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Ceasefire now! London demo 5th Aug 2006 – report, pics, audio, video

Simon | 06.08.2006 14:18 | Lebanon War 2006 | London

For a demo called with only a week’s notice, it was huge. Protestors vented their rage at the ongoing slaughter in Lebanon (and Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan) by marching from Hyde Park, past the US embassy, leaving childrens’ shoes outside Downing Street, and ending up in Parliament Square for a rally. There was a die-in and sit-down protest outside Downing Street at which a number of arrests were reported. Two protestors loudly congratulated the police outside Downing Street for their bravery in protecting the public from Tony Blair, and were not arrested. Photos, audio clips of speeches, and some video footage are attached.

A bus load of peace campaigners from Swindon joined the march. I took it as a good sign that morning that there were several new faces on the bus that we’d never seen before, and also a few old faces that we hadn’t seen for a few years. This was reflected in the overall turnout – the BBC reports numbers of 100 thousand (according to the organisers) or 20 thousand (according to the police) [1]. I have long since given up playing the numbers game in the face of such wildly differing accounts, and I really couldn’t be bothered to count everyone, but this I know. It took ages for the march to get moving, and our group near the tail end of the march took over an hour just to get out of Hyde Park. This was somewhat reminiscent of 15th February 2003, when the streets of London were completely congested with marchers – a veritable human traffic jam. On reviewing the other reports posted to Indymedia however, it seems likely that the police’s crowd control measures at the US embassy [2] may have a lot to do with this.

As the marchers stood sweltering in Hyde Park, a few people worked the crowd distributing Vodafone-sponsored ice lollies from cool-bags. Whilst it is more likely that Vodafone had spotted a marketing opportunity than that they had suddenly decided to take a stand on the Middle East, the lollies were most welcome all the same.

The irrepressible community poet Tony Hillier was present, talking to the marchers and trying to capture the essence of the day in verse. The result (or at least a draft of it) is at the end of this report.

Whilst there were a large number of placards proclaiming “we are all Hizbollah” and a number of yellow Hizbollah flags to be seen, there was also a significant contingent demanding that both sides stop using violence. Notable amongst these was a group with a banner proclaiming “Christians, Muslims, Jews, united to end war, greed and all forms of humans harming humans”, and a small but very vocal group of Children Against the War chanting

“Do you need a child to tell you?
Enough is enough
Stop the killing on both sides”

As the march progressed along Whitehall past the Cenotaph and the gates of Downing Street, people started throwing children’s shoes over the metal barriers, rather than putting them down at the Cenotaph as the organisers had asked. There was a die-in and sit-down protest blocking half of the road, with sambatistas sitting or lying down whilst playing their instruments, a sit-down protestor urging others to join them and sit down, and orange-jacketed stop-the-war stewards urging people not to join them and sit down. Meanwhile the whole affair was surrounded by a line of yellow-jacketed police officers, and watched with interest by a growing crowd standing on the walls at the edge of the pavement for a better view.

I reached Parliament Square just in time to hear George Galloway make his speech. Regardless of what you think of his Big Brother antics, the man is still a fine orator, and was on top form. “Yesterday, Israel massacred 33 Kurdish agricultural workers in the fields of Syria”, he said. “Those people over there” (meaning presumably the Houses of Parliament) “who cried their crocodile tears for the Kurdish people, in order to justify the massacre and invasion of Iraq.”

“We, all of us, Conservatives, Liberals, Socialists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, we all come together in this coalition with one demand: for an unconditional ceasefire. All of us have a duty to speak the truth as we see it, and that’s why I say to you, as I said two weeks ago, Hizbollah is not now, nor has it ever been, a terrorist organisation”, he said, to rapturous applause.

Never one to avoid being controversial, he concluded by saying “Hasran Nasrallah is the real leader of the Arab people. Marwan Bargouti is the real leader of the Arab people. President Nasser is the real leader of the Arab people. Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro are the real leaders of the Arab people.”

Next up was Bruce Kent of CND and the Movement for the Abolition of War. “The other day, I was in Downing Street”, he told us, “handing in a petition against replacing Trident, and I thought how wonderful it had been if I had taken in a warrant from the International Criminal Court, and I was offering it to Mr Blair and a policeman would arrest him. That’s a dream that will come one day. This is a war crime.”

Asking how we can move forward to a different world, he said “I am not one who bombs and guns and planes and tanks bring peace. I think peace rests on justice and people living together, sharing, living as common human beings.” Calling for no more trade with Israel and no more tourism in Israel, he said “Don’t go on holiday, go and live with the Palestinians and work with them on some of their projects out there.”

Finally, he addressed the issue which is always lurking in the background, ready to derail any discussion of the situation in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon: anti-Semitism. Critics of Israel are regularly denounced as anti-Semitic, and meanwhile Palestine solidarity campaigners must always be vigilant to ensure their cause is not hijacked by fascists who are just looking for an opportunity to bash Jews. “Don’t let anti-Semitism grow in your heart”, he said. “This is not an issue of anti-Semitism. Some of the bravest people in the world are those who refuse to serve in the Israeli Defence Force. They are now in prison. They are brave, brave people. There are Jews for justice in this country; there are Jews against house demolitions. Work with your fellow Jews for peace in this world, with your fellow Christians, with your fellow Muslims.”

Rose Gentle then took the stage and told us that she won’t be satisfied with Blair being kicked out of office, that she and Military Families Against War intended to pursue him until he is brought to justice for his war crimes. “He is responsible for killing thousands and thousands of people”, she said, “including my son. And I promised my son that I’d fight for him.”

“People say to me, do you not blame the Iraqi person who put the bomb there that killed your son? But the way I look at it, what would we do if people came in and started taking bits out of our country?”

Conscious of the time at this point, and of my less-than-perfect grasp of London geography, I started making my way to the meeting point to catch the bus back to Swindon. This took me along Whitehall again, and past the gates of Downing Street, where the formerly sitting-down sambatistas and other protestors were making their way slowly, and with a huge police escort, to Parliament Square.

As the rest of the Swindon group gradually arrived at the meeting point, we compared notes, related our experiences to each other, and showed each other the photos we’d taken. I learned that I’d arrived in Parliament Square just too late to hear Tony Benn speaking, which is a shame because this seems to happen every time I attend rallies where he speaks. I also learned that Brian Haw had made a speech after I’d left. Fortunately another member of the group had recorded it, so I hope to be able to publish this just as soon as we can work out how to transfer it from her fancy new phone to a PC.

Two members of the group related the story of what could have turned into a rather heated incident, were it not for the finely-tuned customer service skills of one of the protestors. They were accosted by an elderly Jewish couple who apparently had relatives in Israel, and who had taken exception to the placard which said “Hands off Lebanon”. “We don’t want Lebanon”, this person had said, before launching into the mantra of “Israel has the right to defend itself” etc etc etc. My friends weren’t in the mood for an argument, having fallen behind the rest of the group, wanting to catch up and get to the rally, so they managed to placate the situation by saying that they only wanted an end to all violence, and thus they managed to extricate themselves from the encounter. The lesson I’d draw from this incident is that one should be careful when carrying mass-produced placards. Rather than just carrying the first one someone hands to you, select one carefully. Read what it says, and ask yourself “is this the message I want to put across by joining this demo?” If it isn’t then pick another one. Or better still, make your own. I find that two sheets of A3 card, a deep-throated stapler, a thick marker pen and a convenient stick do the job quite nicely.

With the Swindon group rounded up, and all present and correct, we set off to find our bus, only to be diverted by an impromptu piece of street theatre outside Downing Street. Two protestors, wearing fancy-dress police helmets, announced to anyone who was listening, that the high-visibility police officers guarding the gates had the dangerous terrorist Tony Blair completely surrounded and were coming in to arrest him. They praised the police force for their bravery in protecting the public from this dangerous man, to cheers from the onlookers.

Whilst I was filming this performance, I was mindful of the scenes Rikki has filmed recently from the very same spot, of Steve and Barbara being violently arrested for the Serious Organised Crime of holding up banners in a designated area without prior authorisation [3] [4]. Fortunately on this occasion the police took it all in good humour, merely asking the protestors to move onto the pavement, and once the short performance was done, the protestors dispersed without incident.

Curiously, Steve and Barbara seem to have been arrested once again at the same spot, shortly before I was there [5], although this time not under SOCPA laws [1]. Just what the hell is going on there?


UK Indymedia feature on the day, including links to other reports and background information:
BBC News - Demo brings ceasefire calls to UK:
Obsolete - Uh, yeah, there was sort of a demonstration...:
Blairwatch - A Day Out With A Maths Addict (estimates 88 to 110 thousand on the march):
Lenin’s Tomb - At Least 100,000 March Against US-Israeli Aggression:


no shoe-in

they were ready for us
Downing Street double lined barriers
triple lines of viz-jacket police

a pair of shoes flew
and another pair too
wellingtons, slippers, trainers,
sandals, jelly shoes, flip flops
and a silver shoe

a smell rose
from those children’s shoes
a bad smell
the smell of war rose
rose up Blair’s nose

braving the barrier
another shoe

tears flowed too

Swindon’s Community Poet, Tony Hillier, participates in the “Ceasefire Now” March when many of the 100,000 marchers laid down children’s shoes at Downing Street to symbolise the war-torn children in the current Israeli/Lebanese hostilities. 5 August 2006



Photos 1 of 3

06.08.2006 14:44

There were this many people... and then some
There were this many people... and then some

Leba-NO-n / stop global warring
Leba-NO-n / stop global warring

We vote dictatorship
We vote dictatorship

Stop the killing
Stop the killing

What price victory
What price victory

Palestine - a gian open-air prison
Palestine - a gian open-air prison

Bring the war criminals to justice
Bring the war criminals to justice

End israeli crimes in Lebanon
End israeli crimes in Lebanon

Community poet in action
Community poet in action

Stop Israel
Stop Israel

Israel is a rael threat to peace
Israel is a rael threat to peace

No UK arms components to Israel
No UK arms components to Israel

The persecuted become the persecuters
The persecuted become the persecuters

Victory to the resistance
Victory to the resistance

Jesus said love your neighbour
Jesus said love your neighbour

Don't buy Israeli goods
Don't buy Israeli goods

Stop the killing in Lebanon and Palestine
Stop the killing in Lebanon and Palestine

I love Beirut
I love Beirut

Judaism rejects the Zionist state
Judaism rejects the Zionist state

Only justice through sharing will bring peace
Only justice through sharing will bring peace

First set of photos.


Photos 2 of 3

06.08.2006 14:48

Children against the war
Children against the war

Bliar our shame
Bliar our shame

Stop starving the palestinians
Stop starving the palestinians

Why are you murdering our precious children?
Why are you murdering our precious children?

Christians, Muslims and Jews united
Christians, Muslims and Jews united

Brian Haw's much-reduced peace camp in Parliament Square
Brian Haw's much-reduced peace camp in Parliament Square

Sit-down protest outside Downing Street
Sit-down protest outside Downing Street

The sit-down protest moves off with big police escort
The sit-down protest moves off with big police escort

Demanding Blair's arrest for war crimes
Demanding Blair's arrest for war crimes

The second set of photos


Photos 3 of 3 - the shoes

06.08.2006 14:53

Shoes in front of Downing Street
Shoes in front of Downing Street

Shoes at the cenotaph
Shoes at the cenotaph

Shoes at the cenotaph
Shoes at the cenotaph

Shoes at the cenotaph
Shoes at the cenotaph

Cenotaph, minus the shoes
Cenotaph, minus the shoes

Cenotaph, minus the shoes
Cenotaph, minus the shoes

Clearing up the evidence of war crimes
Clearing up the evidence of war crimes

Stop the War had asked people to bring children's shoes as a visible reminder of the staggering proportion of children amongst the deaths in Lebanon. Some of them were laid gracefully around the Cenotaph, but it looks like a lot of people preferred to throw them at the gates of Downing Street instead.



Hide the following 3 comments

Brian Haw speech

06.08.2006 23:15

I reluctantly followed along with this march... arrived at Parliament Square just as Brian Haw was about to start his speech. I don't remember any mention of SOCPA protest-limiting laws in the introduction (I wonder why??!!). Can anyone else that was there confirm this. I don't think Brian Haw mentioned SOCPA either?? Again can anyone else confirm this?

Brian B
- Homepage:

Childrens' Shoes - PLEASE NOTE

07.08.2006 00:10

This is what 'Stop' the War Coalition said in an e-mail newsletter (3/8/2006)

"Bring children's shoes to the national demonstration on Saturday 5 August. We will leave them at 10 Downing Street. We want a mountain of children's shoes outside Tony Blair's home to symbolise the horror at his complicity in war crimes."

They NEVER said anything to the effect that they would be leaving these at the cenotaph, which is surely a glorification of war but maybe someone more intelligent can answer that (answers on a postcard!). Instead of making an effort to make sure that these shoes were really left at the cenotaph it appears that Stop the War stewards were more concerned with making sure that the demonstration kept moving (because it would jeopardise future demonstrations). NONE of the stewards I heard told ANYONE to put the shoes at the cenotaph instead of throwing them, and I was there for a while (as any respectable person should have been - including Twilight) - before the band arrived opposite 'down'ing street and until it eventually started moving on to Parliament Square. I had no idea that there were shoes at the cenotaph until I eventually moved further on. Of course it is possible that the stewards may have said something to ask police officers that these be left at Downing Street, and they are just doing their job. At the end of the day people can choose to ignore the stewards and it is up to those people to do that and tell others to do the same if they want to (maybe leaving space for others to pass by if they want to). However did they make any effort, to make sure these shoes were passed to Mr 'Bliar for another year (at least)'? My thought when the stewards said people should 'keep the protest moving' was that a possible good response that people could use is that this was the demonstration.

As an aside, I noticed that one police officer smiled as he put a water bottle into one of these shoes that were there to represent the child victims of the terrorist war against Lebanon. Now that's hardly respectful is it (answers on a postcard)?

Brian B

Brian's right about the shoes

07.08.2006 18:51

Having dug out the relevant e-mail I can see you're quite right - they wanted us to leave the shoes outside Downing Street. Thanks for pointing out the error.

Unfortunately I'm only human, and therefore prone to make mistakes from time to time :-)


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