MORE than 50,000 people marched from Parliament Square to Hyde Park on Saturday to demand the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.
At the same time over 100,000 people marched in Washington to demand US troops quit the Middle East and there were demonstrations in The Hague in Holland and other cities across the world.
At a ‘Peace and Liberty’ rally in Hyde Park, relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian man murdered at Stockwell tube by armed police on July 22, were among the speakers, alongside an Iraqi doctor, relatives of dead British soldiers, journalist John Pilger, MP Jeremy Corbyn, musician Brian Eno and the general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, Billy Hayes.
There were many Palestinian flags, placards and banners on the demonstration.
Among the trade unions who brought banners and contingents were the PCS civil service union, TGWU transport union, UNISON, the NUT, Amicus and the RMT.
A contingent from the Workers Revolutionary Party and the Young Socialists was joined by many youth and workers who heard their slogans, including: ‘Bush, Blair, Sharon – Axis of Evil!’, ‘No Blood For Oil! Kick Blair out!’, ‘End the occupation of Iraq! Troops out now!’, ‘British troops out now! – Bush and Blair out now!, and ‘Intifada night and day – Zionism you will pay!’
There were many homemade placards and banners with messages including one which said: ‘Is not the mass murder of 100,000 Iraqi women and children considered terrorism’.
Others said things like: ‘Blair Must Go’, ‘Shoot to kill is terrorism’, ‘Free Speech A Right Not A Privilege’ ‘Imperialism out of Iraq’, ‘No to Blair’s war! Yes to peace!’, ‘Troops home!’, ‘Bush and Blair – brothers in crime!’, ‘Iraqi Children Deserve Schools Not Graveyards’ and ‘Free Palestine – End Israeli occupation’.
There was a big orange banner saying: ‘End Detention and Torture Without Trial – Close Guantanamo’.
Branch Chair Phil Turner was holding the NUT South Yorkshire banner. He said: ‘The NUT and other unions have policies opposing the war. Now we need action.
‘Blair is privatising as fast as he can. If we spend billions on the war in Iraq then we can afford decent pensions and pay rather than treating workers like dirt, as at Gate Gourmet.’
Ford Dagenham TGWU shop steward Rod Finlayson said: ‘We want to see the occupation ended now and an end to this unjust war. We want action.’
NUT St Paul’s Way Community School deputy rep. Dave Gay said: ‘The labour movement must fight the occupation of Iraq in the way the labour movement fights – that is strike action.’
Mohamed Asan, Kirklees UNISON, said: ‘I think the unions should have taken action a long time ago to remove Blair and get the troops out of Iraq. The sooner they do, the better.’
Fourteen-year-olds Aimee Lormond and Malaika Cunningham from Alexandra Park School in north London were holding a ‘School Students Against War’ banner.
They said: ‘We had a sit-in which was supported by 200 pupils at our school for half-an-hour against the war last year. We want action to end the war now.’
Mohammed was holding a banner saying: ‘Bush and Blair Plotting Civil War in Iraq!!! US/UK Planting Sunni Bombs’.
He said: ‘Bush and Blair want to foment civil war and break Iraq up into three.’
University College UNISON Branch Secretary Tom Silverlock said: ‘I want political strike action to withdraw the troops now.
‘The BA workers showed how to do it. Take action to achieve our aims. The only way to change the law is to break it.’
Phil Myers, central London Amicus, said: ‘Definitely, it’s time for the unions to take action to end the occupation of Iraq. Absolutely.’
Sue Bowes, Brighton and Hove UNISON, said: ‘Most of the unions have policy opposing the war. Now is the time to act on it.’
Friends Lamees, an Iraqi, and Fuad, a Palestinian, said: ‘We’ve got to get rid of the real terrorists – Blair, Bush and Sharon, then there can be peace. Until then there can be no peace.’
Junaid Rahman came from Glasgow to the demonstration. He said: ‘We want the troops out now. They are causing the trouble. The British and US are there to oppress. The terrorism is done by them.
‘We must get rid of Blair and if that means socialist revolution, then the sooner the better.’
Ben Wait, 25, from Horsham in Sussex, told News Line: ‘Everyone’s got to do something to remove the administration we’ve got – it is just turning into US Republican scum and stupid amounts of people are dying every day.’
Michael Cooke, 16, from Cricklewood, said: ‘This war is just for money. I want to see Blair out because of this war.’
At the rally in Hyde Park, Peter Brierley, Donna Mahoney and Susan Smith, from Military Families Against The War, all spoke.
Susan Smith, whose 21-year-old son had died in Iraq on July 16 this year, read out a letter she had handed into Downing Street in the morning.
‘The Iraqi people see our soldiers as invaders,’ she said. ‘There shouldn’t be any more deaths,’ she added, breaking down in tears.
A message to the rally pledged ‘our full support to the campaign to end the occupation of Iraq, bring the troops home and defend the Muslim community and civil liberties’.
It was signed by TGWU General Secretary Tony Woodley, UNISON deputy-general secretary, Keith Sonnet, RMT leader Bob Crow, PCS leader Mark Serwotka, and FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack, who were on their way to the Labour Party conference.
Ismail Patel, from the Friends of Al Aqsa, said to loud cheers: ‘Let there never be any doubt the bombings of July 7 were the direct result of Blair’s foreign policy.’
Iraqi novelist, Haifa Zangana, said that academics and scientists were being deliberately assassinated in Iraq since the invasion.
‘Tony Blair’s hands are covered with blood and no river will wash them clean,’ she said.
She added that Iraqis believed the resistance to occupation was ‘legal, moral and an obligation on every single Iraqi’.
Patricia Armani and Vivienne de Menezes, relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes, addressed the rally.
Vivienne said: ‘We are angry with the action of the police that was brutal and cruel,’ and called for shoot-to-kill to be scrapped.
Billy Hayes, general secretary of the CWU, said: ‘At the TUC the trade union movement reaffirmed its call for a speedy withdrawal from Iraq.
‘The occupation denies Iraqi people the fundamental right to self-determination. The occupation forces must leave Iraq immediately.’
Iraqi surgeon Dr Salam Ismail told the rally: ‘I have come from Tal Afar. There are 2,500 families in the middle of the desert, with no water, no doctors, no food. We were just four doctors, for 2,500 people.
‘I have seen children dying in front of me because they the Americans denied me entry into the city.
‘We have just been collecting bodies and limbs.’
Campaigner Jackie Chase and Abu Bakar Degais, the relative of Omar Degais, being held in Guantanamo Bay, appealed for immediate action on Omar’s behalf.
‘Omar has been tortured and blinded in one eye with pepper spray rubbed into that eye,’ said Chase.
Other speakers included, Gate Gourmet workers, Iqbal Sachranie of the Muslim Council of Britain and Bianca Jagger.