Iraq: Stop the war – A hundred thousand on the streets in Switzerland on Day X

The ‘Blick’ newspaper – Swiss equivalent of the Daily Mirror – estimated that on Day X 100,000 Swiss people took to the streets, the majority of whom were school students and students. The biggest student demo was in Bern, attended by over 15,000, but there were marches and rallies in every major town, and many smaller ones: Zurich 7000, Luzern 8000, Lausanne 5000, Geneva 8000, Neuchatel 3000, Winterthur 3000. The evening protests were all smaller by comparison.

Stop the war in Iraq. Switzerland.

A hundred thousand on the streets in Switzerland on Day X 

The serious as well as tabloid press were very impressed with the school student movement. Reports noted how the demonstrations were mobilised early in the morning, usually by 10 o’clock. I did not see any attempt to rubbish the students or make out they were just using the protest as an excuse to leave school. On the contrary, there were interviews with the organizers and a general admission that Swiss youth had never before been so politically motivated.

In Basel, over 5,000 students demonstrated in the city centre. It was not spontaneous. It had been planned weeks before, and there were youth present from the surrounding cantons and even some neighbouring areas of southern Germany.

The evening demonstrations were also dominated by the involvement of young people. In Basel they led the march, provided most of the banners and placards, and did all the shouting. There were a few left wing party banners, mostly towards the back of the march. I did not see a single trade union banner. 2-3,000 attended.

National demonstration, Bern, 22 March

The police said 30,000, were on the 22 March, ‘Blick’ said 40,000. If true, this would make it as large as the 15 February demonstration! There was a succession of ‘Down with Bush, stop the war!’ etc. denunciations, but not much more in the way of political content.

No organisation was selling anything except us. We sold 75 copies of an SAV (German CWI section) ‘No war for oil profit’ pamphlet (all we had!) and handed out 1,000 leaflets. The response to our leaflets was great. Marchers saw our headline (‘How Can the War be Stopped’) and crossed the street to take a leaflet. Many were profuse in their gratitude! Our literature really did stand out as pointing a way forward.

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March 2003