Anti-war demonstrations in
London - 15/02/03 -
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.
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.
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.