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Year 2001 No. 198, November 19, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Anti-war protest:

100,000 March in London against War in Afghanistan

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Anti-war protest:
100,000 March in London against War in Afghanistan

Lack of Credibility of the Monopoly-Controlled Media

Congratulations on Joint Statement

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Anti-war protest:

100,000 March in London against War in Afghanistan

Report by Stop the War Coalition & Media Workers Against the War – Sunday 18 November

Some 100,000 anti-war protesters marched in London today, doubling last month's turn-out of 50,000, and reflecting the full breadth, depth and diversity of anti-war feeling in Britain. Trade unionists, Muslim organisations, community groups, anti-racists, human rights activists, anti-globalisation activists, students and MPs heard a wide range of speakers condemn the US-led military action in Afghanistan.

After a week in which sections of the media indulged in misplaced triumphalism in relation to the war in Afghanistan and subjected anti-war dissenters to misrepresentation and calumny, the huge numbers were particularly significant.

After the large demonstration in London on 13 October, the Guardian reported that government ministers were surprised and concerned. Tonight, they will be even more concerned.

Some 100,000 people, undoubtedly representing the views of millions, have seen through the hypocrisy and the double-standards, and reject the war being waged in their name.

Despite all the government's advantages in the propaganda war, more and more people are asking hard questions about this military action - and they are increasingly unsatisfied with the spin-doctors' answers.

Among the marchers were a wide range of people from trades unions, Muslim organisations, community and anti-racist groups, colleges, schools and universities, human rights, peace and anti-globalisation organisations, and political parties.

Protesters came by the coach-load from across the country, including Newcastle, Manchester, Plymouth, across Scotland & Wales, and the Foreign Secretary's own constituency of Blackburn. Forty coaches came from Birmingham. As the head of the march reached Trafalgar Square, the tail was still leaving Hyde Park.

"After today's demonstration, no-one can doubt both the scale and the diversity of anti-war feeling in this country," said Suresh Grover of the National Civil Rights Movement and the Stop the War Coalition steering committee. "This is a ground-breaking event, a massive display of opposition to the military action.

"This protest is also against the attack on human rights in Britain. The government is slipping in the suspension of habeas corpus and the introduction of internment and detention without trial. We are also seeing a proliferation of racist assaults.

"This huge turn-out represents the tip of the iceberg of disquiet running through British society. Despite the media attacks, we've doubled our numbers in a month. The message of the demonstration is that we are not going away. This movement will only get bigger."

Among the speakers were John Pilger, Bianca Jagger, Tony Benn, Caroline Lucas MEP (Green Party), Tariq Ali, Yvonne Ridley, New York City trade unionist Michael Letwin, Dr Jonathan Farley (a Tennessee-born American scholar currently at Oxford), MPs Jeremy Corbyn, Paul Marsden, Alan Simpson, George Galloway, and Adam Price, Asad Rehman (Newham Monitoring Project), Germaine Greer, George Monbiot, Morning Star editor John Haylett, Socialist Alliance chair Dave Nellist, human rights lawyers Louise Christian and Mike Mansfield, NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney, NUT Executive member Bernard Regan and people from Palestine, Kurdistan and Afghanistan itself.

The march was organised by the Stop the War Coalition and was supported by a wide range of peace and political organisations, community groups, trades unions and individuals (including CND, Labour MPs, RMT, ASLEF, the Muslim Parliament, the National Civil Rights Movement, the Newham Monitoring Project, the London Council of Mosques, Labour Against the War, Media Workers Against the War, Lawyers Against the War, and Artists Against the War).

At sunset, demonstrators - Muslim and non-Muslim - joined in iftar, the evening fast-breaking ritual of the month of Ramadan. The crowd revelled in its own diversity, and in the unity that so many found in calling for peace and justice - for Afghanistan, and people everywhere.

Article Index

Lack of Credibility of the Monopoly-Controlled Media

Sunday's demonstration was easily the largest anti-war event yet held in Britain. Yet the police estimates of 15,000 and the reporting in the monopoly-controlled media carried no credibility and made no attempt to assess the seriousness and significance of what the movement against the "war on terrorism", and in particular this latest demonstration, represents. WDIE is reproducing some comments which appeared on the IndyMedia UK website.

" One downside on the whole event and that was the (not unexpected) total lack of coverage in the government controlled media. The BBC gave the protest about 10 seconds’ worth of coverage and estimated the number of people to be 15,000. Now, I know I'm not very good at estimating crowds, but when people stretch at least 20 or 30 deep all the way from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square with thousands still left in Hyde Park, even I know that they are lying in the most unbelievable way. As I say, it wasn't unexpected, but when, in my estimate, 100,000 people make the effort to turn up, their lies just beggar belief (but also go to prove in my mind that what I read in places like IndyMedia is the truth). What will it take for them to tell the truth - how many people must turn up in order to make them tell the truth and for Blair to start listening?"

"One of the biggest national demos in decades was shamelessly misreported and given the minimum of coverage by the BBC in its usual 10 o'clock bulletin tonight.

Ridiculous police estimations of 15,000 were mindlessly recited, despite eyewitness putting the turnout at roughly double that of the previous march, for which the police estimate was 20,000.

'The organisers put the figure at closer to 50,000' the report stated. Yet every other report I have seen says their estimate was 100,000. Strange.

Perhaps the key lies in the wording of this potentially deceiving phrase, in particular the words 'CLOSER TO'. If the estimate given to the BBC by organisers was that of 100,000, the above statement could still be argued to be true in the sense that 100,000 is closer to 50,000 than it is to 16,000.

I was on the march today, and along with many others I can testify that there were far more than 15,000 in attendance. However, since I have no real idea for crowd sizes beyond that I would not hope to estimate, but simply echo many people's conviction that the event was at least double the size of the previous one.

But enough of this obsession with numbers, and on to the other issue raised by the report - the amount of coverage given. When such a significant indicator of public opinion manifests itself, doesn't a news organisation claiming to strive for unbiased reporting and representative coverage have a duty to give it a decent amount of airtime?

It seems not. The item shown tonight was relegated to being shown after several pieces largely just echoing what we already know - that the NA are advancing, and that Bin Laden is as yet nowhere to be found. It was completely unmentioned in the spiel at the beginning of the broadcast, and, when shown, was of a pitiful length (I did not time it exactly, perhaps someone else can provide info here).

Some of you (especially here on IndyMedia) will point out how predictable this is, and ask 'What did you expect?'. My point? That for a news source that so consistently produces unfair coverage, (as many mainstream outlets do) to still retain something of a reputation for accuracy and impartiality is remarkable. Clearly we need to do more to expose that as a myth."

"LONDON (Reuters) - Chanting slogans and waving banners, thousands of protesters have marched across London calling for an end to U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.

Demonstrators of different ages, religions and backgrounds chanted ‘Bush, Blair, CIA, how many kids have you killed today?’ and waved placards urging ‘Stop the War’ and ‘Not In My Name.’

The Stop the War Coalition estimated that 100,000 people attended the march on Sunday, which they said was the biggest of its kind since the Vietnam War three decades ago.

‘This is absolutely massive. We've never had such a variety of people coming together with one voice. This really shows that people do not support the bombing,’ said Stop the War spokesman Mike Marqusee.

But police said there were 15,000 people at the march, which snaked through London from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, where anti-war campaigners such as Bianca Jagger and former Labour politician Tony Benn spoke to a cheering, whistling crowd.

Benn said people should be putting pressure on British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington's main ally in the fight against terrorism, to end the bombing, which he said was killing thousands of innocent people.

A similar demonstration in October attracted 20,000 people according to police and 50,000 people according to organisers.

Witnesses said there were larger numbers of people at Sunday's march, where the carnival atmosphere provided some warmth on a cold, grey day.

An hour after the first protesters ended their march, members of trade unions, socialist and anti-war groups such as CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and pro-Palestinian organisations piled into Trafalgar Square.

Protesters said that despite the fact that the U.S.-led coalition appeared to have the upper hand in the fight against the Taleban, there were growing numbers of people opposed to the war in central Asia.

‘This turn-out is amazing. It shows that most people are really dissatisfied with the war. And replacing the Taleban with the (anti-Taleban) Northern Alliance, is just replacing one group of bandits with another,’ said Sue Jones of anti-capitalist group Globalise Resistance.

Andleen Razzaq, a Muslim marching for the Just Peace organisation, said thousands of Muslims had come from all over the country at the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

‘Ramadan is a time when Muslims look to themselves and try and find a way to a better world. It's very important that we are here today. We're not saying we have answers, we just want a just solution,’ she told Reuters.

"When we finally arrived at Trafalgar Square the atmosphere was amazing - the square was totally packed ‘shoulder to shoulder’, and I would estimate that there were double the number of people from last time. On that occasion, the police said 20,000 and the organisers said 50,000, so I would guess there were 30,000. On this occasion the police are saying 15,000 which is a blatant lie, and the organisers said 100,000, so I'd guess we're looking at maybe 60,000. The crowd was very, very mixed, with many children, many elderly, and people of every religious, cultural and ethnic grouping.

As it's Ramadan, there was a prayer at 4.15 to mark the breaking of fast and the Square fell quiet while the beautiful sound of the imam filled the air. We broke open our much needed sandwiches (along with many other non-Muslims who had fasted in solidarity) and listened to Jeremy Corbyn MP, John Pilger, George Monbiot and many other inspirational speakers.

When we left, the square was still very busy and the tubes were packed with protestors heading home - a great atmosphere with people striking up conversations with strangers all around. I don't know yet what is planned next, but hopefully it will be even bigger again next time. The only downer was that once again that we got all of 20 seconds on the main ITV news - I doubt the papers will give much coverage to what was the largest London demo for decades either. I really think that we should march on media targets in future - blockade the BBC or newspaper offices - maybe then they'll take notice and stop their censorship."

" The interesting point is that they felt the need to lie so blatantly on this one. How many thousands, coming home from the march, must have laughed out loud when they heard the figure quoted? How many more people now know that the police will lie for political reasons?

It is partly their fear of and bewilderment at a growing movement, that makes them try to portray it as a shrinking one."

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Congratulations on Joint Statement

Congratulations on the joint statement by RCPB(ML) and NCP. We regard this as a monumental and important step in achieving the historic task of restoring the unity of the communists in Britain.

Birmingham Branch of RCPB(ML)

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