London unites against terror and war

As the death toll from the July 7 terrorist bombings in London climbed to 52, labor and antiwar groups voiced anger and revulsion against both terrorism and the Iraq war.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, the British labor movement and faith groups called for a “London United” demonstration July 14. At noon buses were to stop as millions of Londoners observed two minutes of silence in memory of those who died and to show their “complete defiance of the terrorists.”

The vigil was also set to pay tribute to the heroes of the transport and emergency services who responded immediately and saved many lives.

In an e-mail message to the World, John Haylett, editor of the London-based newspaper Morning Star, said the action aims “to show that London will not be moved from our goal of building an open, tolerant, multiracial and multicultural society.” The Star reported that racist vigilantes have attacked several mosques in the wake of the bombings even though experts believe the attack may have been the work of homegrown terrorists of unknown background.

Livingstone told reporters, “This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It’s not aimed at presidents and prime ministers. It was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners, Black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old — an indiscriminate attempt at slaughter.” He said the attack will not deter people from living “in harmony with one another” in a tolerant, democratic society.

Andrew Burgin of the London-based Coalition to Stop the War told the World by telephone that the antiwar movement and London’s Muslim community have called for another mass demonstration July 17 in Russell Square, where one of the bombs exploded. “It will be a memorial to those who died, a tribute to the public sector workers who rescued the wounded and an expression of solidarity with the Muslim community,” Burgin said. Burgin said it is too early to assess what conclusions people have drawn about the crisis “but there are a large number of people who are very angry with Prime Minister Tony Blair.”

The attack was timed to disrupt the G-8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, where protesters demanded that the world’s wealthiest nations take steps to reduce poverty in Africa and to curb global warming.

More than 225,000 people marched in Edinburgh July 3 to demand action to end poverty by the UN’s target date of 2015. President George W. Bush seized on the London bombings to change the subject back to the “war on terrorism.”

But critics were not deterred. The 70,000 member Rail, Maritime, and Transport Union (RMT) whose members operate the subways and buses that were bombed, said in a statement, “We reiterate union policy: the UK’s participation in the invasion of Iraq has made our country, our transport system and transport workers more vulnerable to attack. We should also take this opportunity to express our solidarity with the innocent Iraqis who are subjected to these kinds of attacks on a daily basis. We will continue to campaign to ensure the best possible security and safety measures are in place for our transport network.”

Dave Prentis, president of Unison, the United Kingdom’s largest union, thanked emergency response workers, all of them Unison members. “They have shown over the past few days just how much the public service ethos matters in our society,” he said. “They have worked round the clock to rescue, treat or care for the victims regardless of their own safety and comfort.”

Reginald Keyes, father of British soldier Tom Keyes, killed in Iraq in June 2003, charged that Blair’s decision to join Bush’s illegal war in Iraq made the terrorist attack in London “inevitable.” Keyes ran as an independent against Blair in the recent UK election, charging that his son “died for a lie.” He garnered 10 percent of the vote.

As for the G-8 summit, leaders of the antipoverty movement blasted the trickery of recycling previously approved funds as if it is new money for African economic development. At a news conference in Edinburgh, Kumi Naidor, chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty said, “The people have roared but the G-8 has whispered.” A spokesman for London-based Christian Aid called the G-8 summit a “vastly disappointing result.”

Royal Society President Lord May called lack of action on greenhouse gases a “disappointing failure.” (See related story, page 6.)

Here in the U.S., United for Peace and Justice condemned the London terrorist attack. “Instead of feeding the cycle of killing, it is time for a new direction in our policies,” the UFPJ statement said. “It is time for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan … end U.S. support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories … to remove U.S. military bases from oil-rich countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia.”

UFPJ added, “We use this occasion to recommit ourselves to doing all that we can to end the war in Iraq, including building a massive march in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 24.”