International protests against Iraq war continue over weekend
31 March 2003
The enormous opposition to the war against Iraq was evident again this weekend, as protests were held in numerous cities in the United States and internationally.
In Boston, Massachusetts, protestors on Saturday held the largest demonstration in that city since the Vietnam War. Between 30,000 and 50,000 people gathered, including many students as well as workers, farmers, elderly people and children. The crowd marched through one of Boston’s main shopping areas. Several thousand protesters participated in a “die-in,” lying down on Boylston Street to represent those being killed in the war.
Rana Abdul Aziz, a student at Tufts University, spoke at the rally. “I am the Iraqi whose vice has been denied,” she said. “It was only in their houses that Iraqis could find peace,” she continued, referring to the dictatorial policies of the regime of Saddam Hussein, and “now those refuges too have been violated” by American bombardment.
According to a report by Matthew Williams posted on Chicago Indymedia, many of those participating sought to draw a connection between the war and the increasing attack on social services and jobs in the United States. Chants during the course of the march included the demands, “Make jobs, not war” and “Money for jobs and education, not war and occupation.” Signs included, “Why not bomb Texas? They have oil too” and “Bush is killing our country.”
Phyllis Freeman, a professor of public health at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, said, “Even if the president isn’t listening, we want people in other counties to know we don’t agree with what our president is doing.” Another protestor, 67-year-old Mary Delavalette, said, “I’m ashamed to be an American. This is an illegal, immoral war. It’s for evil, for empire.”
Eric Weltman, one of the protest organizers, said the die-in was a protest directed not only at the American-led war against Iraq. “We’re working now to stop the next invasion. We’ve invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Who’s next? Iran? North Korea? Columbia?”
Thousands of people also participated in marches and rallies in other American cities, including New York and Patterson, New Jersey. Over 1,000 gathered in Manhattan’s Union Square to demand an end to war. One speaker also drew connections to the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people, and a moment of silence was held in remembrance of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year old American student murdered by Israeli forces on March 16 in southern Gaza.
The protestors in the US were joined by hundreds of thousands in other countries. In Germany, protests were held in Berlin and other cities, with over 100,000 participants. In Stuttgart and Frankfurt, hundreds gathered outside American military bases and the US military’s European Command, calling attention to the fact that the German government is cooperating with the war by allowing its airspace to be used by the US-British coalition troops.
Elsewhere in Europe, thousands gathered in Italy and Greece. In Rome, which has been home to massive protests over the course of the past several months, demonstrators hung black banners on bridges in several locations. One demonstrator said that the banners symbolized both the deaths being inflicted on the Iraqi people and oil, “which is the real reason for the war.”
In Spain, demonstrators picketed American military bases, and in Morocco thousands of marchers chanted, “We are all Iraqis,” as they walked through the city of Rabat.
Poland’s largest demonstration against the war also took place over the weekend, with 2,000 denouncing the war for oil supported by the Polish government. A similar number gathered in Budapest, Hungary, while an estimated 6,000 took part in protests in Moscow. Ten thousand marched in Paris and 8,000 in Dublin, Ireland. All these numbers are official estimates, which are generally substantially lower than the actual figures.
Protestors also gathered throughout the Middle East, including estimates of 10,000 in Egypt, 3,000 in Jordan and several hundred woman protestors in Yemen. In South America, thousands gathered in Venezuela and Chile.
In Asia, protestors faced down riot police outside the US embassy in Bangladesh. Police used tear gas against thousands protesting outside the Australian embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Howard government of Australia has fallen behind the Americans in supporting the war. Thousands of students marched in Seoul, South Korea and chanted, “Stop the bombing! Stop the killing!”
The Stalinist bureaucracy in China allowed a small protest at Beijijng University, undoubtedly a response to the enormous opposition in that country to the war. While any manifestation of popular discontent is generally suppressed, a few dozen students were allowed to demonstrate at the country’s premier university.
Some of the most significant protests were held on Sunday, particularly in Asia. In Jakarta, Indonesia, official estimates quoted 200,000 demonstrators, though organizers put the figure in the millions. These included both Muslims and Christians. Over 100,000 took part in demonstrations in Pakistan.