Iraq one year on.
World wide protests against occupation
Brazil, Canada, CIS, Sweden and New Zealand.
Imperialism out of Iraq and Latin America
March 20 saw demonstrations in the main cities of Brazil. In São Paulo, some 3,000 marched through Avenida Paulista, one of the main financial centers in Latin America. The struggle against the imperialist invasion of Iraq was linked to the fight against the signing of the ‘Free Trade Area of the Americas’ (FTAA).
The march halted at the Central Bank where there was a protest against the economic policy of the Lula government imposed by the IMF. On the way , there was also a protest in front of McDonald´s where the issue of the Lula government’s greenlighting of transgenic crops was also brought up.
The protest march ended at Bank Boston, a symbol of international financial capital - the current president of the Brazilian Central Bank, Henrique Meirelles, is its former president.
Speeches were made by representatives of a large number of social movements, including the Landless Workers Movement (MST), the main union confederation (CUT), homeless movements and student organisations. Representatives of political parties - PSTU, PCdoB and PT youth - also adressed the march.
Besides opposition to imperialism in the Middle East, most people also rejected the proposed sending of Brazilian troops to Haiti as part of a UN force.
André Ferrari of Revolutionary Socialism (Brazilian section of CIO/CWI), spoke at the winding-up on behalf of the Movement for a New Party - Democratic Socialist Left, which consists of several left currents and union activists, students and community movements, as well as the four left MPs expelled from the PT in December for their opposition to the neo-liberal policies of the Lula government.
On the previous day, March 19, some 700 activists had held a sucessful launch-event for the movement for the new party in São Paulo.
Unions, minorities and youth say “US out of Iraq!”
In Toronto, there were over 7,000 protesters despite a serious downpour.
Robert Messing, Socialist Alternative, Toronto
There were mostly youth but there was also representation from the steelworkers, public sector workers, postal workers, and several other unions. There were also aboriginal groups, several left wing Jewish groups, such as ‘Jewish Youth against the Occupation’, ‘United Jewish Peoples Order’, and Christian faith groups, and Palestinian and Arab groups.
Members of Socialist Alternative handed out hundreds of leaflets and sold papers, despite a downpour of rain.
Protesters march in Moscow, Voronezh, Cherkass, Alma Ata and Kiev
Police “screen off” Moscow demo from onlookers
Rob Jones, CWI, Moscow
In Moscow, on the initiative of Socialist Resistance (CWI), a joint youth march was held in the centre of Moscow to protest against the wars in Iraq and Chechnya. Although attendance was 200 this was up on the numbers who turned out against Bush’s war a year ago.
The police made sure that onlookers could not join in by screening off the demo. They even phoned us the day the protest asking us to send a lorry to take metal detectors (the type you pass through in an airport) to the demo venue, so that everyone could pass through before participating. The CWI contingent made up about one third of the march.
The CWI also organised protests in Voronezh and Cherkass.
In Alma-Ata the CWI organised a picket outside the US Embassy.
In Kiev, CWI members participated in a march organised by left organisations of several hundred. CWI member, Marichka, spoke to the crowds. Later in the evening an anti-war rock concert attracted 200 people.
Politicians forced to reflect anti-occupation mood
Scandalous mounted police attack on CWI supporters
Peter Lahti, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (RS), Stockholm
The two biggest demonstrations on 20 March against the occupation of Iraq were 3,000 in Stockholm and 2,500 in Gothenburg.
The main slogans used by protesters were: “USA out of Iraq!”, “Stop the occupations of Iraq and Palestine now!” and “No Swedish support for US war policy!”
Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna, the CWI in Sweden, participated in at least six different city protests. Our literature, especially our paper, Offensiv, was very well received.
In most cities a couple of hundred participated in the demos. But the protest day still got good coverage in the media, with a lot of focus on the international demonstrations. The politicians still feel they have to reflect the general mood of opposition to Bush and the occupation. Swedish Prime Minister, Göran Persson, says he supports PSOE, the new ruling party in Spain, in sticking to their election promises, including withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.
Scandalously, however, during the protests in Gothenburg, where our RS comrades have led occupations of health clinics against proposed closures, the RS contingent was singled out for attack by riot police on horseback! Disgracefully, it was stewards from ’left’ organisations - the Maoist KPML(r) and the Socialist Party (USFI) - who had called the police in after demanding that our party banners, with the slogan "No war for oil!" should be taken down. These are the same notorious riot police who attacked the 2001 anti-EU summit protest with live ammunition! (This week, as it happens, an RS Stockholm comrade is in court in Gothenburg as a witness to defend a protester from the 2001 demonstration who is currently facing trial for assaulting the police).
This scandalous action on the part of the ’organisers’ of last Saturday’s demonstration is condemned in an open letter to them and in this week’s ‘Offensiv’, which carries the bye-line: "Ten stewards against; 2,000 people in favour".
No-one on the demonstration complained about the RS slogans and many had taken RS literature enthusiastically.
Protests condemn government’s aid to “war on terror”
The recent decision by the NZ Labour government to redeploy SAS troops to Afghanistan, as well as a navy frigate to the Persian Gulf – coming on top of the September 2003 deployment of army engineers to free up US and British troops engaged in the occupation of Iraq – was condemned at anti-war protests right around the country last Saturday.
Tim Bowron, Socialist Alternative, Dunedin
Members of Socialist Alternative (CWI in NZ) took part in the anti-war protests held in both Auckland (where around 200 people joined a march through the city centre), and in Dunedin, where a small crowd of around 80 people turned out for a rally, which featured speeches from the local Mayor and also an official from the Maritime Union of New Zealand.
Call for NZ troops to be immediately withdrawn
At the rally in Dunedin we also helped to collect signatures for an ‘Open Letter’ to Labour MP Pete Hodgson, calling for the immediate withdrawal of NZ military forces from the Middle East and for respect to be given to the right of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to political self determination – as well as selling copies of our paper ‘The Socialist’.
Meanwhile, in the capital city, Wellington, an estimated 600 people turned out to a protest on the steps of parliament. In Christchurch, 300 people attended a rally in Cathedral Square, where a mass ‘flag-burning’ was carried out in protest at the recent conviction of Wellington school teacher Paul Hopkinson, for burning the NZ flag during an anti-war protest in March 2003.
Further action is planned, with Mayday looming as a likely date for the next big protests.