IRL | 27.03.2003 14:29
indymedia radio london broadcasting on res fm 104.4fm
every wednesday 1-2pm
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Almost one week into the declaration of war against iraq and the US / UK attack on iraq we bring you a round up of the anti-war protests from the uk and around the world - this is in no way a full account of all of the events kicking off, just a few highlights from indymedia newswires.
Millions have again been on the streets with many taking direct action and engaging in civil disobedience. in many parts of the world protests have been met with riot police and there has been fighting between demonstrators and police in many cities. here an unprecidented level of civil disobedience has been seen as people responded to calls for action and shut down the centres of major cities
also in the uk the softly softly approach to peace protest policing has evapourated and indymedia is increasingly getting reports of draconian use of legislation, including the targetting of peace protestors under anti-terorist laws, and a significant hike in the levels of police aggression towards demonstrators.
that said resistance has been widespread across the country over the last few days as people joined the world in saying no to the war......
for note there's daily anti-war reports and discussion - live in london - each day, between 11 and 12pm, on resonance fm - 104.4 fm and streaming on the web at http://freeteam.nl:8000/uknowar
indeed independent and alternative news reporting is becoming increasingly important as the media increasingly ignore both the peace protests and the changing police tactics in dealing with them. while many papers have featured details of demonstrations abroad there has been little coverage of the scale of the grass roots rebellion occuring all over the country...
here we bring you just a selection of the events that have been rocking the streets over the last days of war - and update you on the latest planned demonstrations from the stop the war coalition and others...
Last wednesday students and school children were taking to the streets throughout the country blocking city centres in an internationally co-ordinated protest.
Thousands took to the streets blocking traffic in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, and Whitehall in London. There were arrests as police dragged away teenage protestors and several reports of police violence as well as students fighting back.
Students walkouts and protests occured throughout the day in scores of towns and cities across the country including Leicester, Swansea, Presteigne and Worcester.....as the countdown to war entered its final hours
Thursday saw the official declaration of war with the initial missile strikes and air attacks being limited, wrong-footing many who thought the attack would start with the much heralded SHOCK AND AWE massive bombardment.
Even so the reaction was swift with campaigners shutting down roads in several cities during the morning rush hour.
As the morning continued the protests gathered speed with students and school children again taking the lead, with others joining their protests as the afternoon wore on. There were quite a number of arrests as clashes occured throughout the country.
Lancaster town hall was occupied, the centre of Leamington Spa was shut down.
In Reading the Labour Party South-East Regional HQ was Occupied.
Over 5000 people shut down the centre of manchester protesting and blockading roads - it was a similar story in Birmingham as thousands dropped everything and heading into the centre of town.
In Oxford, thousands of people converged on Carfax tower, holding a rally before civil disobedience blocked three bridges. There were reports of police over-reaction to the sit downs - as indeed there were at many of these protests.
Demonstrations against war raged through Sheffield for 9 hours, there were multiple sit-down protests, the main roundabout into Sheffield from the M1 was occupied 3 times, petrol stations, the local BBC office and the police HQ were targeted by protestors.
In Bristol, the centre of the city was gridlocked as thousands joined protesting students in blocking roads. Crowds pushed through police lines and the M32 was blockaded
In Glasgow, thousands halted all traffic in the heart of the city and the crowd took control over the streets around the whole Charing X interchange up till midnight.
In Edinburgh, protesters stormed the castle and Princes Street several times, die-ins were held while streets were again blockaded.
In Brighton, over 1,000 protested and blocked roads with some even occupying the Town Hall - there were later reports of police using cs spray on demonstrators. Nearby protestors shut down the centre of worthing.
In Swansea protesters staged sit-down actions at major road junctions. A march and Esso blockade was held in Halifax and protesters blockaded the entrance the main Esso garage in Yeovil. Meanwhile in Cardiff the centre of the city was brought to a standstill for several hours before reports of clashes with police.
Protests, blockades and direct actions were reported from all over the country - to numerous to mention - in what was the biggest display of civil disobedience that i can ever remember.
Last thursday as war was declared the story in london mirrored that in the rest of the country, with students and school children taking the lead in immediate protests which grew thoughought the day as more people joined the students.
By Midday there were protests being reported in many parts of london. Hundreds of school children occupied and obstructed roads in Walthamstow while blocs of hundreds more marched in towards parliament blocking traffic. There were early reports of fights with police as some groups refused to be coralled and pushed through police lines. Sit downs were reported near the city of london finnancial district, on tottenham court road and elsewhere.
By 2pm thousands were in parliament square. Reports came in that many schoolchildren had outwitted lines of police blocking whitehall to stage a sit down outside downing street. There were more reports of fights with police with several arrests and injuries on both sides.
By 3pm the size of the protests had increased and many roads around westminster and holborn were blocked by protestors
By 4.30pm up to 5000 people and students were in and around the westminster area. Roads including whitehall were also blocked by lines of police and mounted riot police as a helicopter thundered overhead. There were reports of clashes with riot police as demonstrators refused to be moved.
More people continued to converge in the streets around parliament as school children began leaving. The main demonstration had been called for 6pm on the day war broke out and by now parliament square was packed. Speaches from stop the war coalition members were made as spontaneous marches from other locations in london arrived in westminster.
By 6.30pm westminster bridge had been shut down by several hundred dancing protestors, it remained occupied for some time before they joined the main crowd outside parliament. Meanwhile access into parliament square was tightly controlled with several roads blocked off by police, and police vans being used as barriers to restrict access on those roads that were open.
Later as news filtered through that the first massive bombardment of iraq had started westminster bridge was again occupied by another group of protestors, and spontaneous sit downs blocked traffic in the surrounding streets - there were several reports of these sit downs being cleared quickly and violently by police.
Back in the square and two mobile sound systems played music while huge pictures of injured iraqis and anti-war slogans were projected onto the side of a building.
At around 830pm with numbers in the square now falling, several hundred protestors chanting "No Blood For Oil" and dancing to a samba band began marching out of parliament square along tothill street towards victoria.
As the lead part of the procession turned down a side street after police blocked their path with a line of officers they were attacked violently by police who threw a cordon across the side street dividing the crowd. There were many witnesses as police assaulted protestors and fight broke out.
Soon after and the major part of the crowd still in tothill street were surrounded by police and blocked on two sides by police vans. After a while there was an attempt to push through one of the police lines that resulted in another hard clash as police sent reinforcements in to shore up the line. All the while the drum were playing and the crowd was chanting "No War, No War".
Eventualy one of the cordons was removed and the group pushed back into parliament square where they remained for a few more hours.
As the atmosphere calmed down, parliament square began to resemble a peace camp. Several large campfires provided a focus point for discussions as people discussed politics and the war. Two soundsystems played music on the grass as people danced and there were several open mike sessions where people made speaches and debated late into the night. Impromptu drumming and chanting sessions were underway as fire jugglers provided entertainment, while a samba band continued to play in the streets. Trees had been adorned with peace messages, some statues of military figures had been graffitied and as time wore on, people scoured the grass clearing away the large amounts of litter left behind after the days protest. The square was finally re-opened to traffic at around 10pm.
Later reports came in that several people had been attacked and beaten by police at Charring Cross police station.
As the media went into war overdrive and US bombers took off from Fairford in Gloucestershire to bomb Iraq, there were local direct actions breaking out around the country.
In London early morning traffic was obstructed by a critical mass bycycile protest. Later and the Westway near edgeware Road was temporarily blocked by protestors. Police soon arrived on the scene and dragged and pushed people out of the road shouting that people were being detained under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act - a fact that alarmed many who were now being held up against railings by the side of the road. Police used the powers to search protestors thoroughly, but lied to several when they said that people were under obligation to provide their names and addresses - they also failed to provide a written record that they had detained and searched the people under the terrorism act.
Recently police have been using the terrorism act against peace protestors near military bases like the united states air force base in fairford, but its use has now spread to london. There were also later reports of traffic being blockaded in the Tower Hill area.
More actions were reported around the country including die-in street blockades while in oxford ESSO petrol pumps were chained shut and people locked themselves on garage forcourts with banners reading "No Blood For Oil", a local labour MP's office was also occupied. In manchester early morning traffic was blockaded but later attempts to block roads failed when police moved in forcefully and there were reports of several arrests and heavy handedness. The centre of bristol was yet again blockaded.
Later in the evening in London a crowd of up to two hundred people occupied the roundabout at Old Street tube and blocked traffic. Witnesses describe a completely over the top police responce - as they immediatly began violently pushing people, punching some in the face, kicking others, assaulting cyclists and pushing some of walls. A supportive crowd of onlookers watched outraged as the protestors tried to stick together and protect eachother as they were pushed into a tighter and tighter area, with police seemingly intent on provoking people. A small soundsystem was deliberatly damaged by police and one of the record decks confiscated.
With more and more police vehicles and reinforcements arriving onlookers cheered on the protestors and shouted "let them go" to the police, while other observers expressed dismay at the police's obviously violent actions.
After around three hours the police pushed people off the road and allowed them onto the path declaring that the fenced off pavement area had now been designated a legal protest area, and that people could continue their protest there. The roundabout was re-opened to traffic as people dispersed, several nursing injuries, but many vowed to be back on the streets the following day to continue resisting the war.
Last saturday saw massive protests in central london as well as the rest of the world. In london a national demonstration called by the stop the war coalition brought up to half a million people out onto the streets in the countiries biggest ever wartime demonstration. Pulled together in just three days much of the media gleefully reported the numbers as largely down on the previous record setting demonstration, but seemed to ignore that fact that that protest had come only after months of planning. The tone of the march was far more defiant than the previous march, and following the demonstration there were several road blockades including Oxford street which was blocked for many hours. A breakaway group of several hundred tried to reach the US embassy but were surrounded by riot police in Park Lane and held for around one hour. Many people said they intend to continue engaging in civil disobedience.
In Edinburgh, lots of speeches and a die-in in front of the Scottish Parliament started the anti-war protest, before school students speeded the demonstration off to Princess Street to block the traffic several times with sit-ins before marching to the US consulate followed by another row of speeches.
Police until then has been astonishing relaxed, but become violent, aggressive and provoking when plain-cloth policemen brutally tried to arrest a protester for no apparent reason which kicked off the bystanders to intervene, resulting in more arrests and detention. The crowd finally walked off to have a solidarity picket in front of St.Leonards police station. The demonstration broke through police-lines, when police tried to block their way.
In Glasgow there was a big demonstration with thousands yet again out on the streets, Some large groups of protesters were surrounded by police for over one and a half hours until they were allowed to leave in small groups, but many continued blocking roads throughout the day and into the evening.
In Manchester a largely peaceful demonstration culminated in heavy handed policing of a small muslim group. Over 1000 people protested in bristol, while throughout the country there were scores of smaller events with people protesting and engaging in civil disobedience in their local communities.
Saturday also saw thousands protest at US spy station at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire and United States air force base at Fairford in gloucestershire where US B52 bombers are based - and we'll have reports from both of those events later...
At Menwith Hill there was a carnival atmosphere with many people dressed in tin foil, music was provided by the Sheffield Samba Band and the Trollyd Soundsystem amoung others. There were several of attempts to break into the base, one using rope to pull down the fence and one to dig under it.
Despite the huge police presence in and around the base, over a thousand people came together to send a clear message to the warmongers. We don't want your war, and we don't want your bases either.
Meeting at the Main Gate, people of all ages marched and danced to sounds of the Sheffield Samba Band. Foil kites, balloons, wind funnels, hats, banners and placards.
As people moved on, having adorned the fences with foil - the protest was called "foil the base" refering to attempts to disrupt the base through cauing intereference using kites made out of tin foil. Individuals, and small groups breached the growing police lines to reach the fence and decorate it.
Beyond the gates, the calls to invade the base increased. Groups of people began to surge through gaps in the outer small fences and ditches. A mass trespass of 'military land' happened as people surged through trees and bushes towards the base. This was met by police with dogs, and threats to arrest people. At least eight people were arrested, although most were released later.
Police clad in riot gear, blue helmets and the full gear, appeared from inside the base and some violence began. Some people were clubbed, kicked, and set on. Young women and men were dragged face down through bushes, mud, and trees and then ejected over fences - On the road people shouted 'shame on you' at the police over-reaction. People left determined to return for more protests scheduled at the base in coming weeks
Protesters gathered in their thousands at the USAF base in Fairford on 24th March 2003, to voice their disgust at the use of B-52ís in the attack on Iraq. The national event, was also attended by many local people who are living under the sounds of the bombers lifting off to drop their payload six hours away. Section 12&14 of the 1986 Public Disorder Act were imposed, preventing deviation from a designated route. Riot police on foot and horseback guarded the base while an apache helicopter gunship thundered overhead, its guns pointing at protestors (lethal force has recently been authorised at the base). There were four arrests under the 1994 Criminal Justice Public Order Act, two for failing to remove masks. One of the people arrested has been on hunger strike ever since.
Aside from those that reached the demo, one coach from Swindon and three coach loads of protesters from London were prevented from even reaching Fairford. Pulled over by about fifty police. Every person was searched including their bags, whilst being filmed and photographed for around 6-7 minutes each. Police seized motorcycle helmets (offensive weapons) but allowed people to keep hard hats accepting these were for self defence protection - they also seized clothes with hoods, paper masks and padding in a process that lasted for around two hours.
The Protesters were then held on the coaches and escorted all the way back to London by three different regional police forces. After placing signs in the windows reading "Help we are being illegally detained", police blocked all traffic on the motorway behind the vehicles so that no one else would be able to read the signs. Later as the convoy hit london traffic near shepperds bush, protesters managed to escape their temporary coach cell. Leaving via the emergency exits, they ran onto the street, rather than wait for Euston their destination where eight police vans awaited, presumably ready to detain people until after the other protests in london were over.
PROTESTS SET TO CONTINUE...
While there has been a pause in the protests following saturdays mass demonstrations there are many more in the pipeline and smaller protests have continued to occur such as local road blockades and small actions at military bases such as the protest in anglesea on monday when protestors chained themselves to a military runway and others who have been blocking bomb convoys around USAF fairford.
The stop the war coalition is now calling for localised demonstrations all over the country this coming saturday. Many are expected to focus on local labour MPs who support tony blair's war, while in both manchester and London there will be protests against what campaigners see as the biased reporting of the BBC.
Another huge national demonstration in London has been called for Saturday 12th April, while a number of protests are due to be announced for the week before that on the weekend of the 5th and 6th of april (that's the weekend after next). Already scheduled for that weekend are a series of protests at at least 9 military bases under the banner is "Reclaim the Bases".
Meanwhile tomorrow in London, Students against the War have called a demonstration to march to the US embassy in Grosvenor Sq - leaving University of Central London at 5pm.
Anti-war protests took place all over the world, from Argentina to Vienna, in order to disrupt the killing of innocents, and to highlight the attack against Iraq.
A compilation of reports from over 15 US and Canadian states, 7 European countries as well as countries in the far east, demonstrates the wide variety of protest, from candle-light vigils in Seoul, Air base breaches in California to eighty thousand marching in the streets in of Stockholm and Helsinki , whilst Barcelona saw half a million taking to the streets . America was rocked by mass protests and civil disobedience with the finnancial district of san francisco being shut down for a whole day by blockades - arrest totals passed the 1,600 mark, and the total over the last days has topped 2000! In some places the police repression was very strong against protesters, such as in Madrid , Athens where 300.000 demonstrated, and Hamburg
The reaction against the war on Iraq in the Oceania region has also been both swift and massive, with huge demonstrations on the 22nd and continuing. In Cape Town over 8000 pupils and workers took to the streets to protest, with a continuos picket at the consulate, with shifts of 50 people picketing 24 hours a day.
This is just a sample - there were hundreds and hundreds of thousands taking to the streets worldwide - for a glimpse of the scale check out the global indymedia portal at http://www.indymedia.org
and remember for uk reports and stories check out http://www.indymedia.org.uk
and upload your own reports of actions and events...
don't hate the media - be the media!