The Guardian November 26, 2003


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.

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