Not In My Name: National Demonstration Against The War
Three coachloads of anti-war protesters from Bradford joined some 100,000 other from around the country in a march from Hyde Park to trafalgar Square, 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. After this demonstration, 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. 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, Yvonne Ridley, New York City trade unionist Michael Letwin, Dr Jonathan Farley (a Tennesee-born American scholar currently at Oxford), MPs Jeremy Corbyn, Paul Marsden, Alan Simpson, George Galloway, and Adam Price, Asad Rehman (Newham Monitoring Project), 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.
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.
Why the November 18 Demonstration and the anti war movement is more important than ever.
Despite the crowing of members of the pro war lobby, Northen Alliance victories do not mean liberation for the Afghans or the end of fighting in the region.
Even the most basic of the West's everchanging war aims have not been met. Bin Laden is still at large, the so called 'Al Quaida Network' has not been uprooted. Kabul is occupied, against the explicit orders of Bush and Blair, by various competing warlords with a record of brutal atrocities to match anything the Taliban have done.
These forces are causing chaos and disrupting aid efforts. Christiane Berthiaume, spokeswoman for the World Food Programme described the situation in Mazar yesterday; "there is a lot of pillaging as well as civilian kidnappings, armed men out of control and fighting in the streets." UN observers have not gone in to Mazar because the situation there is too dangerous. Faced with a situation that could spiral completely out of control, Western intervention will continue. Geoff Hoon announced on the radio this morning that 10,000 British troops are being prepared to go to Afghanistan. Other 'peacekeeping' forces are being put together to intervene. Meanwhile influential Western leaders are proposing an assault on Iraq.
The events of the last few weeks make crystal clear that western intervention only leads to more death, more suffering and more instability in Afghanistan. The turnout of over 100,000 people in London on the 18th has shown that people care now than ever before and want peace & justice, not an ever-expanding continuation of an unjust war.