LONDON — Over 100,000 peace campaigners from across Europe converged on Trafalgar Square Oct. 17 to demand an end to the illegal occupation of Iraq. Hordes of activists, many of whom had spent the weekend in debate at the European Social Forum, joined a spirited and noisy march from Russell Street to the traditional center of London protest.

Campaigners were determined that Prime Minister Tony Blair and his master, U.S. President George W. Bush, should not be let off the hook over the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing slaughter in that war-ravaged country.

The streets of central London were a sea of banners representing trade unions, peace and left-wing groups from across the Continent and beyond, led by the Stop the War Coalition (STWC), the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Muslim Association of Britain. A large and lively contingent from Act Against War (ACG) — the French equivalent of the STWC — showed everyone how it was done with bellowing cries of “Resistance!” Other protesters demanded “war criminal” Blair’s resignation.

As Trafalgar Square filled to capacity, reports were still coming in of new marchers arriving at Waterloo and Kings Cross station. The sea of marchers and placards entering the square seemed endless.

Addressing the packed rally, STWC activist Chris Nineham told protesters: “It’s official — everything that the antiwar movement said about this war from the start has been proved to be true.” Nineham noted that no WMDs have been found in Iraq and leaked British Cabinet documents have proven that Blair was hell-bent on war for the illegal aim of regime change from the very start.

“If there was any justice, Blair, Bush and [Italian Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi would be on trial before an international court for their war crimes,” he said to loud cheers. Nineham also urged everyone to join a worldwide day of protest against the war on the weekend of March 19 — the anniversary of the attack.

Lecturers’ union NATFHE General Secretary Paul Mackney called for justice, not warfare, for the people of the Middle East. “In particular we want justice for the Palestinian people,” he insisted.

CND vice-chair Bruce Kent praised those who attended the European Social Forum (ESF) as proof that another world was possible. “I’m dreaming of a Europe that is free of nuclear weapons, that welcomes refugees and is based on social justice,” he said. “We must all have this dream because I believe that our dreams can come true.”

Veteran campaigner Tony Benn said that the demonstration was the final link between the peace movement and the ESF, calling it an “indication of the strength of feeling across the whole of Europe and the world against this war.” He said that it was not enough simply to have the troops brought back from Iraq — the whole U.S. policy of aggression needed to be challenged.

The rally also saw the official launch of the Bring Our Troops Home Now campaign, run by the UK Veterans and Families for Peace group and headed by the Gentle family from Glasgow, whose 19-year-old soldier son Gordon was recently killed in Iraq.

His mother Rose explained that the families of the war bereaved were increasingly blaming not the Iraqi resistance for the deaths, but the British politicians who had sent soldiers to the killing fields on the basis of a lie.

“We need to get the troops home and we need to get Blair out,” she stressed. “Blair is a disgrace to the country — who is the prime minister anyway, him or George Bush?”

Gentle called for massive support for a Bring the Troops Back demonstration in Gordon’s native Pollok district in Glasgow, Scotland, set for Oct. 30.

— Morning Star