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Protests Planned for Bush’s U.K. Visit

November 17, 2003

LONDON (AP) _ Children, peace activists, anarchists and at least one well-known American war veteran spent Monday planning protests against President Bush for his upcoming state visit.

The rallies scheduled during Bush’s visit beginning Tuesday are expected to be loud, colorful and well-organized. One plans to pull down an effigy of Bush in central London’s Trafalgar Square.

``This is the man who is in charge of the administration that’s killed 8,000 Afghanis and 10,000 Iraqis,″ said Ghada Razuki of the Stop the War Coalition. ``He is adding insult to injury by coming to our country, and he’s going to find out that he’s not welcome.″

Ron Kovic, the disabled U.S. Vietnam veteran and anti-war campaigner whose life story was filmed as ``Born on the Fourth of July,″ led a delegation to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office Monday to hand in a petition allegedly bearing more than 85,000 signatures asking that Bush’s invitation be withdrawn.

``We’re going to stop this war (in Iraq) and change both of our countries. We’re going to change the world,″ Kovic said.

The coalition hopes 60,000 people will join Thursday’s main anti-Bush march through London. More than 3,000 ``Stop Bush″ placards have been printed.

Several smaller rallies are planned throughout the country during Bush’s stay, which ends Friday.

The president says he understands why people oppose war.

``I understand particularly when I go and hug the moms and dads and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of those who died,″ Monday’s edition of The Sun newspaper in London quoted him as saying.

``I can also see the consequences of not acting, of hoping for the best in the face of tyrannical killers.″

The Stop the War Coalition organized a February anti-war rally in London that drew more than 1 million Britons.

``Our message to Bush is firstly, get your troops out, and secondly, if you think you can go into another country in the same way, think again,″ Razuki said.

Several other European anti-war groups _ including France’s Non a la Guerre (No to War), Italy’s Ya Basta (Enough’s Enough) and the Axis of Peace Coalition of France, Germany and Russia _ will participate.

The rallies also are expected to attract hundreds of schoolchildren. Verity Marriott, 16, who is organizing student ``strikes,″ called it truancy for a good cause.

Sir John Stevens, head of the Metropolitan Police in London, said security for Bush’s visit is unprecedented. Stevens canceled holidays for London officers and the security bill for taxpayers is expected to top $4.7 million.

The protests feed on widespread unhappiness in Britain about the war and its aftermath, and low regard for Bush.

In a recent poll, 59 percent of respondents said America’s standing in the world has diminished under Bush, while 60 percent disapproved of his performance in Iraq. Forty-seven percent said Bush did not seem capable of being president.

The Populus polling agency interviewed 964 adults by telephone between Nov. 7-9 for The Times survey. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.


On the Web:

Stop the War Coalition: http://www.stopwar.org.uk

Metropolitan Police: http://www.met.police.uk

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