Anti-War Protesters Hold Global Rallies
Over 2 Million Gather in Cities Around the World to Protest Iraq War
By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters - 15 Feb, 11:51am) - More than two million protesters joined forces around the globe on Saturday to deliver a blunt message to President Bush -- "Give peace a chance and do not rush into war against Iraq."
From Canberra to Sofia, from Cape Town to Karachi, they took to the streets to pillory Bush as a bloodthirsty warmonger.
In the biggest demonstrations of 'people power' since the Vietnam War, they poured scorn on Bush's hawkish stance.
"This war is solely about oil. George Bush has never given a damn about human rights," London mayor Ken Livingstone told reporters at a giant rally in London.
At least half a million people marched through the British capital in the biggest peace demonstration in British political history. Thousands protested in other British cities.
Europe's biggest rally appeared to be in Rome where, under a sea of rainbow peace banners, one million people marched through the streets of Rome. Graying pensioners to dreadlocked teenagers marched side-by-side in a carnival-like atmosphere.
In France, one of the staunchest opponents of war, one woman protesting in Paris said: "The Americans were stressed by September 11 and now they are going completely overboard."
At least 50,000 people crammed into the center of Paris where organizers believed the crowd would swell beyond 100,000.
France's opposition for now to war against Iraq to rid it of alleged weapons of mass destruction is supported in Europe by Berlin, where some 500,000 people attended a rally in the biggest protest in Germany since the end of World War II.
They waved banners reading "No Blood for Oil," "Make Love Not War," and "War? No Thanks!"
In the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, one banner read: "I look at Bush but see Hitler."
The day began with a slew of demonstrations in Asia. In Japan, the only nation to have been attacked with nuclear weapons at the end of World War II, around 300 gathered in front of the U.S. embassy in Tokyo chanting anti-war slogans.
"What the United States is doing now is wrong. We are on the brink of World War Three," said Japanese housewife Mariko Ayama.
Australians turned out in their thousands for the biggest protest since the anti-Vietnam War marches of 30 years ago.
South Koreans shouted: "Bush Terrorist," while Malaysian protesters depicted Bush with yellowing missiles for teeth.
CONTINENTS UNITE AGAINST WAR
"The whole world is against this war. Only one person wants it," said Muslim teenager Bilqees Gamieldien in Cape Town.
Protesters were cheered on Friday when U.N chief weapons inspector Hans Blix told the U.N. Security Council that he held out hope arms inspections in Iraq would work.
In the Arab world, tens of thousands of Syrians and Palestinian residents of Damascus took to the streets to voice their opposition to a U.S. war against fellow Arab Iraqis.
The crowds burned the U.S. and Israeli flags near the country's parliament and chanted slogans calling a U.S. military campaign against Baghdad a war for oil.
About 10,000 people waving Iraqi, French and German flags and Saddam Hussein pictures marched peacefully but noisily through the Lebanese capital, Beirut, toward the U.N. offices where security forces with riot gear and soldiers gathered.
In Turkey, demonstrators pleaded: "No to more blood and chaos in our region" and "No more American imperialism."
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz held his own one-man protest in the Italian city of Assissi, praying silently before the tomb of St. Francis, the patron of peace.
"The people of Iraq want peace and millions of people around the world are demonstrating for peace, so let us all work for peace and resist the war," he said in front of one of the world's most famous religious shrines.
The global rallies gave heart to Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz who held his own one-man peace vigil in the Italian city of Assisi, praying silently before the tomb of St. Francis, the patron of peace.
"The people of Iraq want peace and millions of people around the world are demonstrating for peace, so let us all work for peace and resist the war," said Aziz, a Christian, in front of one of the world's most famous religious shrines.
The same wave of anti-Americanism swept over Europe, already deeply divided over the need to attack Iraq. Most of the language used in the protests was directed at the United States.
"We have to discipline the United States. The biggest threat to peace is the United States, not Iraq," said one pensioner in Finland.
"The war would be useless," said Belgian social worker Roselyne Laforge. "It would only make the Iraq people weaker and would keep Saddam Hussein in power."
One Russian protester's banner showed a photograph of Bush with the words: "Butcher: Get out of other people's lands."
"Bush needs to make Daddy proud," said one Dutch banner, in reference to George Bush senior who led a war against Iraq in 1991 to oust its troops from Kuwait.
"No blood for oil" and "U.S. stop bullying the world into war" proclaimed the placards in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.
In Croatia, several hundred masked protesters burned the American flag in front of the U.S. embassy in Zagreb.
The only major trouble flared in the Greek capital, Athens, where demonstrators burned a car and smashed several shop and bank windows in center of the city at the start of a protest march to the U.S. embassy by up to 30,000 people.