Reports 2001

Attack on Afghanistan, October 8th 2001

Successful Anti-War March through Newcastle

March passes down Northumberland Street

A successful anti-war march and rally was organised in Newcastle by the Tyneside Stop The War Coalition on Saturday, November 3. Over 600 people marched through Newcastle upon Tyne, calling for an end to the bombing of Afghanistan. The crowd heard eight speakers from a diversity of groups, united in their condemnation of the terrorist attacks of September 11, and their call for the violent retaliation against Afghanistan to end.

The march moved off from the Civic Centre behind a large banner Tyneside Coalition - Stop the War, on its way to the Grey's Monument in the centre of Newcastle. Hundreds of placards with the slogans, Not In Our Name!, Peace and Justice for All!, No More Victims!, Give Peace a Chance! Health Workers Against the War! Millions Will Starve This Winter! were held up by the demonstrators as it passed down Northumberland Street accompanied by the sound of the drums of a Samba Band at the head of the march. Hundreds of leaflets were given out along the way and many people joined in swelling the demonstration to around a thousand by the time it reached the Monument.

The speeches at Grey's Monument began with a powerful plea by Rabbi Moshe Yehudai-Rimmer for the bombing to stop and innocent victims to be spared, ending with a prayer in English and Hebrew. He was followed by Alan Smithson (Bishop of Jarrow), Kevin Flynn (Tyneside Socialist Alliance), Rasheed Saraba (Pakistan Labour Party) and Sylvia Boyes (CND and Trident Ploughshares), as well as Farrah Kahn and Russell Gasser. Tina Downes, national President of the NATFHE lecturers' union, spoke of the need for a rational response, looking for the causes of the terror attacks and not for violent retaliation, and messages of support were read from MPs and the Deputy Mayor, John Marshall. Alice Mahon, MP, sent a statement calling for the bombing to stop to allow in food aid, saying "The war is producing more innocent victims, and is not a just response."

Several of the speakers condemned the horrific use of cluster bombs during the last week. Farrah Kahn, a freelance journalist, compared them to air-borne landmines, describing how she had met toddlers maimed by the unexploded yellow bomblets. Russell Gasser, who worked two years ago with landmine clearance groups in Afghanistan, spoke of "cluster bombs" and "carpet bombs" as two of the worst phrases in the English language, describing their hugely indiscriminate nature (a large proportion, or even all, of the bombs dropped, from 5-6 miles up, will miss their target), and their high failure rate (10-30% of the bomblets fail to explode). Every field in Laos is now unsafe for local farmers, because of unexploded munitions left behind after "carpet bombing" by US planes during the Vietnam war.

Concluding the rally Sam Robson, who chaired the proceedings on behalf of the Tyneside Stop the War Coalition, said that the demonstration and rally had been a magnificent achievement and had put down a marker in the north east that we will not tolerate this war being carried out in our name. He said that the Stop the War Coalition condemned the innocent deaths in New York and equally condemned the deaths of innocent people in Afghanistan. "We are part of an international movement against the war, and the movement is growing." he concluded.

"The march was bigger than we had even hoped, and its diversity demonstrated the breadth and depth of feeling against the war," said Andrew Gray, from the local coalition group that had organised the protest. "The response of the US and UK this last week has been to escalate the violence and resort to carpet bombing. The military response is not just politically foolish but profoundly wicked."

The coalition later held its seventh weekly vigil for peace, and has organised two coaches for the national demonstration in London on November 18.

Source: Workers' Daily Internet Edtion

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Newcastle demonstration against the invasion of Afghanistan, October 2001

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