Yesterday’s peace rally in London was the first
major public show of strength for a diverse
coalition of people opposed to war which has grown
up by website and e-mail faster than in any
previous conflict…Even the organisers were
surprised at how many people turned up. "The
police expected 10,000 but we have far, far
Old men in Islamic dress marched with former
Greenham women and dreadlocked anti-capitalists
who booed when they passed McDonald’s. Yesterday’s [13 October, 2001] peace rally in London was the first major public show of strength for a diverse coalition of people opposed to war which has grown up by website and e-mail faster than in any previous conflict.
Even the organisers were surprised at how many people turned up. "The police expected 10,000 but we have far, far exceeded that," said Carol Naughton, chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which cancelled a planned demo against Star Wars in order to host the rally.
The police estimated 20,000 people were on the march from Hyde Park Corner to Trafalgar Square, while the organisers put the numbers at 50,000.
It was a noisy and unruly demonstration on a hot day but people danced in the fountains instead of causing trouble. Attempts by far-left groups such as the Socialist Workers’ Party to dominate the gathering were thwarted by weight of numbers.
Salma Yakoob of the Stop the War Coalition in Birmingham addressed the crowd from the plinth in Trafalgar Square. "If only the leftists had been here today people would have said we were all
lefties," she said. "If only CND had
been here they would have said it was the
middle-class elite. If it was only the Muslims
they would have called us extremists. If it was
only Asians and black people they would have said
it was the ethnic minorities. Tony Blair, we are
here united against this war. You cannot dismiss
The poet Adrian Mitchell performed a piece which he had first read out in Trafalgar Square in 1964. "It is about Vietnam," he said. "But it is still relevant. It’s about sitting faithfully in England while thousands of miles away terrible atrocities are being committed in our name."
The Stop The War Coalition announced that it intended to hold another national rally on 18 November.
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Author: Cole Moreton
News Service: Independent News (UK) – 14 October 2001