Worldwide the people say NO WAR
"Why is it wrong to kill innocent people if you are Saddam Hussein and right to kill innocent people if you are Bush, Blair, Howard or Murdoch", asked John Pilger addressing the huge rally in Sydney last weekend. "This weekend more than 30 million people all over the world are doing what you are doing. They are your comrades — two million in London, five million across the [European] continent, 42 cities in the United States are protesting. "Never has there been such a massive opposition to a war before it began. Never has there been such a worldwide resistance to the terrorism of state power. "Let me assure you finally — our movement is too big to be defeated. This is not to say that the Bush gang can be stopped immediately but the power of public opinion, the moral power and the political power, your power, is far greater than perhaps even many of you realise. "Howard fears public opinion, Blair fears public opinion, and Bush fears public opinion. They fear the best of Australia, they fear the best of Britain and they fear the best of America. "That's why their propaganda is so virulent and their apologists are so shrill. They prefer the old lie that people are apathetic. So let us reassure Bush, Blair and their hangers-on that they have every reason to be afraid. For they and not the Iraqi people are the enemy and we are the majority!" John Pilger said to rousing applause and cheers. Close to a million people rallied and marched in Australia last weekend sending a clear message to the two major parties that a majority do not want war. Their voices were echoed around the globe, as John Pilger told the Sydney rally. The actions were remarkable for the breadth of participation. Many were taking part in a political action for the first time. Families, individuals; all ages, all backgrounds. The trade unions, environmental groups, the churches, peace organisations, ethnic community groups, Indigenous Australians, doctors, teachers, students, pensioners, feminists, gays and lesbians and many others found unprecedented unity. Members of left and green political parties marched alongside members of more conservative political parties, including some from Howard's own Liberal Party. "The huge groundswell of support for the demand for 'No War on Iraq' and 'No Australian involvement' will not go away", said Hannah Middleton from the Walk Against the War Coalition in Sydney. "We will go on demanding peace — in many different ways — until Prime Minister Howard listens and brings the troops home", Hannah Middleton said. SYDNEY: No one can remember anything like it in Sydney. Up to half a million people crammed into Hyde Park North and overflowed into the surrounding streets. The head of the march had circled six city blocks and returned to Hyde Park before the majority had even started. So large was the crowd that organisers were diverting the marchers as they returned to the Domain. The public transport system failed dismally, with thousands crammed into trains or left to walk five or 10 kilometres to the city. They were still arriving an hour or more after the start. It was an overwhelming experience, everyone so patiently understanding the difficulties — they were for the very best of reasons. Speakers included big names such as documentary maker John Pilger, actor John Howard, radio personality and "North Shore mother" Wendy Harmer and jazz musician Jackson Brown. Ray Richmond from the Wayside Chapel, Grenan Dadoun from the Muslim Women's Council, Randa Khadan from the Australian Arabic Communities Council, Greens Senator Bob Brown, ALP MP Laurie Brereton, Democrats Senator Lyn Allison and Peter Baume from Liberals Against the War were amongst the other speakers. BRISBANE: The Roma Street forum was packed to capacity and the people kept coming. One hundred and fifty thousand at least. There has never been a protest rally as large. The rally was opened with a speaker against the development of a US military base in Western Australia. Jim Soorley, Brisbane's Lord Mayor said that this was the largest march ever. The speaker's list was altered to accommodate ALP Opposition leader Simon Crean. He was given a mixed reception, except when he finally declared opposition to war. The people were there to oppose war, to oppose genocide and the mass infanticide proposed by Bush and Howard. Many individuals and groups made their own banners and placards. The most powerful feeling was that the majority wants peace and that the liars are being exposed. "The children in my house are still singing the songs they heard on the march and are exclaiming in youthful astonishment on the arrogance of Howard and his declaration that children will be killed and that this would be the fault of Saddam Hussein", reports David Matters. ADELAIDE: The largest protest ever to take to the streets of Adelaide — around 100,000. They blocked King William Street, Adelaide's main street that can carry six lanes of traffic. Speakers included Allan Badrow. He was just five weeks old and living in Iraq when the last Gulf War broke out. His family suffered the devastating effects of that conflict. He spoke on behalf of the children of the world and pressed the real demands of children — playgrounds, fun and lollies! He denounced the crimes committed and being planned against Iraqi children. Brian Deegan spoke as a parent who had lost a child to war and hatred. Josh Deegan died in the Bali bombing, an event that propelled Brian to become involved in the no war movement. He insisted that this latest war for geo- political advantage would not be fought in his name or that of his son. PERTH: Twenty thousand, many of them young people, marched through Perth streets. Wally Pritchard, Secretary of the WA branch of the MUA and President of Unions WA, spoke of the plans for the take-over of the whole oil industry, while there were no plans for the reconstruction after the destruction from war. He spoke of the role of unions in times of war and the lead given by the Seamen's Union against the Vietnam War. He condemned the millions that would be spent in a futile war. Dee Margetts, MLC (Greens) criticised the proposals for a free trade agreement that could only lead to further control by the US over Australia financially. She spoke of the danger of anthrax vaccine to our servicemen and of the proven damage from depleted uranium shells. Brian Gregg, (Australian Democrats), called for the immediate return of Australian troops. Other speakers were Peter Stewart of the Catholic Church, Ian Bolus CFMEU, and spokespersons from the Kurdish community, the Fremantle anti-nuclear group and the organisation helping refugees. MELBOURNE: The Melbourne demonstration was held on Friday evening and the crowd was immense. An old timer said that this was bigger than any rally at the time of the anti-Vietnam War campaign. Natasha Stott Despoja (Democrats) stressed her total opposition to war under any circumstances — whether sanctioned by the UN or not. Bob Brown (Greens) said it was essential that the campaign should be continuous and that it should resort to the methods of civil disobedience. Other speakers included Peter Watson, the Anglican Bishop of Melbourne and singer Peter Garrett. The demonstration sent a clear message to Bush and his satellites that the only civilised way of seeking a solution to a problem is through negotiations and that the sacrifice of human lives is a criminal price to pay for the greed of the US for oil. In Armidale (northern NSW), a remarkable turnout of 5000 people was perhaps one of the strongest messages to the Government of all. Armidale that has a total population of about 20,000 and is usually regarded as the heartland of the conservative National Party. Other demonstrations in Darwin, Hobart and elsewhere drew large attendances, well beyond the wildest expectations of organisers. Last weekend's actions followed on from the many highly successful regional and country protests the weekend before. (See last week's Guardian.) INTERNATIONAL: The hundreds of demonstrations in cities and towns around the world are too numerous to cover — an estimated two million people in London, two million in Madrid, three million in Rome, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands in other countries. In Israel, 3000 Jewish and Arab-Palestinian Israelis marched. "Bush, Blair and Sharon are the monsters of the Evil Axis" was one of the central slogans. A joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration read, "Down with the war against Iraq! End Israeli occupation! For a just peace in the Middle East! "It is not a war for security or justice, but a war for power, hegemony and greed. War, violence and bloodshed will never achieve security, freedom and a just peace for all the people of the Middle East", read the statement. Other reported demonstrations include Amsterdam, (up to 100,000), Berlin (500,000) and other German cities, Stockholm (100,000), Oslo (60,000), Paris (800,000) and 50 other French cities and towns, New York (500,000) and in 150 other US cities and towns, Athens (200,000) and other Greek cities, Mexico City, Lima (Peru), Buenos Aires (Argentina); Sao Paulo (Brazil), Mexico City, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Japan, New Zealand, Moscow, Johannesburg and Capetown, Helsinki, Moldova, Sofia (Bulgaria), Dublin and Belfast. The people of the world have united as never before in human history with a single voice demanding: NO WAR!
* * *Thanks to Vernon Abeysekera (Melbourne), Vic Williams (Perth), Bob Briton (Adelaide) and David Matters (Brisbane) for their contributions to the above report.