Over 25,000 people joined the all night vigil for trade justice that began at Westminster Abbey, London, on Friday of last week.
The vigil was part of a week of action highlighting trade rules that force farmers in developing countries to compete with cheaper international imports.
Britain currently holds the presidency of the G8 group of leading industrial nations. A series of events are planned throughout the year, culminating with mass mobilisations for the G8 summit in Scotland in July.
Last Friday’s vigil reflected the growing anger over unfair trade rules, debt and poverty in the Third World. The scale of the event exceeded all expectations — thousands struggled to squeeze into meetings.
Glen Tarmen of the Trade Justice Movement said, “This is a wake up call for political leaders of all the main parties. If elected, they must make sure urgent action is taken if we are to have justice in international trade and start to make poverty history in 2005.
“Our movement is gathering force. We have set a clear challenge to the politicians of our country — act now. No more words. No more unjust trade in our names.”
Samuel Tarry, 22, stayed throughout the night. He told Socialist Worker, “Even at 8am the next morning there were about 6,000 people there for a final march.
“There were events through the night. At 4.30am we held a ‘wake up Blair’ event with a mass shout at Downing Street.”
Kate, a school student from Canterbury, said, “Our church organised a coach and it’s been really good to feel that we are doing something. This year is really important. We have a real opportunity to make the government listen here and at the G8.”
At the opening of the vigil R&B singer Beverley Knight and pianist Jools Holland performed “A Change is Gonna Come”. There were readings by actors Pete Postlethwaite and Vanessa Redgrave.
Crowds filled the streets around Westminster as activists of all ages waited to take part in a candle-lit procession to the gates of Downing Street. They then walked together around Parliament Square, forming a huge, human white band — the symbol of the international campaign to make poverty history.
At midnight there was a minute’s silence to mark the millions of lives being destroyed worldwide by unfair trade laws.
Across Britain similar events were held. An afternoon of “unfair games” in Wolverhampton was very well attended, with the local church groups offering their support.
In St Ives, Cambridgeshire, people gathered in the Market Square, while at Culross Abbey in Fife 100 people came to a candle-lit service.
Rev Andrew McLellan spoke at the Fife event, saying, “The general election provides us all with an ideal opportunity — the politicians are listening and we have to tell them that the time has now come, indeed it is long overdue, for fair trade rules for all.”
Events in Britain coincided with trade justice events in up to 50 countries including Bolivia, Russia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Philippines and the US.
The Globalise Resistance train leaves King’s Cross station London, Friday 1 July and returns Thursday 7 July
Go to www.resist.org.uk for more details
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