Some 5,000 people joined the anti-war demonstration in central London on Wednesday to call for troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, freedom for Palestine, and an end to nuclear weapons.
The march was organised by the Stop the War Coalition, CND, the British Muslim Initiative and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as part of the protests in the run-up to this week’s G20 summit in London.
Protesters gathered outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square before marching to a rally in Trafalgar Square. There was anger at the continuing ‘war on terror’, which Barack Obama is intensifying in Afghanistan, and at the economic crisis that is ripping through society.
Large delegations of students from places such as the University of Strathclyde and the University of East London (UEL) attended the demonstration.
Students at both these universities have occupied recently in solidarity with the people of Gaza, as part of the wave of occupations against Israel’s assault on the Palestinians that swept campuses across Britain this year.
Students from UEL told Socialist Worker, ‘The world leaders are spending huge amounts of money on war that would be better spent on ending hunger and poverty around the world.
‘Our university is closed today and tomorrow as the authorities are scared that we will occupy the library. There are police on campus. They didn’t expect us to go into occupation over Gaza.
‘But we are students not terrorists, and we have never shown any sign of violence. Since the occupation everyone seems to be really political on campus. We are taking up lots of different issues, such as fair trade. We are spreading awareness.’
Amber Griffith-Monk and Ella Harrison-Hodge, school students from Walthamstow in north east London, joined the protest.
Amber and Ella told Socialist Worker, ‘With the G20 here, we want to make sure the world’s leader listen to us. They are occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, and say they are getting out, but will they?
‘They are not doing enough to stop the war. Barack Obama says he will try to stop it – and we are here to try to make sure he does.’
Jeremy Corbyn, the left wing Labour MP, told the rally, ‘Free market capitalism has created enormous wealth for a minority and unbelievable poverty for the majority. This cannot go on.
‘We are demanding that jobs are protected and workers are not thrown onto the scrapheap. We demand that the £25 billions spent on arms and war is spent on dealing with social problems here and around the world.’
Arthur Scargill, the president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) who led the Miners’ Strike of 1984-5, also spoke at the rally.
To great applause, he said, ‘The miners and the women’s support groups all stand full square with the movement against war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and against Israel’s attacks on the Palestinians.
‘We have the credit crunch and the government is giving billions to banks to give golden handshakes to bankers. I’d put them all in brass handcuffs and take them away.
‘They should give the money to people to pay off their mortgages and debts. We need a change in the system. Capitalism has demonstrated its inability to deal with the issues at stake.’
Dr Daud Abdullah from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) addressed the protest. The government has recently witch-hunted him, demanding that the MCB remove from his elected position of deputy general secretary because of his support for the Palestinian people’s struggle against Israel.
He said, ‘We want the world leaders to reaffirm their commitment to human rights before they leave London. We want an end to discrimination, racism, oppression, injustice and occupation. The people of the world want peace not war, food not guns, medicine not bombs – give it to us now.’
Lindsey German, the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, urged people to join the protests at the G20 summit tomorrow.
‘We have put protest back at the centre of politics this week,’ she said. ‘We are told that the demonstrations are all about violence, but it is the police who repeatedly try to hype them up, put on their riot gear and make demonstrations as difficult as possible to go on.
‘Politicians and the media describe us as ‘troublemakers’, but the real troublemakers will be at the Excel Centre tomorrow. They have bombed the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. Come to the Excel Centre tomorrow and help send our message to the G20 leaders.’
Assemble 11am, Thursday 2 April, roundabout at end of Tidal Basin Road, E16 1AD. Nearest working tube/DLR: Canning Town.
News in brief from workers' struggles
Outsourced cleaners are fighting back
Organise to finish fascist Tommy Robinson