100,000 rally for peace in London

LONDON — On only a week’s notice, over 100,000 people took to the streets here Aug. 5 to demand an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon.

Having assembled at Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner under the midday sun, the colorful protesters, holding placards saying “End Israeli crimes in Lebanon,” marched down Park Lane waving Lebanese flags and chanting “Cease-fire now!” before turning towards the U.S. Embassy, where there were minor scuffles with police.

Some placards read “Stop starving the Palestinians,” referring to the continuing Israeli government assault on the Gaza Strip.

After passing Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square, an angry, passionate but peaceful crowd concentrated around 10 Downing Street, where Prime Minister Tony Blair was allegedly working on a UN resolution.

Samba band Rhythms of Resistance and direct action peace group Justice Not Vengeance staged a dramatic die-in as antiwar campaigners delivered a letter to Blair’s doorstep signed by 40,000 people demanding an immediate and unconditional cease-fire.

Hundreds of children’s shoes were also tossed into a heap in front of the gates leading to Blair’s residence, symbolizing the hundreds of children killed in Israel’s latest onslaught.

The city’s Parliament Square was then packed with thousands of protesters listening to lively speeches from a variety of elected officials, activists and trade unionists.

John McDonnell, a leader of the Labor Party’s left wing, summed up the mood of the march when he said: “I bring a message for Tony Blair: You bring shame upon this country!” He called for the urgent reconvening of Parliament to discuss the crisis in the Middle East.

Walter Wolfgang, vice chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), agreed, declaring it “absolutely vital that, in this condition of crisis, the House of Commons should be recalled and should make its voice heard.”

Labor Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn said that the demonstration showed the unity of any normal thinking person in Britain “that there should be an immediate cease-fire and that the government’s line is incomprehensibly wrong.”

The general secretary of the civil service union PCS, Mark Serwotka, said, “Bush and Blair say they are for the war on terror. Yet, when faced with the terrorism of the Israeli state, they stay silent, and we should condemn them for that disgrace.”

Veteran peace campaigner Tony Benn said, “This is not a religious war — there is no reason why Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus should not live and work in peace. This is a war for oil and power.”

The demonstration was initiated by the Stop the War Coalition, the British Muslim Initiative, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and the CND, but drew scores of other sponsors.

Protests against the Israeli assault took place on the same weekend in Tel Aviv, Israel, where up to 10,000 marched, and in Austria, Belgium, Scotland, Indonesia, Morocco, South Africa, Canada, India, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Syria, among other countries.

Morning Star