The global anti-war movement has not weakened since Bush and Blair began their war on Thursday of last week. It has reached an even greater scale. Millions marched, struck and protested last Thursday. And on Saturday millions took to the streets in at least 27 different countries.
Across the US there were as many people on the streets as at the height of the protests against the Vietnam War. The worldwide demonstrations have been especially powerful in the very places that George W Bush fears the most. Anger at the war has swept across the Middle East.
Most importantly there have been large and militant protests in Egypt. Egypt, with a population of 90 million, has been allied to the US for the last 30 years and, after Israel, is the second biggest recipient of US aid.
‘We called the anti-war demonstration in Cairo last week our ‘Tahrir intifada’. Tahrir Square is at the centre of the city. We filled it with tens of thousands of protesters on Thursday, singing and chanting against war-not just against Bush and Blair, but against our own president, Mubarak, who is implicated in the crimes being done to the people of Iraq.
First, students from the American University in Cairo led a march on the US embassy. We were forced back by riot police using water cannon, electric sticks and dogs. But the police here are not used to protests on this scale and they left the main square to us.
For hours the square and the streets nearby were liberated territory. By evening people returning from work had heard about the events and many more joined us. People brought candles, food and drink. A band arrived. For most of us this was a first taste of freedom in the streets. The Tahrir intifada was our Seattle. But soon it was followed by the usual violence of our regime-we went from Seattle to Genoa. On Friday even more people, about 50,000, met at Al Azhar and marched towards Tahrir.
This time the riot police were there in thousands and they attacked from the start. There was a madness about their violence. Hundreds were arrested then and later when police broke into the offices of the lawyers’ association and the Nasserist Party, from which four MPs were dragged out. The regime took off the facade of ‘civility’ and assumed its role as a brutal dictatorship.
Even after the demonstration plain clothes security police wandered the streets seizing hundreds of young people including many who had no connection to the protest. They think they can deal a blow to our movement and suppress it once and for all. We must prove them wrong.
We have called another demonstration to show that we can hold our ground. The regime is weaker and more divided than it has ever been. It is uncertain about our movement, our voice against war and oppression and for freedom. We have seen what is possible. We want the streets to be ours.’
There were other demonstrations across the Middle East. In Jordan thousands of students, trade unionists, members of opposition parties and womens’ organisations joined protests in the capital of Amman. Police attacked students with gas at Amman university.
Thousands marched in Beirut, Tripoli, and Zahle in Lebanon. Palestinian refugees burnt US flags and products in Tyre. In Afghanistan some 1,000 people joined an anti-war march in the Laghman province.
At least one million people joined demonstrations on Saturday in Spain, run by Bush and Blair’s staunchest ally, the right wing Jose Maria Aznar. Some 500,000 marched in Barcelona and hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Madrid, with big demonstrations in smaller towns.
The Spanish police have responded by violently rounding on the protests. In Madrid police wielded batons and fired rubber bullets against demonstrators and arrested hundreds. Kevin Dawson, a British anti-war activist, reported from Madrid, ‘On Thursday thousands of workers with their affiliated unions protested against the war. Earlier in the day school kids in their thousands protested, followed by a march with thousands of angry college students. The demonstration on Saturday brought out hundreds of thousands. The protesters were peaceful, but again the police brutality was excessive.’
In Italy, led by Blair’s right wing ally Silvio Berlusconi, hundreds of thousands of workers took part in a four hour general strike last Thursday. Then on Saturday ‘there were big demonstrations in every Italian city,’ reports Luciano Muhlbauer from the Cobas trade union.
‘The biggest was in Milan where over 200,000 people participated. There were also 100,000 marching in Rome. Things happened in towns and villages as well. Altogether around one million people were involved. There were protests at the US bases in Sicily and northern Italy on Sunday. There was a teachers’ strike on Monday about problems in negotiations. The teachers made ‘No to war’ one of the slogans. Some of the unions have decided to strike against war on 2 April and are trying to involve the other unions.’
In Greece 20,000 marched in Athens on Saturday, with protests in 35 other cities. The day before workers across Greece took part in a general strike against the war. Some 500,000 participated in demos over Greece that day. In Turkey 5,000 joined a march called by trade unions in Izmit, near Istanbul. The next day several thousand marched to the US consulate in central Istanbul. In Australia up to 100,000 rallied in Sydney. Thousands also marched in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
In Canada 200,000 people marched in Montreal, with thousands in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and many other towns. Members of the longshore workers’ union have voted to refuse to ship military goods in Canada.
Other demonstrations included 50,000 in Lahore, Pakistan; 12,000 in Malaysia; 4,000 in New Zealand; 3,000 in Seoul, South Korea; 120,000 in Amsterdam, Holland; 150,000 in 30 cities across France; 40,000 in Helsinki, Finland; 50,000 in Berlin, with up to 100,000 in other towns across Germany; 40,000 in Berne, Switzerland; 35,000 in Lisbon, Portugal; 30,000 in Vienna, Austria; 15,000 in Stockholm and 15,000 in Gothenburg, Sweden; 5,000 in Oslo, Norway; and 6,000 in Brussels, Belgium.
Over a quarter of a million people filled New York last Saturday in a vibrant multiracial protest. It included large groups of high school and college students. A group of relatives of people killed on 11 September carried a placard which read ‘It is 9/11 in Baghdad’.
One marcher, Lisa, said, ‘This war is completely based on lies. The biggest thing is not even oil., it’s about power. The folks who are in power want to keep it and expand it.’ Sasha Wright in the Left Turn socialist group reported from San Francisco, ‘The creativity and militancy that began on Thursday surpassed everybody’s expectations.
‘The main streets were shut by successive waves of blockaders who used everything from burning bales of hay to chains. The police arrested 1,600 in the first 24 hours. But despite the heavy police repression the protests are continuing.’ Around 40,000 marched in Portland, Oregon, and 20,000 marched in Los Angeles.
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