Thursday, March 21, 2013

10 years past the London's 1,000,000+ person antiwar march

I have been reading a lot about  the Iraq War this week as it began 10 years ago this month. Tim N from CPT has put together links to things written by CPTers in Iraq over the past decade at And I was interviewed for  War News Radio for Swarthmore College (Pennsylvania). Fortunately they were also able to interview team mates Michelle, Peggy and Mohammed, because my knowledge of CPT and the people they worked with  10 years ago was very weak.   The section about  CPT in the show entitled "Ten Years Since Iraq"  starts around 1830  at . (There are a couple of mistakes in the show- CPT does not have 6 projects right now, only four, and we wish that she had not taken away from Mohammed's experience by saying that CPT was there to back him up in his vigil and thus segueing to CPT's work).

But this has brought back memories of living in London, UK in the time of the huge push from the people before the war started. I had not really had much experience with marches and demonstrations. But when we moved to London in Spring 2002, we came to a tiny little Mennonite church (Wood Green Mennonite) which was very active in such things.
I spent about an hour looking in friend's FB for photos of the 2003 demonstration but I could only find this one of Wood Green church at a local Wood Green demo. I created the banner to replace an old orange one.
My first experience was in November 2002 when the UK began to really resist what Blair was heading toward. Our family joined Bernhard Misrahi and family down in central London. Bernhard was a Jewish man who worshiped at a Mennonite church, was part of the Socialist movement, was a stanch compaigner for the Palestinian people and was heading into this march in a wheelchair. He was dying of terminal cancer and knew that this was to be his last march, so he wanted to be with both his Mennonite community and his Jewish Socialist community. However the police had contained us waiting for things to be set up properly and these two groups had been seperated. So my main memory of that march was racing behind Bernhard's chair pushed by his son Adam, through the thousands of people, trying to find the others in order to fulfill Bernhard's wish. We did find them, thanks to the marvelous invention of mobile phones. Bernhard died in January 2003, not long before the 1,000,000+ march that I am sure he would have loved to have been at.

On 15 February Wood Green Mennonite joined in what is alledged to have been the largest anti-war march ever on London streets. Wikipedia writes," The weather, on the day of the protest was grey and cold, but reports noted that people remained "in high spirits" as London became gridlocked and protesters were stuck for hours at Gower Street and Embankment. Hundreds of coaches brought protesters from 250 towns and cities across the UK, with around 100 coaches coming from Wales alone. Many commentators noted the diversity of those attending the march. Euan Ferguson noted in The Observer[37] that:
[As well as the] usual suspects - CND, Socialist Workers Party, the anarchists … There were nuns. Toddlers. Women barristers. The Eton George Orwell Society. Archaeologists Against War. Walthamstow Catholic Church, the Swaffham Women's Choir and Notts County Supporters Say Make Love Not War (And a Home Win against Bristol would be Nice). They won 2-0, by the way. One group of SWP stalwarts were joined, for the first march in any of their histories, by their mothers. There were country folk and lecturers, dentists and poulterers, a hairdresser from Cardiff and a poet from Cheltenham."
That is something I certainly remember, the long, long waits and the tiny baby steps because of the crush of the people. But it was exhilerating, as well as extremely tiring for the body, to be among so many diverse people saying, "NO, not in our name. " One vivid memory is walking by the theatre where the musical, "Les Miserables" was playing. It was intermission and the actors in costume were joining us by hanging out of the windows of their dressing rooms and waving the flags of the June Rebellion 1815 in Paris. That revolt ended in 93 dead, mostly from the "rebels". Our march in 2003  was very peaceful, but the war that would ensue very shortly would have so much bloodshed.

That evening we waited to see what the news said about the day. It was so dishearening and disgusting and enfuriating to hear Blair say, (my paraphrase), "I am so glad to be part of a country where people have the freedom to march the streets to speak out what they believe. However, despite so many of you coming out to tell me your opinion , I am declaring that we are still going to war".

It felt like he had taken a long, long pin and punctured a large balloon again and again. A few weeks later, after the war had started,  our small community attended a very small, local demonstration down the hill in Crouch End. People kept coming up to us and saying, "what's the use. I was there on 15 February, but Blair did not listen. We are in Iraq now. Our protest did not work."

It was hard to live in community as Canadians with dear friends from USA and Britian. Our country had listened to the massive outpouring of dismay and decided not to join in the move to invade. But in spite of our relief at that we needed to grieve along with our housemates the arrogance, disregard and duplicity of their governments.

Today I read some news reports from 15 February, 2013 remembering the demo of 10 years ago.  They said that the response from Blair to the outpouring of resistance had various results. Some gave up in disillusionment, but many (including myself) became much stronger activists. I believe it was another step in my life towards where I am today.

1 comment:

  1. There have currently been many reports stating that 'evidence for WOMD, Weapons of Mass Distruction' was known to be false and some 'witnesses' have confessed to lying about their existence.

    On top of the nearly 200,000 deaths of Iraq nationals the 'alied' mortalities have been doubled by the number of suicides of 'vets'.

    What an terrible tale.