anna Murray told the rally that there was a debate within the union about whether to stay affiliated to the Labour Party.

'We decided to stay in - just,' she said. 'But they haven't listened to us on employment law, on limiting the working week, on pensions or on war. We appeal to everyone in the Labour Party conference to start listening to what people are saying.'

Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition, added that the marchers were due to hand in a resolution to the Labour Party from the anti-war movement demanding that the issue of the war be debated during the conference.

Other speakers at the rally included Nahella Ashraf, chair of Greater Manchester Stop the War Coalition, human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger, folk singer Peggy Seeger and Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan.

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Sat 23 Sep 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2019
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