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Anti-War Demonstrations Held Around the World - 2003-03-15


Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in cities around the world took to the streets Saturday to protest the possibility of a U.S. - led war against Iraq.

The wave of protests began in Asia where an estimated 10,000 anti-war demonstrators marched in Tokyo.

In Bangkok, pigeons were released into the skies over the Thai capital as a symbol of peace.

Protests were also reported in Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand.

In Greece police say 20,000 people marched to the U.S. embassy in Athens while tens of thousands joined protests in Paris and Brussels.

About 5,000 people protested in Turkey as U.S. military equipment was unloaded from cargo ships under the protection of Turkish riot police.

In Baghdad thousands joined in government-organized marches, burning American flags and vowing to defend Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from a U.S.-led attack.

Anti-war rallies also took place across the United States.

In Washington, thousands of protesters gathered near the White House to listen to speakers like the Reverend Herbert Daughtry, who just returned from leading an anti-war delegation to Baghdad. "We do not want war," he said. "We want peace. Little children in the school yard tell Mr. Bush not to bomb our houses. And so you here today send a message back. That we will continue marching, we will continue demonstrating and speaking out and if necessary going into jail to make sure that this war does not start."

Michael Letwin, who represents a group called New York City Labor Against the War, said another conflict in the Persian Gulf will inevitably lead to more death and suffering. "Gulf War I killed 100,000 Iraqis and 12-years of U.N. sanctions have killed another one million, including 750,000 children under the age of five," said Michael Letwin. "How many more Iraqis will die in Gulf War II? 58,000 GI's, most of them working class and people of color, were killed in Vietnam. Nearly half the GI's in Gulf War I have suffered Gulf War syndrome. Are we ready to sacrifice another generation for an empire run by Vietnam chicken hawks like Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld?"

A counter-demonstration was also held in Washington.

Kristiin Taylor heads the Washington chapter of Free Republic, a group that supports President Bush and the U.S. soldiers who have been sent to the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Taylor was highly critical of the anti-war protesters. "If these people actually cared about the people of Iraq they would be calling for Saddam Hussein to step aside, to liberate the Iraqi people and stop spending the Iraqi people's money on weapons of mass destruction, palaces for Saddam Hussein's glory and the money that Saddam Hussein gives to suicide bombers," he said.

Tensions over Iraq also sparked protests by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

About 2,000 angry demonstrators burned effigies of President Bush and set fire to U.S., British and Israeli flags.

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