Peace Rallies Draw Crowds Across Globe
Mar. 23, 2003
LONDON (AP) _ Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in cities around the world and outside U.S. military bases Saturday, but their rallies for an immediate end to war in Iraq were far smaller than recent protests.
``Bush, murderer,'' chanted protesters in Paris, while demonstrators in Finland roared: ``George Bush, CIA, how many kids did you kill today?''
Organizers said they had little time to plan the protests, and there was little sign of people responding to calls to pour into the streets or responding spontaneously to the start of war. Despite large turnouts in some cities Saturday, the mostly peaceful marches were dwarfed by anti-war protests Feb. 15, which saw some of the largest demonstrations in history.
In the African nation of Sudan, anti-riot police shot dead a 19-year-old university student during a protest in the capital, Khartoum, his cousin told The Associated Press. Police were not immediately available for comment. No further details were available.
Jaakko Kartano, a student at a march in Helsinki, Finland, said ``People ask what's the use of this, but our task is to instill faith in people and try and prevent anything like it (the war) happening again.''
There was a sense of frustration among marchers in London. The turnout _ put at 200,000 by police _ was much lower than last month's mass rally, which drew at least 750,000 people.
Many protesters said they did not expect British Prime Minister Tony Blair or President Bush to listen to them.
``I don't think there is a snowball's chance in hell this march will stop the war, but it's going to send out a message to next time, maybe,'' said Ernie Vandermass, a student who marched in London.
Protests would grow as the war continued, organizers said, but some marchers said people were discouraged and support may be ebbing.
Well over 100,000 also marched in protest in New York, and anti-war rallies also were held in such U.S. cities as Washington, Chicago and San Francisco. More than 200,000 marched down a main boulevard in Montreal.
Tens of thousands protested in dozens of marches in European countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
A few radicals scuffled with police on the fringes of some demonstrations and there were scattered arrests.
In the Spanish capital Madrid, police fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters for the second day running. In Barcelona, police said 150,000 protested, while town hall officials estimated up to half a million.
Dozens of protesters in Oslo, Norway, hurled rocks and paint at police who used tear gas and dogs to stop them from reaching the U.S. embassy.
About 90,000 people marched in Paris, police said. French protesters singled out the McDonald's fast food chain as a symbol of American influence, with protesters pelting rocks at a restaurant in Strasbourg and others bursting into a McDonald's in Lyon.
Police said 30,000 people marched in Bern, Switzerland. In Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, police said about 25,000 marched against the war, while organizers claimed 75,000.
In Berlin, about 40,000 protested and one placard declared ``Dresden 1945, Baghdad 2003: The same crime'' _ a reference to the Allied firebombing of the eastern German city at the end of World War II.
Protesters also gathered outside U.S. military bases in Europe. About 5,000 people protested at an air base in Fairford, England, from where U.S. B-52 bombers have been flying sorties, laying flowers at the main gate for ``the death of democracy.''
In Asia, the largest demonstrations were in Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic nation, but only a few thousand people took part, some burning U.S. flags and photos of Bush. ``Fight back, Americans are killers,'' protesters chanted outside the U.S. embassy in Jakarta.
Protests continued for a second day in the Middle East after violent anti-American clashes the day before. U.S. embassies or consulates in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were closed or reduced services as missions reviewed security amid a wave of anti-U.S. sentiment over the war.
Riot police used tear gas against some 200 high-school students who threw stones near the U.S. embassy in Bahrain. Hundreds of riot police watched as about 5,000 students gathered at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.
``Oh Arab army! Where are you?'' the Cairo students chanted, calling on Arab nations to send troops to support Iraq.
In some nations, protests singled out Britain and Australia, the only nations fighting with U.S. forces. Italian police used tear gas to break up protesters who tossed paint at the British consulate in Venice and 4,000 people marched to the Australian embassy in New Zealand.
Denouncing the Australian prime minister, they chanted, ``John Howard, You can't hide, we charge you with genocide.''