MILLIONS PREPARE TO MARCH FOR PEACE
By John Vidal
The Guardian February 13 2003
Up to 10 million people on five continents are expected to
demonstrate against the probable war in Iraq on Saturday, in some of
the largest peace marches ever known.
Yesterday, up to 400 cities in 60 countries, from Antarctica to
Pacific islands, confirmed that peace rallies, vigils and marches
would take place. Of all major countries, only China is absent from
the growing list which includes more than 300 cities in Europe and
north America, 50 in Asia and Latin America, 10 in Africa and 20 in
Australia and Oceania.
Many countries will witness the largest demonstrations against war
they have ever seen.
The majority will be small but 500,000 people are expected in London
and Barcelona, and more than 100,000 in Rome, Paris, Berlin and other
European capitals. In the US, organisers were yesterday anticipating
200,000 marching in New York if permission is given. A further
100,000 are expected to march in 140 other American cities.
What is extraordinary, say the organisers, is the depth and breadth
of opposition that the US and Britain are meeting across the world
before a war has even started.
"This is unprecedented. Demonstrations only got this large against
the Vietnam war at the height of the conflict, years after it
started," said a spokesman for Answer, a coalition of US peace groups
which helped organise a march of 200,000 people last month in
Many in the global peace movement optimistically hope that public
opposition to a war is becoming politically significant and could now
affect the timing of an invasion of Iraq and possibly even help avert
"The internationalism of the opposition is the most powerful weapon
people have. It's all we have. We think that Bush and Blair are well
aware that global opposition is mounting fast and that they are now
desperate to start the war before they are completely isolated by
world opinion," said a spokesman for United for Peace and Justice, a
New polls in Europe and the US yesterday suggested that opposition is
still mounting and is likely to continue even if the US gets a second
resolution. Spanish and Dutch polls showed that more than 70% now
oppose even UN-mandated action, with slightly fewer in Italy.
Yesterday CND reported that it was struggling to cope with the deluge
of people wanting to join.
In Germany, more than 300 towns are sending coaches to Berlin, where
more than 100,000 people are expected to march.
"Opposition is broader than at any time in the past. This will be the
largest peace march in 20 years," said Malte Keutzseldt of Attac,
Germany. "The peace movement is getting older now, but a new
generation of young people is deeply concerned. The churches and
unions have linked to make the coalition far broader than even the
anti-nuclear missile marches in the 1980s".
In Paris, a march organiser said that feeling was running high and
that he expected the anti-war demonstration to be largest ever. The
most unusual rally is expected to be in the international territory
of Antarctica, where dozens of scientists and others at the US
McMurdo base on the edge of the Ross sea will take to the ice.
The idea of an international day of action against the war was first
suggested in London after the last peace march in October. It was
discussed by peace and anti-globalisation groups from 11 countries at
the European social forum in Florence in November, but only became
truly international following meetings in Cairo, Egypt and Porto
Alegre, Brazil, last month.
Since then the idea of coordinating international peace protests has
spread rapidly across the world and up to 30 new cities a day are
believed to be planning demonstrations. Next month activists from all
continents will meet in London to propose further global actions.
Coordinated international demonstrations have flourished in the past
five years with anti-capitalist marches and campaigns by
environmentalists and anti-globalisers against corporations like
McDonald's, Shell and Esso, and against global warming or
international trade. Mostly organised on the web by activists working
below the radar of the mainstream media, they have taken the
establishment by surprise in many countries and only been reported by
"The whole world's marching," said Helmut, a German student in
London. "This peace party should be better than the millennium
· The Stop The War Coalition (STWC) is planning a display of mass
direct action designed to bring Britain to a standstill on the day
any war starts with Iraq. The protests would involve demonstrations
in the centre of London and other big towns and cities, wildcat
strikes by anti-war supporters and mass sit-ins at schools, colleges
and universities across the country.
A spokeswoman for the SWTC said: "We do think there will be a whole
wave of civil disobedience if war breaks out. People want to be
peaceful and are quite slow to anger, but they will be very angry if
after Saturday's mass show of opposition Tony Blair refuses to listen."