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Still Shocking, still awful; world protests against occupation

Jim Jepps

 

Across the world there were mass demonstrations against the war. Not only in London where an impressive 100,000 or more marched with real anger and energy but in many of the major cities across the world.

30,000 demonstrated in Rome and 15,000 in Istanbul. 100,000 also demonstrated in Brussels (even the police estimated it at 90,000!) Herman described his experience of the Brussels demonstration

"Technically, the march consisted of three parts. First, mainly Belgian youth organizations marched. Then, European trade unions. Last, peace, environmental, and other organizations in the European Social Forum; and political parties.

"As I wanted to be sure there would be a bus home for me, I stayed in the middle section, and didn’t see much of contingents, specially for peace organizations, or of youth organizations.

"Among the slogans on signs and banners in the
central, trade union, part of the demonstration: Bush, Blair, Balkenende [Dutch Prime Minister], war for oil is stupid. Taxes for peace, not war. Working class: enough is enough!

"There were mainly two sorts of peace flags in the demonstration. The rainbow flag, originally from Italy, with PACE or PEACE on it. And the blue flag with white dove of peace, often with the name of the French peace movement Mouvement de la Paix on it; but also without letters among German demonstrators.

"There were also blue flags of the Belgian Liberal trade union federation, one of few union federations of that tendency in Europe. And Romanian flags of trade unionists from that country, red flags of the German DGB federation and the Italian CGIL, and flags of anarchists, of the Turkish’ workers’ federation, and Croats. And a big banner against occupation of Iraq.

"There were very many international contacts, so that Dutch unionists whistled on (green) whistles of the Belgian Christian union federation and had Polish Solidarnosc jackets on. While Moroccan Belgian children came to get Dutch FNV union flags.

"Loudspeakers played Slave driver, by Bob Marley. And Bella Ciao (an Italian song on a woman fighter against Mussolini and Hitler; music
here (version by British punk band Chumbawamba).

"German communists of the DKP had flags with portraits of Ernst Thälmann (communist killed in one of Hitler’s concentration camps and of Ernesto Che Guevara. There were also banners against German “Hartz 4" social security cuts.

"German anti-fascist, as well as other anti-racist, signs, were also in the march. Behind the Germans, the Romanians marched. Then the Dutch. Officially, marching was supposed to take one hour, from southern to northern railway station. We didn’t know yet it would take over two hours and a half, as there were many more demonstrators than expected.

"More slogans: G7 (richest seven countries, meeting in Scotland): warmongers, neo-colonialists. Wanted: George W. Bush, for aiding and abetting terrorism. Your (George W. Bush’s etc.) wars: our dead. No war for oil. Against cutbacks, occupation [of Iraq], and capitalism. A real job; not a blowjob!

"There were very many slogans against the Bolkestein proposal; including Bolkestein=Frankenstein. Luxemburg unionists had slogans: against the Europe of Chirac and Berlusconi.


"
Also very many urging to vote against the proposed EU constitution. Many of those from the French CGT, the union federation with most marchers that day. The media often call the CGT (simplistically) the union of the French Communist Party. Simplistically, as many supporters of other parties or of no party are also members of this biggest French union federation.

"Close to the speaker’s rostrum for the final meeting hang a big poster, asking: how can one condemn the 9/11 atrocity in New York City by Bin Laden, while remaining silent on the dead in Iraq? The number of death civilians in Iraq on the poster was 9.000, crossed out by someone substituting 20.000, then crossed out again with the 100.000 estimate of the British Medical Journal .

"A woman from the CGT executive said from the stage: ten years ago, unions were not strong enough to stop anti worker European Union measures. However, now there is that possibility!

"The official meeting was over. A band played Lady Marmelade, by Labelle. The demonstrators tried to find their buses back home. Which wasn’t that simple, as Brussels police made a last minute decision that as the city was so overcrowded, buses had to depart further from the meeting than expected.

"
Well, at last our bus could go away, while two fiftyish ladies with signs “Bush wanted for terrorism” waved us goodbye."

 

US demonstrations (picture courtesy of franscesca)Francesca described the San Francisco demonstration "We walked to Dolores Park and started to see the real crowds. There were individuals, loosely-organized groups, and more organized ones. People were speaking over a loudspeaker about such varied topics as the media, Palestine, and Mumia. There was a lot of creativity there--great posters, T-shirts, and even a sort of minstrel show with the 'Abu Ghraib Fraternity' dancing and singing to "Louie, Louie" and other "jock hits." There were many groups who were well represented, especially labor groups. The Socialists, Code Pink, and various religious (Christian) groups were there as well."

"At the park, there was sort of a festival atmosphere and loosely organized. At noon--on the dot!--the march began. We walked with a drum group my rugby acquaintance and her beau performed in. They were amazing, especially the ones carrying giant bass drums while keeping a beat, dodging photographers, and smiling the whole time. Some people chanted in time with the beats. I'm not a big fan of chanting, but I clapped. Along the route, people leaned out of apartment windows and waved, took photos, beat on pots and pans. Plenty of other people just looked bewildered.

"The Anarchists were particularly well-organized. Diego found that very ironic. It was just so wonderful to see so many people who believed much of what I believe. One little group started in with the "We Shall Overcome." The drums drowned them out, thank goodness. I reissue my challenge to musicians of the world to come up with some decent and singable protest music for this generation.

"I know that people around the world will be happy to see that there really were thousands of people in the streets of the United States, realizing that this country is not entirely composed of asshats."

 


 

www.stopwar.org.uk

March 2005

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