A SEA of up to 400,000 protesters flooded into the Embankment, London on 28 September to say ’No’ to war against Iraq.
It was the biggest anti-war demonstration in Britain ever. People came from all over. Trade unionists, socialists, Muslims and others came as part of organised groups and contingents.
There were those like the protester who said he hadn’t been on a demonstration since the miners’ strike of 1984/85 but felt so strongly about war in Iraq that he just had to come and demonstrate.
But tens of thousands had never been on a demonstration before in their lives. School students, college students, university students and young workers who had made their way with friends or even on their own to make their voices heard.
Sellers of The Socialist reported being surrounded by protesters eager to read our leaflets and buy our paper with the slogan "No war for oil"
The demonstration was so enormous that many didn’t even get to hear the speakers at the rally in Hyde Park. The speakers included representatives from six national trade unions.
Film director Ken Loach summed up the mood of most of the protesters when he said: "We can’t get involved in this war, we can’t consider murdering another 100,000 Iraqis simply to pursue America’s interest in the oil and their dominance in the region".
Speakers called for a "Don’t Attack Iraq" day of action on 31 October. Labour MP George Galloway received the biggest cheer of the day when he called for protests and occupations of schools and colleges on that day.
The 28 September demonstration was a massive show of anti-war feeling. But it was just the beginning. Now we have to go back to our workplaces, schools and colleges and make 31 October a day of action that Blair will never forget.
Voices from the demonstration
I’M AN Iranian. During the Iran/Iraq war Saddam used chemical weapons against us. My family live in Tehran and my sister has had heart and kidney problems because of the gas. I’m here because we need to get rid of Saddam but the ordinary people of Iraq aren’t my enemies.
I FEEL strongly about the war. I think it’s all about controlling resources in the Middle East, whilst innocent people are killed. Saddam is a tyrant but the poor people of Iraq have suffered long enough.
PCS member from Sheffield
WHAT ATTRACTED me to your table in the first place was the mention of oil, which is the root cause of all the conflict in the Middle East. If it wasn’t for oil then the area wouldn’t be fought over so much. The epitome of all that is Mr George Bush and his cabinet – the whole executive branch of the government is all for oil.
Steven, San Francisco
I’VE COME down from Derby because I’m opposed to any sort of war but this one is just about what America wants. They have their weapons but they won’t let anyone else have any. But the main reason I’m here is to support the Palestinians who have been suffering for so long. Being Muslim I feel I should speak out for them.
I THINK it’s disgusting that all this money will be spent on war when it could be used to feed the world.
Organise for the day of action on 31 October
"I WILL be raising the 31 October ’Don’t Attack Iraq’ day of action at my next union branch committee meeting. I will be proposing that we organise a lunchtime lobby of the council, linking together the question of defence of public services and war against Iraq. Members are already angry that Blair is prepared to spend billions on military action while continuing to privatise our services and saying that there isn’t enough money to pay public sector workers a decent wage. This day of action could help build support for wider action if an attack on Iraq takes place."
Brian Blake, Unison regional local government committee executive member and service conditions officer, Ealing Council (personal capacity)
Schools and colleges
"IF YOU’RE at school, college or university why not organise a ’Youth against the war’ or ’Students against the war’ meeting to plan leafleting, petitioning, publicity stunts and protests against the war and to build for the 31 October day of action. Organise to get pledges from students who will be prepared to take part in protests, occupations etc on 31 October."
Kieran Roberts, national coordinator Socialist Students
From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, England and Wales section of the CWI. Photos by Paul Mattsson and Ken Douglas