| Protesters dressed as George W. Bush and Tony Blair march down London’s Whitehall on Saturday. (AFP)
London, Feb. 15 (Reuters): More than four million protesters joined forces around the globe today to deliver a blunt message to US President George W. Bush —“Give peace a chance and do not rush into war against Iraq”.
In hundreds of towns and cities across the world, from Bangkok to Brussels, from Canberra to Calcutta, they took to the streets to pillory Bush as a bloodthirsty warmonger.
In the biggest demonstration of ‘people power’ since the Vietnam War, they poured scorn on Bush’s hawkish stance.
|Ten-month-old Sam Baldwin attends a peace march in London. Over four million protesters joined forces around the globe in hundreds of cities, from Canberra to Calcutta, to
ask the US to avert a war with Iraq. (AFP)
“This war is solely about oil. George Bush has never given a damn about human rights,” London mayor Ken Livingstone told reporters at a giant rally.
Close to one million people marched through London in the biggest peace demonstration in British political history.
“Give peace a chance, give peace a chance,” American peace activist Jesse Jackson chanted to the cheering throng.
Hollywood star Tim Robbins, reflecting on the global reach of the protests, said: “The peace movement is acting as one.”
Rome boasted another giant turnout. Under a sea of rainbow peace banners, one million people marched through the streets. Pensioners and teenagers marched side-by-side in a carnival-like atmosphere.
In France, one of the staunchest opponents of war, one woman protester said: “The Americans were stressed by September 11 and now they are going completely overboard.”
The French interior ministry estimated that at least 300,000 people turned out to protest across the country.
France’s opposition for now to war against Iraq to rid it of alleged weapons of mass destruction is supported in Europe by Berlin, where some 500,000 people attended a rally in the biggest protest in Germany since the end of World War Two.
They waved banners reading ‘No Blood for Oil’, ‘Make Love, Not War’, and ‘War' No Thanks!’
The day began with a slew of demonstrations in Asia. In Japan, the only nation to have been attacked with nuclear weapons at the end of World War Two, around 300 gathered in front of the US embassy in Tokyo chanting anti-war slogans.
“What the US is doing now is wrong. We are on the brink of World War Three,” said Japanese housewife Mariko Ayama.
Australians turned out in their thousands for the biggest protest since the anti-Vietnam War marches of 30 years ago.
“The whole world is against this war. Only one person wants it,” said teenager Bilqees Gamieldien in Cape Town.
Protesters were cheered on Friday when UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix told the U.N. Security Council that he held out hope arms inspections in Iraq would work.
In the Arab world, tens of thousands of Syrians and Palestinian residents of Damascus took to the streets to voice their opposition to a US war against fellow Arab Iraqis.
About 10,000 people waving Iraqi, French and German flags and Saddam Hussein pictures marched peacefully but noisily through the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
A wave of anti-Americanism swept over Europe, already deeply divided over the need to attack Iraq. “The biggest threat to peace is the US, not Iraq,” said one pensioner in Finland.
One Russian protester’s banner showed a photograph of Bush with the words: ‘Butcher: Get out of other people’s lands.’
In Croatia, several hundred masked protesters burned the American flag in front of the US embassy in Zagreb.
The only major trouble flared in the Greek capital, Athens, where demonstrators burned a car and smashed several shop and bank windows in centre of the city at the start of a march.
to the US embassy by up to 50,000 people.