23rd November, 2001
Anti-war Protest – 100,000 March in London against War in Afghanistan
Some 100,000 anti-war protesters marched in London today, doubling last month’s turn-out of 50,000, and reflecting the full breadth, depth and diversity of anti-war feeling in Britain. Trade unionists, Muslim organisations, community groups, anti-racists, human rights activists, anti- globalisation activists, students and MPs heard a wide range of speakers condemn the US-led military action in Afghanistan.
After a week in which sections of the media indulged in misplaced triumphalism in relation to the war in Afghanistan and subjected anti-war dissenters to misrepresentation and calumny, the huge numbers were particularly significant.
After the large demonstration in London on 13 October, the Guardian reported that government ministers were surprised and concerned. Tonight, they will be even more concerned. Some 100,000 people, undoubtedly representing the views of millions, have seen through the hypocrisy and the double-standards, and reject the war being waged in their name. Despite all the government’s advantages in the propaganda war, more and more people are asking hard questions about this military action – and they are increasingly unsatisfied with the spin-doctors’ answers.
Among the marchers were a wide range of people from trades unions, Muslim organisations, community and anti-racist groups, colleges, schools and universities, human rights, peace and anti-globalisation organisations, and political parties.
Protesters came by the coach-load from across the country, including Newcastle, Manchester, Plymouth, across Scotland & Wales, and the Foreign Secretary’s own constituency of Blackburn. Forty coaches came from Birmingham. As the head of the march reached Trafalgar Square, the tail was still leaving Hyde Park.
“After today’s demonstration, no-one can doubt both the scale and the diversity of anti-war feeling in this country,” said Suresh Grover of the National Civil Rights Movement and the Stop the War Coalition steering committee. “This is a ground-breaking event, a massive display of opposition to the military action.
“This protest is also against the attack on human rights in Britain. The government is slipping in the suspension of habeas corpus and the introduction of internment and detention without trial. We are also seeing a proliferation of racist assaults.
“This huge turn-out represents the tip of the iceberg of disquiet running through British society. Despite the media attacks, we’ve doubled our numbers in a month. The message of the demonstration is that we are not going away. This movement will only get bigger.”
Among the speakers were John Pilger, Bianca Jagger, Tony Benn, Caroline Lucas MEP (Green Party), Tariq Ali, New York City trade unionist Michael Letwin, MPs Jeremy Corbyn, Paul Marsden, Alan Simpson, George Galloway, and Adam Price, Germaine Greer, George Monbiot, Morning Star editor John Haylett, Socialist Alliance chair Dave Nellist, human rights lawyers Louise Christian and Mike Mansfield, NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney, NUT Executive member Bernard Regan and people from Palestine, Kurdistan and Afghanistan itself.
The march was organised by the Stop the War Coalition and was supported by a wide range of peace and political organisations, community groups, trades unions and individuals (including CND, Labour MPs, rail unions RMT and ASLEF, the Muslim Parliament, the National Civil Rights Movement, the London Council of Mosques, Labour Against the War, Media Workers Against the War, Lawyers Against the War, and Artists Against the War).
At sunset, demonstrators – Muslim and non-Muslim – joined in iftar, the evening fast-breaking ritual of the month of Ramadan. The crowd revelled in its own diversity, and in the unity that so many found in calling for peace and justice – for Afghanistan, and people everywhere.
This report was kindly provided by the Stop the War Coalition and Media Workers Against the War. It has been very slightly edited, purely for the benefit of readers outside the UK who may not have recognised all the references.