Worldwide Anti-War Protests Draw Millions

The Associated Press, Feb. 17, 2003
By Verena Dobnik, The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Millions of protesters <a HREF="javascript:void(0);" onMouseOver="overlib('‘, HAUTO, VAUTO, SNAPX, ‘5’)” onMouseOut=”nd()”>around the globe — many of them marching in the capitals of America’s allies — demonstrated Saturday against U.S. plans to attack Iraq.

In a global outpouring of anti-war sentiment, Rome claimed the biggest turnout — 1 million according to police, while organizers claimed three times that figure.

In London, at least 750,000 joined in the city’s biggest demonstration ever, police said. Madrid, Spain had 660,000 people on the streets, police said; Berlin had up to half a million and Paris was estimated to have had up to 100,000.

North of the United Nations headquarters in New York, demonstrators packed the streets, filling police-barricaded protest zones for more than 20 blocks as civil rights leaders and celebrities energized the banner-waving crowd.

“Peace! Peace! Peace!” Archbishop Desmond Tutu said as he walked from the United Nations toward the rally. “Let America listen to the rest of the world — and the rest of the world is saying, ‘Give the inspectors time.”‘

Several thousand protesters in Athens, Greece, unfurled a giant banner across the wall of the ancient Acropolis — “NATO, U.S. and EU Equals War.”

Police fired tear gas in clashes with several hundred anarchists wearing hoods and crash helmets who smashed store windows and threw a gasoline bomb at a newspaper office. Four people were arrested.

London’s marchers hoped — in the words of keynote speaker Reverend Jesse Jackson — to “turn up the heat” on Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been Europe’s biggest supporter of U.S. President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy.

Rome’s legions were showing their disagreement with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s support for Bush, while demonstrators in Paris and Berlin backed the skeptical stances of their governments.

“What I would say to Mr. Blair is stop toadying up to the Americans and listen to your own people, us, for once,” said Elsie Hinks, 77, who marched in London with her husband, Sidney, a retired Church of England priest.

New York police would not provide a crowd estimate, but the protesters stretched for 20 blocks along First Avenue and spilled west to Second Avenue, where police in riot gear and on horseback patrolled. Organizers had hoped to draw at least 100,000 people.

Police reported some arrests, but did not immediately provide details.

Anti-war rallies were also planned in about 150 U.S. cities.

Police estimated that 60,000 turned out in Oslo, Norway, 50,000 in bitter cold in Brussels, while about 35,000 gathered peacefully in frigid Stockholm.

About 80,000 marched in Dublin, Irish police said. Crowds were estimated at: 70,000 in Amsterdam; 20,000 in Montreal; 40,000 in Bern, Switzerland; 30,000 in Glasgow, Scotland; 25,000 in Copenhagen; 15,000 in Vienna; 5,000 in Cape Town and 4,000 in Johannesburg in South Africa; 5,000 in Tokyo and 2,000 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“Saddam is powerful, but that doesn’t justify the death of millions of people,” said Rogerio Silva, who wore a Saddam Hussein mask as he marched with more than 1,500 flag-waving and dancing demonstrators along Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach.

Security in New York was extraordinarily tight, with the city on high alert for terrorist threats. All along the streets around the UN headquarters on Manhattan’s East Side, authorities deployed a new security “package” including sharpshooters and officers with radiation detectors, hazardous materials decontamination equipment, bomb-sniffing dogs and air-sampling equipment able to detect chemical or biological weapons.

Several leaders of German Chancellor Gerhard SchrÚder’s government took part in the Berlin protest, which turned the tree-lined street between the Brandenburg Gate and the 19th-century Victory Column into a sea of banners, balloons emblazoned with “No War in Iraq” and demonstrators swaying to live music. Police estimated the crowd at between 300,000 and 500,000.

In the Bosnian city of Mostar, about 100 Muslims and Croats united for an anti-war protest — the first such cross-community action in seven years in a place where ethnic divisions remain tense despite a 1995 peace agreement.

“We want to say that war is evil and that we who survived one know that better than anyone,” said Majda Hadzic, 54.

About 1,000 demonstrators gathered on Manhattan’s West Side in New York, where 41-year-old George Sarris held a sign reading “Bomb Iraq.”

“The liberals are the complainers,” Sarris said. “The Republicans aren’t. So I came out to tell our side of the story.”

In Baghdad, tens of thousands of Iraqis, many carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles, demonstrated to support Saddam Hussein and denounce the United States.

“Our Swords Are Out of Their Sheaths, Ready for Battle,” read one of hundreds of banners carried by marchers along Palestine Street in Baghdad.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday February 17, 2003.
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