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imperialism & war

Roundup of Demonstrations Worldwide

Here is a brief rundown of anti-war demonstrations that took place around the world on Saturday from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Global protests against US-led war on Iraq

Sat Mar 22, 8:49 PM ET

LONDON (AFP) - Europe led demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people opposed to the US-led war against Iraq (news - web sites) and some clashed with police.

Major rallies were held in Barcelona, where more than 500,000 people took to the streets, London, Montreal, New York, Paris, Rome, Washington and other major cities in the Middle East and Asia.

In Khartoum, a Sudanese student was fatally wounded as police tried to hold back hundreds of anti-American demonstrators from the US embassy, police said.

In the Chilean capital, Santiago, a bomb exploded outside the branch of a US bank in an act believed to be a protest against the war, police said. There were also disturbances in New York and Oslo, reports said.

An anti-war protest outside the British embassy in Bahrain spilled over into clashes with police for a second day.

Two people were injured, according to witnesses, as protestors tried to break through a cordon and hurled three petrol bombs at the embassy garden.

In Barcelona, between 500,000 and 750,000 people, according to figures given by city hall and organisers, protested against the war, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, one of the strongest pro-war allies of US President George W. Bush (news - web sites).

Up to 250,000 people marched through central Madrid, according to organisers, pressing the same anti-war, anti-Aznar case.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) has also seen a dramatic fall in his popularity because of his support for Bush, and tens of thousands took part in a march through central London.

Police said there were fewer than the huge crowds seen at the last major peace rally, when London experienced its biggest ever street protest.

One 14-year-old girl said: "Tony Blair should listen to his people rather to his best friend Bush."

In the west of England, several thousand protesters converged on the RAF Fairford air force base, used by US B-52 bombers flying to Iraq, where they laid flowers at the main gate.

More than 100,000 anti-war protesters demonstrated in Rome, Milan and other cities in Italy, where the war has also been supported by the conservative government but is opposed by the public, according to polls.

More than 150,000 people filed through the streets of Paris and other French cities, organisers said. Police said there were 90,000 in the French capital.

Some 150,000 Germans rallied across the country, police said. About 30,000 Kurds marched in Frankfurt in solidarity with kinsmen in northern Iraq and Turkey.

Around 40,000 people attended a rally in Berlin to denounce a decision by the German government to allow US aircraft to use German airspace and bases.

Dozens of young people clashed with police in Oslo during one demonstration. About 200 people threw stones, eggs and other missiles at government buildings, police said.

When masked youths threw stones near the US embassy, Norwegian riot police used tear gas to disperse militants and seven people were arrested.

In Greece, several thousand people took part in a rally which followed two straight days of demonstration which drew 150,000 and over 200,000 people.

There were up to 50,000 protesters in Vienna, according to organisers, and two government ministers joined thousands of Swedes in their calls for the protection of civilians in Iraq.

About 10,000 people gathered near the US embassy in Copenhagen. "I'm ashamed to be Danish," declared teacher Jacob Lundgaard. The country's parliament has voted to back the US stance, sending two warships to the Gulf.

In New York, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched from Broadway to Washington Square. Media reports estimated up to 100,000 people.

Several dozen people were arrested after refused to go home and clashed with police at at the end of the rally, police sources said.

In Washington, just a few thousand turned out for a rally outside the White House in Washington. The president was at his Camp David retreat for the weekend.

In Montreal, organisers said 200,000 people took part in their anti-war rally. Police refused to give a figure.

More than 20,000 people demonstrated in Egypt. In Cairo, university students burned American, British and Israeli flags and called for President Hosni Mubarak (news - web sites) to send military support to Iraq.

In Gaza City, nearly 10,000 people demonstrated, mostly students from the Islamic University, carrying Hamas banners as a gesture of support for the main Palestinian Islamic movement, and Iraqi flags.

In Jakarta, capital of the world's most populous Muslim nation, 3,000 protestors picketed in front of the US embassy before moving on to the nearby British embassy.

Peace protesters also staged rallies in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Australia, which has sent 2,000 combat troops to join the US-British force, there were demonstrations in four cities. In Perth, Western Australia, an estimated 10,000 people marched.

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Meanwhile, Back in Israel... 23.Mar.2003 16:56



TEL AVIV -- On a day when tens of thousands of people marched in cities around the world, no more than 40 people showed up to protest the war in Israel's largest city. The gathering was so small that honking from a passing car drowned them out.

Taking a deep drag from her stubby cigarette, longtime peace activist Yudit Avidor, 48, assessed the gathering, and the state of the country's peace movement.

"It's really very lonely," said Avidor, 48, an unemployed librarian, shivering in the evening sea breeze. "There's no real opposition in this country. It's disappointing because people are so accepting."

Decimated after 30 months of violent clashes with Palestinians, Israel's once-vibrant peace camp may have reached an all-time low.

After January elections, the liberal Labor Party lost seven seats in the Israeli parliament, and is down to 19. Its conservative rival, the ruling Likud Party, nearly doubled its number of seats. For the first time, Labor's leaders are not part of the country's coalition government.

Now, as American-led forces move into Iraq, anti-war sentiment in Israel is nearly invisible. Voiced by a tiny contingent of far-left liberals, their beliefs are viewed as radical by the rest of the country.

"Go home!" shouted one man sitting in the passenger seat of a car that sped past the protesters.

Planted for an hour last night across the street from the American Embassy, the activists held signs and chanted slogans. Among their messages were, "We won't die and we won't kill in the service of the United States" and "Bush don't worry, they're waiting for you in the Hague," referring to the war crimes court.

Being in the minority did not bother Hava Keller. At 74, she has been speaking up for peace for decades. She said she feels she must come, even if no one hears her.

"We are here mostly for ourselves, not to feel so guilty," she said. "The interesting thing is nobody pays any attention."

It was not always like this. Peace activists remembered fondly the days when their cause drew hundreds of thousands to downtown Tel Aviv.

"Today that's a dream. Today there's no chance we could reproduce those numbers," said Dror Ekes, 34, of Peace Now, the oldest Israeli-Palestinian peace group. "The state of (the movement) is very, very gloomy."

The desire to make peace with Palestinians had been the glue that held the diverse movement together for decades. But their unity fell apart after a barrage of suicide bombings infuriated Israelis and hardened their view of their closest Arab neighbors. The shift became obvious during the last elections, when leftists lost significant ground.

Danna Shidolet and Michal Bargil are the sort of people who have distanced themselves from the Labor Party and the plight of the Palestinians.

Friends who spent a sunny Saturday morning discussing politics and the war while sitting on the steps of a bank in their downtown Tel Aviv neighborhood, they had no intention of taking their criticism of the United States' policy in Iraq to a demonstration.

"We had a very bitter waking up" after the peace negotiations with the Palestinians broke down in the 1990s, said Shidolet, 40, a dance history teacher. She said she believes that the Palestinian intelligentsia who were apt to negotiate have all fled the region.

Those left are too radical for rational discussions, she said. "Who can we talk to? A scrap of people who are living in Canada? We can understand them, but they're not here," she said.

The diehards who remain in the peace camp include a few intellectuals, artists and Communists. Nitzan Aviv, a 69-year-old textile designer who came to the protest, represents all three categories. Waving a black banner, he said being in the minority "doesn't discourage us."

"This is our faith," he explained. "This is my belief for many years. The more years go by, the more I believe in it."

Unlike most Israelis, who support their U.S. allies in Iraq and hope the outcome brings better times for Israel, peace advocates fear the war will make things worse for Israelis and Palestinians. They say the war will incite more terrorism. And they agree with Palestinians who say the distraction of Iraq will embolden conservative Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to increase incursions into the West Bank and Gaza.

"People in Iraq will hate all the West. I don't think you could bring democracy by dictating it," said Tinkerbell Joffe, 17, a protester wearing peace signs around her neck and paint-splattered jeans. Though by law she must join the army after graduating high school this year, Joffe said she hopes to change the system from within. "If I am going to live here, I can't just say, things are so bad here, wah, wah, wah. I love my country."

Optimists by nature, a few peace activists said they hope to find a silver lining emerge from war.

In one post-war scenario, they said President Bush may be eager to show he is even-handed, which will force him to pressure the conservatives running Israel's government to come to a settlement with Palestinians.

Longtime activists said they will never give up their fight. Uri Avnery, 79, who some call the "backbone of the political left," has been a part of the movement for 60 years.

"Peace is possible," he said, "anytime we want. The question is, do we want it, and do we want to pay the price."