Revolutionary Worker #1193, March 30, 2003, posted at http://rwor.org
"This war is against humanity."
Protester in Dhaka, Bangladesh, March 22
"Although this student peace movement is young and inexperienced, it is passionate, diverse, and creative. Suddenly, the politicization of youth looks unattractive to those who have called us apathetic for too long."
18-year-old student in London
As U.S. missiles began falling on Iraq, a new surge of antiwar protests and resistance swept over the planet.
In the days leading up to the war, there had been massive and widespread demonstrations around the globe--involving 2,000 cities in 98 countries, according to media reports. A World to Win News Service pointed out, "A 15-minute symbolic strike by millions of workers called by most of the trade union confederations of Continental Europe on March 12 showed the degree to which militant opposition to the war has become mainstream public opinion."
As the U.S. war began, there was an immediate response in many countries. Students were at the forefront of many protests. U.S. embassies became the focus of outrage in many places. For example in Bahrain--a small Persian Gulf state where the U.S. Navy has a key base--the U.S. embassy was shut down as protesters fought police outside the fortified building. In Athens, Greece, protesters threw stones, Molotov cocktails, and paint at the U.S. embassy.
There have been many fierce clashes between protesters and riot police, including in Seoul, South Korea and Cairo, Egypt.
Over 100,000 people, mainly students, marched in Athens on March 20. On the same day, protesters blocked highways and rail tracks in Italy. In Melbourne, Australia, marchers brought traffic to a standstill. In Berlin, 40,000 marched past the U.S. embassy and through the historic Brandenburg Gate. Some carried signs saying "George W. Hitler"--reminding the world of another power-mad imperialist regime with ambitions of conquering the world.
In Montreal, Canada, fans booed loudly when "The Star Spangled Banner" was played before a hockey game between the Canadians and New York Islanders.
In the U.K.--where Tony Blair has faithfully stood by Bush and drawn Britain into a major role in the war on Iraq--people made clear their opposition to the war and to the Blair government. The Guardian reported: "Lecturers [teachers], students, and children were at the front of many of [Thursday's] protests... All inner city London colleges and most schools reported walkouts... Unions also reported big numbers of people taking time off from work. Civil servants, including some working in the offices of the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, and the environmental secretary, Margaret Beckett, demonstrated during their lunch breaks. Many tube, rail, post office, and communication staff left their workplaces around the country to protest."
As we go to press, protests have continued every day since the start of the war. In many countries, the government and its armed forces have taken brutal measures to suppress demonstrations.
In Yemen, thousands tried to march on March 21 from the center of the capital, Sana, to the heavily guarded U.S. embassy on the outskirts of the city. The police opened fire, and at least two demonstrators were killed--one, an 11-year-old boy.
In Jordan, the U.S.-backed king has issued harsh warnings against anti-U.S. protesters, and armed government forces are patrolling the streets.
In Spain, riot police in "full battle gear" fired rubber bullets and charged anti-war protesters in the heart of Madrid on March 21. Throughout the day, tens of thousands of protesters targeted the U.S. embassy, the headquarters of the ruling Popular Party, and the parliament building. Some police were seen with the flag from the days of the fascist Franco regime pasted on their rifle butts.
Clashes between protesters and police have rocked Egypt, the most populous country in the Middle East with 70 million people. On March 21, tens of thousands of protesters marched on the U.S. embassy, pelted police with rocks, and denounced Arab governments for not taking a strong stand against the U.S. war on Iraq. According to CNN, "Thousands of riot police moved from street to street in Cairo, racing against a wave of angry anti-war protesters... Police cordoned off most of the central area of the city, turning the main centers of the usually busy city into a virtual ghost town... Plainclothes police carrying wooden or metal batons were seen beating several protesters." The next day, 20,000 students rallied at Cairo's Al Azhar campus, and thousands of others protested at other schools in Cairo and other cities.
In the U.K., people have been protesting at British and U.S. air bases. Thousands demonstrated at the Fairford base in Gloucestershire, where 14 U.S. B-52 bombers are based--three of the bombers were seen taking off from the base on March 21, reportedly to take part in the aerial assault on Baghdad.
Demonstrators in Japan also targeted U.S. air and naval bases at Yokosuka and Okinawa. Tens of thousands marched in Tokyo to denounce the Japanese government's support of the U.S. war. A 69-year- old demonstrator said, "Prime Minister Koizumi supports America's war on Iraq, but we want to let the world know that we citizens do not."
Protests have taken place in many other places across the globe--from demonstrators outside the U.S. embassy in Wellington, New Zealand, demanding that U.S. diplomats be expelled, to a general strike that shut down Dhaka and other cities in Bangladesh on March 21.
On March 22, as many as 500,000 people took to the streets of London. A protest leader told reporters, "It's all very well these slogans like `Shock and Awe,' this Rambo-style rhetoric. Every bomb going off almost inevitably means dead civilians." Another anti-war protester in London said, "Just because the war has started doesn't mean that my opinion has changed. This war is still illegal. Marching today is even more important than before."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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