For the second time in four weeks, demonstrators filled the streets in hundreds of cities around the world to protest the Bush administration’s drive to war against Iraq in defiance of the United Nations and world public opinion.

In Spain, whose government led by Prime Minister Jose Aznar is a staunch supporter of the U.S. administration’s policies, a half million protesters jammed the center of Madrid, waving anti-war placards and chanting against the U.S. and Spanish government positions. There they heard Portuguese writer and Nobel laureate Jose Saramago declare, “We are marching against the law of the jungle that the United States and its acolytes old and new want to impose on the world.” Some 300,000 demonstrators gathered in Barcelona, where many of them formed a three-mile human chain.

On Saturday evening in Berlin, 100,000 people with candles formed a 22-mile-long “chain of light,” while in Milan 700,000 joined an anti-war rally organized by the left-led CGIL labor federation.

Italy’s three main union federations said this week that they will launch national strikes to protest war as soon as any attack begins on Iraq. “The three confederations have agreed that as soon as war operations begin we will proclaim strikes to stop work,” said Savino Pezzotta, head of CISL. The federations represent some 11 million workers and retirees. Earlier this month, Italian dockers struck for the last hour of their shifts to protest the U.S. military’s use of the country’s ports to ship war material to the Persian Gulf.

New Zealanders demonstrated in Christ Church, where over 3,000 marched to the city’s central square, chanting “Give Peace a Chance,” while another 1,000 protested in Dunedin.

In Japan, some 10,000 marchers gathered in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park for the “Grand Rally and Parade,” one of over 100 major anti-war rallies held in Japan this year. A poll late last month showed over 78 percent opposed to a U.S. attack on Iraq. Over 40 percent said they feared a war would only lead to more alarm over terrorism and further depress the economy. The demonstration was organized by 100 grassroots peace, women’s and human rights groups as well as the National Confederation of Trade Unions, Zenroren, with participation of 28 nationally known public figures – journalists, writers, actors and others – as co-convenors. After the rally, marchers wound through the fashionable Ginza district, snarling traffic.

Australians protested in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and other cities, with rallies, peace picnics and teach-ins. Said Victoria Peace Network spokesperson David Spratt, “Right here in Melbourne, at the barracks, we are transmitting satellite intelligence from Pine Gap to the Pentagon, and people need to understand that.” The country’s ACTU labor federation re-emphasized its opposition to war, calling the involvement of the government headed by Prime Minister John Howard “a betrayal of the trust of the Australian people.” ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said unions will support organize protests and against the war, and support the right of workers to participate in peaceful political protest.

In Thailand, over 2,000 marched from Bangkok’s Royal Plaza to the United Nations compound, to submit a protest letter addressed to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The letter urged the UN to prevent any military force or violence against the people of Iraq. Three children wearing T-shorts with the slogan “We don’t need war” released a dozen pigeons as a symbol of peace. Bangkok Senator Sophon Suphapong quoted the dean of White House correspondents, Helen Thomas, who called George W. Bush “the worst president ever in American history” because he would kill innocent people for the sake of oil. Sophon called for intensified protests, saying enormous pressure from Washington made it difficult for politicians and government officials to express their views. Confederation for Democracy chairman Weng Tojirakarn noted that last month’s outpouring of protest around the world had forced the U.S. administration to delay its plans, and expressed optimism the current protests would help further delay war.

In Canada, the largest of at least 30 protests drew a quarter of a million people to Montreal.

In London, where two million demonstrators came out last month, protesters gathered in several residential neighborhoods while thousands flocked to a concert to raise funds for the Stop the War Coalition. The Trades Union Congress called a special emergency session of its general council for March 19, to discuss ways to step up anti-war pressure on the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair. The giant public workers union UNISON this week called on its members “to make their voice heard and tell the government that war against Iraq cannot be justified.” UNISON also urged its members to continue lobbying their representatives in Parliament, and to participate in “day after” protests being planned, especially at noontime in city centers.

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