“The whole world is against this war. Only one person wants it,” declared South African teenager Bilqees Gamieldien as she joined a Cape Town antiwar demonstration on a weekend when it did indeed seem that the whole world was dissenting from George W. Bush’s push for war with Iraq.
Millions of protesters marched into the streets of cities from Tokyo to Tel Aviv to Toronto and Bush’s homestate of Texas to deliver a message expressed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson to a crowd of more than one million in London: “It’s not too late to stop this war.”
Crowd estimates for demonstrations of the kind being seen this weekend are always a source of controversy, especially when nervous politicians — like British Prime Minister Tony Blair — try to convince journalists and the public to dismiss the significance of the protests even before they begin. But, faced with a historic show of dissent, even the constantly spinning Blair had to acknowledge that the cost for his unwavering support of the Bush administration on Iraq is turning out to be “unpopular” in his own land.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper described the London march as the largest peace demonstration in the country’s history. The headline on Sunday morning’s Observer newspaper read, “One million. And still they came,” and announced that the “massive turnout surpassed the organisers’ wildest expectations and Tony Blair’s worst fears.” Organizers of the British march estimated that as many as 1.5 million were cheering as London Mayor Ken Livingstone told the crowd, “So let everyone recognise what has happened here today: that Britain does not support this war for oil. The British people will not tolerate being used to prop up the most corrupt and racist American administration in over 80 years.”
German police said 500,000 marched in Berlin, while organizers put the number considerably higher. In Rome, an estimated one million marched on a day when newspapers reported that polls show 85 percent of Italians do not support a war to disarm Iraq. Organizers put the size of the Madrid crowd at 600,000, while city officials said as many as 1.3 million took to the streets in Barcelona. At least 300,000 people gathered in cities across France.
The protests spread around the globe, to Canada and Mexico, to Austria, Bosnia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands and Russia, and to Bahrain, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Iraq, South Korea Thailand.
New York’s streets were jammed by a crowd that stretched 20 blocks down the city’s First Avenue and overflowing onto Second and Third avenues. Estimates of the actual turnout varied wildly, but it seemed reasonable to suggest that at least 300,000 protesters converged for the midtown rally site where Archbishop Desmond Tutu, actors Susan Sarandon and Danny Glover, singers Pete Seeger and Harry Belafonte and US Rep. Dennis Kucinich appeared. “Peace! Peace!” shouted Tutu. “Let America listen to the rest of the world — and the rest of the world is saying: ‘Give the inspectors time.'”