Imperialism, Protests

15th February 2003 : Anti-War Protests Sweep Across Continents

Anti-war protests swept across continents on 15th February 2003 in response to a call to observe the day as one of protests against the imminent US led attack on Iraq. 11-14 million people are estimated to have participated in these. Big rallies and angry protests took place in America itself, where people came onto the streets in over 150 cities including demonstrating near the UN Head Quarters in New York itself. The turn out in New York was reportedly around three and a half lakhs. 50 people were taken into custody and 8 policemen injured here. Anti-war rallies were also held in Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami and Seattle. A few lakhs demonstrated in San Francisco. The protesters in America chanted “Drop Bush, not bombs” and “World says no to war”.

London marked the protest by a three and a half mile long anti-war rally in which a million people participated. This protest was led by
the “Stop the War Coalition”, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Muslim Association for Britain. In Britain over 75% of the people oppose war against Iraq and the popularity of its Prime Minister Blair has dropped to an all time low due to his hawkish stand on war.

In Australia, where the Prime Minister, Mr. John Howard, has emerged a strong supporter of US war cries despite censure by the Australian Senate, around four lakh people demonstrated in Sydney, one lakh in Brisbane and two thousand in Darwin apart from sporadic protests in other cities. These were the most massive protests since the Vietnam anti-war protests 30 years ago. In New Zealand, thousands gathered for protests in cities across the country.

A million people joined the protest rally in Rome as well as in Madrid, whereas in Johannesburg thousands of protesters flaunted banners “UK-US-Israel are the Axis of Evil”. Another 5000 joined protests in Cape Town. Massive protests occurred in Paris and Barcelona too. Amsterdam and Copenhagen each saw demonstrations of around ten thousand people. Thousands joined protests in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and in the city of Brussels. Germany saw biggest anti-war demonstrations with 5 lakh people in Berlin and at few other places, for example, in Stuttgart with 50 thousand people. Over 2000 South Koreans gathered in Seoul against the war; anti-war demonstrators marched the streets of Moscow shouting “Now Iraq, Russia next”. Two thousand people demonstrated in Kiev (Ukraine). In Athens police fired tear-gas shells and clashed with protesters. A demonstration of 3000 people took place in Pakistan, of around 2000 in Dhaka and of 5000 people in Tokyo. Hundreds marched against the war in Bosnia.

Big protests against imminent US attack were also held in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. In Indonesia and Philippines local rulers too came in for harsh criticism for support to “US led war against global terrorism”. A demonstration has also been reported from Hong Kong. In Syria 2 lakh people protested against the US warmongering. In addition to these many smaller protest marches, rallies, effigies of Bush and the US flag being burnt were reported from various parts of the world.

In India around 300 people in Delhi took part in a protest demonstration at Jantar Mantar under the banner of Campaign against American Attack on Iraq. The participant organizations included IFTU, Naujawan Bharat Sabha, PMS, Nishant, Forum Against Imperialist Globalization, AIPRF, AIFTU, DSU, AISA, All India Nepalese Left Youth Federation, Nepali Janadhikar Suraksha Samiti, RPI, People’s Front, Samajwadi Nyay Morcha, RYA and others. Effigies of Bush and Blair were also burnt on Parliament Street where the protesters were stopped by the police en route to US embassy.

In Allahabad a demonstration of over 400 people was held where CPI(ML)-New Democracy, CPM, CPI, CPI(ML)-Liberation, AIPRF, PUCL, Socialist Front, Stree Adhikar Sangathan, Rajya Kendra Karamachari Samanway Samiti and others participated. A number of well known intellectuals, democratic rights activists and political leaders of the participant organizations participated in the march. An effigy of Bush was burnt amidst slogans of “From Hitler to Bush, people are victorious.”

Earlier on 14th February, US-UK war plans received a jolt when weapon inspectors reported that they had not found any weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq had cooperated well and that the information supplied by USA had proved to be false. A majority of Security Council members opposed US-UK demand for immediate attack on Iraq despite a show of arrogance and intimidatory tactics by US Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

Meanwhile US imperialism received a setback in Tokyo where the informal ministerial meeting on WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture was deadlocked. Ministers of 20 countries dispersed after the failure while thousands of farmers held noisy protests outside the venue and drove tractors in protest through Central Tokyo on 15th February 2003.