Huge Stop the War Demo
Depending on whom you believe the huge demonstration in London on February 15 2003 against the impending Iraq war attracted 750,000 participants (the police); 1 million (the BBC); even 2 million (the organisers). Numerous enough that two start points were agreed with the police, The Embankment and Gower Street; the two columns merging at Piccadilly and continuing to Hyde Park for the rally (in spite of official attempts to deny access there – the reason of course fears for the grass rather than any ignoble attempt to stifle protest).
On a miserable February day people arrived from all over the country to make their feelings known to politicians who were ignoring what they wished; and continued to do so. One of the striking things about the event was the breadth of support: as ever SWP college lecturers marched; but so did rural WI members; school-kids; nuns; and celebrities like Alexander McQueen, Banksy and Tim Robbins, whose comment that this was “what democracy looks like” highlighted the disconnect between the traditional political parties and the evident will of the people. The only major party leader to speak was Charles Kennedy, his parliamentary party’s position rather different from most attending, and from most of its grass-roots members.
But other more committed voices were heard: the late great Mo Mowlam; and veteran radical Tony Benn. Ken Livingstone helped facilitate the day; CND backed it along with Greenpeace.
In Glasgow perhaps another 75,000 rallied; in Belfast 20,000. Yet Tony Blair managed to persuade his parliamentary colleagues to follow his increasingly isolated lead. And MPs ponder why fewer of us bother to vote at elections.
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