AROUND 80,000 protesters took to the streets of London last Saturday to call for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq in a march from Parliament Square to Hyde Park, via Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly.
The organisers – the Stop the War Coalition, CND and the Muslim Association of Britain – were expecting a mass turnout so two feeder marches were organised, which joined the main march along the way.
Trade union banners were well to the fore in the march and the workers from Gate Gourmet – fighting for their jobs – received a great cheer when they arrived, carrying hand-written placards and TGWU posters.
The ranks of the marchers were swelled after incidents in Basra the previous week, when British tanks demolished the local jail to rescue two SAS agents who had been arrested for shooting dead a local policeman.
The two had been arrested disguised as Arabs and in a car full of guns and explosives – raising many questions about what sort of mission they had been on.
It is not surprising the army authorities did not want them interrogated by locals or their mission made public.
Last Saturday’s protesters all seemed well aware that the SAS men must have been up to no good, and their capture with the explosives puts a question mark over many of the so-called sectarian bomb attacks in Iraq, allegedly between Sunnis and Shias.
The protesters were also demanding an end to the supposedly anti-terror legislation that is undermining civil liberties in Britain.
The rally in Hyde Park was addressed by Sue Smith, whose son recently died in Iraq. She read out a letter she has sent to Tony Blair, accusing him of sacrificing young British lives to further his own political purposes.
“I am sitting writing this letter hoping that you will understand how we feel, but I know that you don’t,” she wrote.