THOUSANDS OF people joined the emergency Stop the War Coalition demonstration in central London last Saturday. The loud, lively protest called for an end to the torture of Iraqis by US and British troops and the occupation of Iraq. At the rally in Trafalgar Square Lindsey German, the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition and Respect candidate, said, “The images we are seeing today rank with some of the worst images of war, torture and occupation. Is this liberation? Are these the civilised values of Bush and Blair? This is a fantastic turnout at eight days notice, because we’re a fantastic movement. We will continue to demonstrate until every foreign troop is withdrawn from Iraq, and Bush and Blair are driven from office.”
Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, said, “The only way to resolve this horror is to bring our troops out of Iraq immediately.”
STAFF AND students at the London School of Economics held a lively picket outside a seminar last week which featured Simon Haselock, the head of media development and regulation for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) of Iraq, as its keynote speaker.
As soon as word of the event got out, its organisers came under pressure. LSE Staff Against the War and LSE Stop the War Coalition circulated an open letter stating that the decision to invite a high-ranking representative of the CPA in the current political climate was ill conceived and distasteful.
The letter also questioned the composition of the panel, which was overwhelmingly Western and white, and excluded the voices of Arab journalists, especially Iraqis.
“Since the invasion of Iraq last year a dozen journalists have been killed by US forces. Iraqi newspapers have been shut down for ‘incitement’, and Arab TV channels banned by the US-installed governing council,” said Gavin Capps, a teacher in the Development Studies Institute, a member of LSE Staff Against the War. “And now we hear that Iraqi journalists working for Reuters have been degraded and humiliated in Abu Ghraib prison by US troops.”
The event organisers were forced to read out a statement from the protesters at the start of the seminar. Some activists also attended the seminar to challenge the panelists. Meanwhile protesters outside chanted, “Simon says it’s liberation-we call it occupation!”
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