THOUSANDS OF people who could not get to London last Saturday demonstrated in their own cities. Up to 2,500 protesters blocked roads in the centre of Bristol for the third day running while around 4,000 marched through Manchester. Some 1,000 protesters in Newcastle were physically blocked from marching by the police, and 1,000 demonstrated in Aberystwyth, Wales.
Mick described Saturday’s demonstration in Leeds: ‘It started off with 500 people and came back with over 2,000. It was fantastic. There were loads of young people. At the rally at the end we just let anyone speak, students, Iraqi refugees. They were all great. We are going for stalls in town every day, another demo on Thursday and a big lobby of George Moody, our local pro-war MP on Friday.’
Demonstrations took place across Scotland, with 15,000 people marching in Glasgow, 10,000 in Edinburgh and 400 in Aberdeen. The statue of poet Robert Burns in Glasgow was hung with a placard quoting one of his poems, ‘The deities that I adore are social peace and plenty, I’m better pleas’d to make one more than be the death of twenty.’
Jamie Allinson from Dundee told Socialist Worker how protesters greeted the Scottish Labour Party conference: ‘Thousands of people demonstrated across three days against the Labour Party conference. On Thursday around 1,000 school and university students, lecturers and council workers walked out and rallied in the city square, where preparations were being made for the conference. We blocked the main city centre junction and the Tay Road Bridge, the main entrance to Dundee.
‘On Friday a march of 200 from Dundee mosque joined hundreds already demonstrating in the city square. We again occupied the streets and forced the local pro-war MP to leave the conference and justify his actions to the protest. On Saturday another march from the mosque joined around 2,000 demonstrators in a rally at the city square, where anti-war MP John McAllion spoke. The protests forced the conference to debate the war.’
Other towns have experienced continuous protests against war. In St Albans, for example, campaigners staged an angry march on Thursday of last week, then got up on Friday morning and blocked the main road, completely closing the centre to rush hour traffic.
Andy told Socialist Worker, ‘There was a march of 300 people in Swindon on Saturday. Afterwards two double deckers took 100 protesters to RAF Fairford, 12 miles away. ‘On the way we called in to see our pro-war Labour MP and deliver pictures of dead Iraqi children to his house.’ The demonstration at Fairford, where B-52s bombing Baghdad fly from, drew about 2,500 people.
They marched around the base. The police blocked roads and turned many protesters back before they got to Fairford.
About 1,000 people protested at Menwith Hill military communications base in Yorkshire. In Sedgefield, north east England, Ricky reports, ‘The prime minister’s constituency saw its largest demonstrations since the miners’ strike last weekend.
‘Hundreds of angry protesters converged on Tony Blair’s neighbourhood to express their disgust over the invasion of Iraq. Demonstrators had gathered outside Trimdon Labour Club, where party loyalists were to meet with their MP’s representatives. Only a handful of well-heeled Blairites chose to attend. Many delegates stayed away, or slunk inside via a back entrance. Encouraged by this colourful show of strength some villagers and children joined in the picket, and many more showed their support by beeping horns as they passed. The protesters then dispersed to nearby Fishburn where Sedgefield Against the War had organised a rally.’
Helen told Socialist Worker about the protests in the usually quiet towns of the Forest of Dean: ‘Last Thursday we held a rally in Coleford. On Friday lunchtime we leafleted the Royal Forest of Dean College. As we gave out leaflets, students decided to organise a protest. They made their own placards and marched through the college pulling out their mates. On Saturday we went to Fairford. Then on Sunday, because it was a beautiful day, we organised a protest at a local picnic area. Some school students there with their families joined in with us. We organised a vigil in Lydney for Tuesday. We are determined to keep the momentum going.’
Reballots have opened the way to bigger struggle