Cyprus Anti-War Demo


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Anti-war demonstrations in London - 15/02/03 - Aris Katzourakis

15th of February. My legs are still hurting from the anti-war march in London yesterday. While the numbers game is still being played, with the police claiming 800,000 people attended and the organisers claiming 2 million, what is evidently clear is that this was the biggest demonstration ever to be held on British soil. And it showed. The group with which I arrived at the demonstration spent almost two hours marching to the back to the queue, from Waterloo station over Waterloo Bridge to the embankment. We then proceeded to march for a further four hours, going through Piccadilly Circus, joining demonstrators that begun their march in Gower street, to Hyde Park. And all this amongst a sea of people, as far as the eye could see behind and in front of us, in the freezing cold. People stretching from the embankment to Hyde Park, filling the main route at least twenty people wide, and spilling over into a multitude of side routes. People of all ages, religions (or lack thereof) and ethnicities. Banners of trades unions, political parties, political coalitions, pressure groups, and banners drawn up by their bearers. While the beliefs of the individuals on this march differed widely, as is the case with most of the large demonstrations that we are seeing around the world, the conviction of all the marchers that this war must not happen was evident.

Today, on the aftermath of this colossal march, a new kind of numbers game is being played. How many people marched in Rome? Three million. Berlin? Almost half a million, with marches in many other German cities. Madrid? Two million, with another 1.3 million in Barcelona, and tens of thousands of people in Seville and other Spanish cities. How many millions of people marched in your city? The question is almost unreal. Last September saw the biggest ever demonstration at the time on British soil, of about 350,000 people. Today we are wondering whether yesterday's demo had one or two million people marching in London, whether Rome had two or three million demonstrators. This scale of protest is entirely unprecedented. The failure of the UK government (and of governments around the western world) to convince people that we should go to war is shocking all those who see the extent and power of the propaganda to which we are being exposed. Yesterday millions of people in the western world stood up and said, "We do not want this war". Most of the world agrees with this proposition. For the large majority of the population in Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East the question of whether this war is justifiable or not is clearly irrelevant. They know that it is wrong, and yesterday the rest of the world agreed with them.

Despite the overwhelming success of the demonstrations on the 15th of February, it is easy to be pessimistic. The world appears to be on course for war, and this course seems impossible to divert. Governments have ignored their people in the past and there appears to be no reason why they should not do this again now. But the level of discontent and scale of its manifestation is unprecedented. On the 15th of February millions of people around the western world realised that democracy is more than just a word invented by the ancient Greeks. It is a business that is often tiring, may leave your legs blistered and in pain and in many parts of the world carries the risk of coming home with a bruise on your head and a dizzy feeling, or spending some time in an uncomfortable cell. Our governments should take heed; if they ignore us, there will be a lot of people wondering why their voices are not being heard. Demonstrations have been ignored in the past but this really is something different. This is the largest and most global anti-war movement that has ever existed, and its consequences and full potential are not yet known. In addition, it has been a very peaceful anti-war movement, as most people have the hope that their voices will be heard. It is not clear what will happen if our governments ignore this expression of democracy.