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20 February 2003 Edition

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Millions march for peace across the globe

Millions of people walked the streets of the world's major cities last weekend to oppose the war against Iraq


Rome: 1-2.5 million



Between 1 million and 2.5 million people - police versus organisers' figures, respectively - wrapped in rainbow peace flags and chanting slogans against war on Iraq - flooded central Rome on Saturday 15 February.

Hundreds of buses and two dozen special trains ferried protesters from around Italy to the capital for a march that wound for several miles through central Rome.

Several dozen marchers from Genoa held up pictures of Iraqi artists. "We're carrying these photos to show the other face of the Iraqi people that the TV doesn't show," said 38-year-old Giovanna Marenzana.

The procession wound its way toward San Giovanni Square, where activists had set up a stage featuring the words "Let's Stop the War".

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has been one of US President George Bush's staunchest supporters in Europe but this demonstration reinforced recent polls indicating that a strong majority of Italians oppose war.


Amsterdam: 100,000+



The demonstration in Amsterdam, Netherlands, took off from Dam square, in the city centre, which was not big enough to hold all the protesters.

Already at 12, one hour before the official beginning, people crowded before the main stage. There was a replica of Pablo Picasso's famous anti-war painting Guernica - a copy of which at the UN was covered when Colin Powell spoke in order to "protect" TV audiences from obvious parallels.

Buses from western Germany travelled to Amsterdam - it being closer than Berlin, where over half a million people were demonstrating.


Tokyo: 25,000+



More than 25,000 marched for peace in Japan on Friday 14 February, including victims of US weapons of mass destruction - survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively.

The rally was called by artists and journalists in Japan to show solidarity with the international anti-war actions around the world the next day.

According to an opinion poll, a majority in Japan opposes the war on Iraq, no matter what UN Security Council decides.


Mexico City: 10-15,000



Guatemalan Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchú and Mexican writer Carlos Montemayor addressed thousands of anti-war demonstrators gathered near the centre of the city in what was the biggest demonstration Mexico City has seen against US foreign policy since the Vietnam era.

"We have paid for others' wars," Rigoberta Menchú said. "Because each time a war happens, the world's economy suffers. How many chemical or biological weapons does the US have?" she asked an applauding crowd. "And where are they kept? The North American people cannot win their happiness from the misery of other peoples. What did they win from all the wars and torture in Central America? Nothing but a historic mark of shame."

Contingents of South American exiles marched together beneath their native flags. Most conspicuous among them was a group of elderly women who said they fled Chile after the coup d'etat that saw Augusto Pinochet come to power. "That was a coup organised 30 years ago by President Nixon," one of them explained.

"The powerful have plans with names: Plan Colombia, Plan Puebla Panama, the Free Trade Area of the Americas," Carlos Montemayor said. "Peace isn't only the absence of war. When the peoples of the world commit to free trade, they are surrendering their freedom to the rule of international consortiums. Another world is possible."


Madrid: 1-2 million



"The only prevention to this war is called peace," said film director Pedro Almodovar in a short speech at a packed Puerta del Sol square in Madrid.

Police gauged the Madrid turnout at 660,000. Organisers - ecology, anti-war, leftist political and other groups - claimed nearly 2 million attended.

Most Spaniards - 80% according with the latest poll - oppose the war. Every opposition party in parliament has requested Aznar's ruling Popular Party to oppose war under almost any circumstance, and to endorse the view that UN inspectors be given more time to verify whether or not Iraq has chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction.

"If they (politicians) listen to us, for the first time in history we'll be able to stop a war before it starts," said 71-year-old Carlos Quevedo.


Sydney: 250,000



Organisers of a Sydney march claimed at least 250,000 people had turned out to protest against US threats of military action in Iraq.

An estimated 150,000 people marched in Melbourne in protest against US threats to strike Iraq.


New York: 500,000+



Over 500,000 protesters braved sub-freezing temperatures, the lack of a march permit, an oddly timed "Code Orange" terror alert, and an avalanche of pro-war propaganda from the commercial media to seize the streets and protest war on Iraq. The rally at Dag Hammerskjold plaza stretched north along 1st Avenue for 59 blocks, featuring an array of local and international speakers. The event was described by observers as inspiring and largely trouble-free.


Tel Aviv: 2,000+



Although Israel itself is a potential target of Iraqi attack in the case of war, marchers said their opposition to a war was based on moral and ideological reasons rather than fear. About 20 counter-demonstrators from Sharon's Likud party called the anti-war protesters traitors and likened Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler, but there was no violence.

The coalition of leftist groups behind the rally said a military attack on Iraq would be unnecessary and damaging.

"With an American attack against Iraq, all the peoples of the Middle East, including us - Israelis and Palestinians - will pay the price; death, destruction and more wars," a joint statement by the organisers said."


Athens: 200,000



In Athens, Greece, demonstrators converged on the American embassy.

Early in the day, in Sintagma square, activists from the Virus collective threw quite yoghurts (the Greek equivalent of throwing a pie) at Kostas Laliotis, the General Secretary of PASOK (the governing party). It was a protest over the government's hypocrisy: supporting the demo on the one hand, while allowing the US military to use military bases in Greece on the other.

Later, hundreds of anarchists engaged in sporadic clashes with the police forces. The police responded with frequent and abundant use of tear gas, causing irritation and anger to the mass of the demonstrators as the skirmishes continued for hours along the route of the demo.


Berlin: 500,000+



In Germany's biggest peace protest since World War II, several Cabinet ministers from thegoverning coalition of Social Democrats and Greens defied a request by Gerhard Schroeder to stay away and took part, along with young people with peace signs painted on their faces and elderly Germans who remembered the war.

"We Germans in particular have a duty to do everything to ensure that war - above all a war of aggression - never again becomes a legitimate means of policy," shouted Friedrich Schorlemmer, a Lutheran pastor and former East German pro-democracy activist.

Organisers and police said about 500,000 people turned out for the demonstration, far more than the 100,000 or so expected by organisers.

"We're not taking to the streets to demonstrate against the United States, or for Iraq. We're taking to the streets because we want a peaceful resolution of the Iraq conflict," said Michael Sommer, the head of the German Federation of Unions, the main labour umbrella group.

Schroeder steadfastly opposes a war with Iraq and has ruled out committing German troops. Germany is among a majority of countries on the UN Security Council opposed to a war and calling for strengthened weapons inspections instead.


Brussels: 100,000+



Tens of thousands of people, many waving EU flags and signs declaring "No War," marched peacefully through central Brussels on Saturday as part of a global protest against a possible US-led strike against Iraq.

No incidents were reported as the marchers, beating drums, blowing whistles and chanting, progressed in a carnival-like atmosphere in clear, frigid weather.


Other Demonstrations



Auckland: 8-10,000

Barcelona: 1 -2 million

Berne, Switzerland: 40,000

Budapest: 20,000

Buenos Aires: 15,000

Cadiz, Spain: 100,000

Canberra, Australia: 10-15,000

Copenhagen: 35-40,000

Dublin: 100,000+

Edmonton, Canada: 10,000

Girona: 30,000

Goteborg, Sweden: 30,000

Helsinki: 15,000

IruÒea, Basque Country: 20,000

Johannesburg: 10,000

Kolkata, India: 10,000

Las Palmas, Canary Island: 100,000

Lisbon: 100,000

Los Angeles: 75-100,000

Luxemburg: 15-20,000

Lyon: 20,000

Melbourne: 200,000

Minneapolis: 10,000

Montevideo, Uruguay: 50,000

Montpelier, France:15-20,000

Montreal: 150,000

Newcastle, Australia: 20,000

Oslo: 60,000

Oviedo, Spain: 200,000

Paris: 800,000

Perth, Australia: 20,000

Philadelphia: 10,000

Rio de Janeiro: 15,000

San Diego: 10,000

Sao Paulo, Brazil: 30,000

Seattle: 55,000

Seville: 250,000

Stockholm: 80,000

Stuttgart, Germany: 50,000

Thessalonica, Greece: 40,000

Toronto: 80,000

Trondheim, Norway: 11,000

Vancouver: 30,000

Vienna: 20,000

Zagreb, Croatia: 10,000



An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
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