`This is a great day for liberty´
By James Tweedie
Oct 8, 2007, 13:08
Thousands of peace protesters won a victory for civil liberties and told Prime Minister Gordon Brown to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan on Monday.
Police had threatened to ban the Stop the War Coalition rally and march under archaic legislation dating from 1839, but they caved in and allowed it to proceed with just half an hour to go after thousands of supporters flooded into central London.
Speakers from the worlds of politics, trade unionism and entertainment celebrated at a preliminary rally in Trafalgar Square, along with peace and democracy campaigners from Iraq and Iran.
StWC chairman Andrew Murray announced to the crowd that the police had relented just 30 minutes before the rally was due to start.
He added: “This is a tribute to this movement and to everyone who has campaigned to assert our right to hold this government to account for the criminal policies it is following around the world.”
Coalition convener Lindsey German agreed, saying that the authorities and MPs had underestimated the determination of the anti-war movement.
But she warned that Britain was now seeing restrictions on civil liberties as a direct result of the war in Iraq.
Left MP John McDonnell thanked the crowd of “students, pensioners, trade unionists and workers” for attending, declaring: “You’ve won a tremendous victory for our civil rights.
“Gordon Brown will be addressing Parliament about the war today. But nothing he can say will make up for the slaughter in Iraq,” insisted Mr McDonnell.
“The message to Gordon Brown must repeated again and again. It’s not 500 or 1,000 troops withdrawn by Christmas that we want, it’s all of them out now.”
Respect MP George Galloway agreed that the peace movement had won a “significant victory.”
He added: “Gordon Brown might think that Basra is a photo opportunity, but we know it is a graveyard for millions of innocent Iraqi civilians, whose lives are being ruined by the criminal activity of the British Parliament.”
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament chairwoman Kate Hudson pointed out: “Two weeks ago, at the Labour Party conference, Gordon Brown said: ‘I pledge to strengthen our liberties and to uphold our right to protest.’
“He has spent the last two weeks trying to suppress this demonstration, but they have had to cave in and allow it to go ahead. What a victory for our movement!”
Comedian Mark Steel added: “The government justified the invasion of Iraq by the torture and carnage going on under Saddam Hussein. “The extraordinary achievement of the occupation is that there is now more torture and more carnage than under Saddam.”
Labour MP Bob Wareing, who is chairman of the Stop the War parliamentary group, told the crowd: “It’s a privilege to be among you, because you represent millions of people in Britain and the United States.”