The Guardian February 19, 2003


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.

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