Huge protests greet Bush's London visit
Three days of co-ordinated protests against US President George Bush's visit to Britain were capped off with a massive march and rally in London last Thursday. Police estimates of the number of people taking part were revised upwards from 50,000 to 70,000 and then to 110,000. Most fair commentators put the crowd at over 200,000. They were the biggest weekday protest in British history. There was a record police presence, as well. The Metropolitan Police had 14,000 officers on duty. The President also had his own entourage of 100 armed goons. Prior to the visit, authorities had sought to prevent demonstrators marching past Parliament and Whitehall before their rally in Trafalgar Square but widespread support for the Stop the War demonstration brought about a last minute back-down. Popular left-wing London Mayor Ken Livingstone said that the demonstrators held the "moral high ground" on the issues of war and peace and that they should be able to hold their protest "within sight and sound of Mr Bush's every appearance in the capital". He pointed out that Londoners were paying a massive 5 million (A$12 million) — or 2(A$4.75) on the council tax bill of every London household — for the visit. "I'm sure Londoners would rather pay 4 for him not to come", Mr Livingstone added. Prior to Bush's arrival, peace campaigners had presented a petition against the visit to the British Prime Minister's residence at Downing Street with over 100,000 signatures. In the delegation was US Vietnam veteran and author of Born on the 4th of July, Ron Kovic and Labour MP George Galloway who said, "Ron Kovic's presence demonstrated an important message that we have nothing against the people of America, but we despise their president". Mr Galloway also voiced the anger of the movement at the slavish pro-Bush stance of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair who had "lied to parliament, lied to the country and, perhaps more seriously, lied to the armed forces". Despite the overwhelming evidence that he was not welcome, Bush was greeted at Heathrow Airport by Prince Charles and taken by helicopter to Buckingham Palace where he spent his three nights in Britain. Continual protests precluded any "meet the people" photo opportunities. Last week's noisy and high-spirited protests built up to the huge event on Thursday at which at 17-foot high statue was brought down in mock emulation of the staged toppling of a Saddam Hussein monument towards the "end of major combat operations" in Iraq earlier this year. On this occasion a genuine and large crowd was on hand to witness the symbolic act.