2-300,000 Italians Protest US Bombing as PM Meets Bush

In what has been described as the biggest
demonstration of its kind in Italy for over a decade, an estimated 200,00 to 300,000 persons staged a peace walk from the cities of Perugia to Assisi. Bearing placards and banners saying Stop War!, the marchers, all along the 24-km stretch, shouted slogans and chanted anti-war songs to express their hostility to the current U.S. and British strikes against Afghanistan.

PARIS – In what has been described as the biggest
demonstration of its kind in Italy for over a decade, an estimated 200,00 to 300,000 persons staged a peace walk from the cities of Perugia to Assisi. Bearing placards and banners saying Stop War!, the marchers, all along the 24-km stretch, shouted slogans and chanted anti-war songs to express their hostility to the current U.S. and British strikes against Afghanistan.

"Why are the Americans doing this? We feel sorry for those who perished in the attacks against the World Trade Center and the perpetrators of these crimes must be punished. But what has the
poor man in Afghanistan whose five year old boy has been killed to deserve the wrath of America?

"The U.S. must be made to understand that it cannot behave like a cowboy any more. It is U.S. policies of support to the Taliban and Pakistan and corrupt regimes like Saudi Arabia that has given us the likes of Osama bin Laden in the first place. Why does the U.S. not do its mea culpa about that ?" asked a retired schoolteacher from Como who made the trip to Perugia.

The road they travelled is the same taken by Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan order. The peace march was created in 1961 by the Italian left during the height of the cold war. But not since the Cold War years have so many people joined it. The marchers were supported by the Roman Catholic Church.

The marchers included many prominent Italians including Mr. Francesco Rutelli, who led the left-wing alliance in legislative elections earlier
this year and former left wing Prime Minister, Mr. Massimo D’Alema.

Not even during the Gulf War or the one in Kosovo did the peace march attract so many people.

The march is an embarrassment to the Government of the conservative anti-communist Prime Minister, Mr. Silvio Berlusconi, who is in Washington today for talks with the U.S. President, Mr. George Bush.

Mr. Berlusconi has been bending over backwards in his attempts to be useful to Washington. But Washington had so far turned a deaf ear to
Italy’s assertions of loyalty, especially after the Italian Premier committed the monumental gaffe of stating that Western civilisation was superior to that of the Islamic world.

As the bombing of Afghanistan continues, there is growing resistance across Europe. The Greens and their allies demonstrated in Paris. Over 25,000 persons demonstrated in Germany and there were demonstrations in London as well.

[ THE ORIGINAL LINK ( http://www.hinduonnet.com/stories/03160007.htm ) IS DEAD, THE STORY YANKED ]

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Author: Vaiju Naravane

News Service: The Hindu – Tuesday, October 16, 2001

URL: http://mai.flora.org/forum/31228