In Italy, an estimated 500,000 people marched through the streets of Florence Saturday to voice their opposition to a possible war against Iraq. The march was organized by the European Social Forum, which brought together anti-war and anti-globalization campaigners from all parts of Europe.
Those taking part in the big antiwar rally made clear their opposition to a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq. The crowd's anger was increased by the tough new U.N. resolution on disarming Iraq that was adopted Friday by the U.N. Security Council in New York.
But despite the anti-American sentiment that ran high among the demonstrators, it was a peaceful and jovial demonstration with a carnival-like atmosphere. The marchers waved rainbow colored flags and blew whistles and balloons drifted through the air.
A large banner reading "no war" was carried at the head of the march as protesters wound their way through Florence. The demonstration had raised major security fears in the art rich city. Many shops in the historic center barricaded their premises or closed down for fear of violence.
The government deployed more than 6,000 policemen to Florence. The airspace above the city was closed to private planes. Hundreds of trash bins were removed from the demonstration route to avoid them being set on fire. But throughout the demonstration, police kept a low profile and no serious incidents were reported.
Saturday's march was the climax of the first European Social Forum, which brought together anti-globalization campaigners from across Europe for four days of concerts and debates on the role of political parties, alternatives to privatization and the threat of multinational corporations.