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Baghdad burns, city stalled
- Transporters, women and children take to streets in Iraq protest

Even as US troops consolidated their position in Baghdad on Friday, anti-war protesters continued to choke the city streets, shouting slogans against America. From transport operators to the physically-challenged and even streetchildren, everybody made a beeline for the American Center, on the busy JL Nehru Road, once again throwing traffic in that area out of gear.

Deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) K.L. Tamta said about 200 persons, carrying the banner of the Diocese of Calcutta, gathered near AJC Bose Road and started marching towards the Center at 8.30 in the morning, shouting slogans and singing songs denouncing the US invasion of Iraq. Police stopped them about 100 yards from the Center and they dispersed after half an hour.

About 250 transport operators affiliated to Citu, led by former transport minister Shyamal Chakraborty, went in a procession to the American Center. There were 40 cars in the convoy and they stopped their vehicles along the road to honk as a mark of protest. Police said the agitators were there for half an hour from 1.30 pm.

Traffic moved at snail’s pace and there were long files of vehicles along Park Street, Theatre Road and the surrounding areas. Sunderbans affairs minister Kanti Ganguly led another group of challenged persons protesting the US invasion to the American Center. They had gathered under the banner of Pratibandhi Sammelan and held a meeting near the Fountain of Joy, before proceeding towards the Center and submitting a memorandum around 2.30 pm. Later in the evening, the Pragatisheel Mahila Samity held a meeting opposite Metro cinema. A bunch of children took a candlelight procession to the Center and Mahila Samity members said the candles were in memory of the Iraqis killed in the US invasion.

City traffic chief M.K. Singh reviewed the situation on Friday after a spate of rallies paralysed city traffic over the past two weeks. All senior city traffic police officers, including officers-in-charge of traffic guards, were present at the meeting held in Lalbazar.

Saturday traffic alert

M.K. Singh said he has asked his department to pull up its socks on Saturday, in view of the DYFI and Citu rallies in the evening near the American Center, in protest against the US invasion. He has advised motorists to avoid the stretch of JL Nehru Road near the American Center and its surrounding areas “if possible’’ on Saturday evening.

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