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British demonstrations say 'Bush go home!'

By Deirdre Sinnott
London

At least 200,000 people marched in the streets of London Nov. 20, to tell U.S. President George W. Bush to go home.

This was the biggest London demonstration ever held on a work day. Organizers--from the Stop the War Coalition, the Muslim Association of Britain and the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament--announced that the demonstration had shut down major sections of central London.

Masses of angry demonstrators chanted "George Bush, go home," "Who let the bombs drop? Bush, Bush and Blair!" and "George Bush terrorist," as they poured through city streets and simultaneously closed down two major crossings of the River Thames.

After intense negotiations with authorities, the coalition had won the right to march past the British Parliament building and rally in Trafalgar Square. The Bush administration, citing "security concerns," had tried to insist that London authorities create an exclusion zone in central London and close off parts of the underground train system.

In recent years when the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and trade-zone negotiators have met in cities around the world, worried imperialists have demanded that officials close down critical parts of the host cities to protect the participants from vigorous protests.

Bush, who arrived with a 700-person entourage, had to severely curtail the scope of his visit.

He was unable to get the customary ride in an open carriage with Queen Elizabeth that normally accompanies a state visit. And he had to scrap plans to tour many other areas of London.

A speech before Parliament was also canceled for fear that "unruly" members of Parliament might heckle Bush with catcalls.

Several current and former members of Parliament--including George Galloway, an outspoken critic of the war and sanctions against Iraq--spoke before the cheering crowds at Trafalgar Square.

"Because of the demonstrations, George Bush has been on virtual lockdown in Buckingham Palace for almost his entire visit," Galloway announced.

As part of the demonstration, artist activists pulled down a 20-foot-high papier-mache statue of George W. Bush holding a missile. The crowd chanted, "Pull him down, pull him down" as activists threw rope around the effigy. A massive cheer went up as the effigy hit the stage.

Students from high schools and colleges came from all over Britain to participate, ignoring police threats to detain them on the basis of truancy laws. The British public was outraged at the high cost of protecting Bush. His unpopularity on the streets was clear, as demonstrators got much encouragement from the sidelines.

Signs at the demonstration included one that read: "George Bush an American War Wolf in London."

This massive demonstration was the culmination of a series of activities that pulled together various sectors of the peace and anti-war movement.

Kicking off the activies on Nov. 18, some 2,000 activists overflowed the Quaker Friends Meeting Hall in Euston Square. Speakers at that rally included playwright Harold Pinter, former British Labor Party Members of Parliament Tony Benn, who has also been a cabinet minister, and Geo rge Galloway of the Stop the War Coali tion, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, Kate Hudson from the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament and, from the United States, Deirdre Sinnott for the ANSWER Coalition and author, anti-war activist and disabled U.S. Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic.

"The question really is how can we develop the movement into a global movement so powerful that no government can disregard it?" Tony Benn asked the crowd that had packed into the hall. "Imper ialism is motivated by economic concerns and it has seized power for its own interests."

Ron Kovic described his transformation from gung ho soldier to a leading anti-war activist, which he documented in his book "Born on the Fourth of July": "I'd like to say to those who'd like to glorify war, how disgusting. We are going to change society and we will do it together. We have a rendezvous with history."

On Nov. 19 demonstrators staged an alternative State Processional in an open horse-drawn carriage. There was a constant demonstration near Buckingham Palace, where Bush and entourage were being hosted by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.

The Lord Mayor of London, Ken Living stone, hosted a different kind of gathering: a "peace reception" for Ron Kovic at Lon don's City Hall. "Most mayors in the Uni ted States wanted to have me arrested--not honor me and other peacemakers in City Hall," commented Kovic.

Reprinted from the Dec. 4, 2003, issue of Workers World newspaper

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