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110,000 Protest Bush Visit to London - 2003-11-20

Anti-war protesters in London have staged a big demonstration against President Bush, who is on a state visit to Britain. Police say about 110,000 marchers filled the streets, while protest organizers put the figure at 200,000.

It was a loud but peaceful march across central London. Among the demonstrators were unreformed Communists, college students, dissident members of parliament and veteran American anti-war protesters.

What unites them is their opposition to President Bush's foreign policies and their anger at British Prime Minister Tony Blair for supporting him, as march organizer Andrew Burgin explained.

"This is just another way that we can express what we believe to be the majority feeling in this country, that they are opposed to what happened in Iraq, they are opposed to the continued occupation of Iraq," he said. "And and other people have other problems as well with the policies of George Bush and Tony Blair."

To climax the demonstration, protesters pulled down a six-meter-tall papier-mâché statue of President Bush that they had erected in London's historic Trafalgar Square.

Protest organizers say it was a symbolic re-enactment of the American military's toppling of a Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad in April. After the Bush figure hit the ground, demonstrators jumped on it until it was demolished.

Earlier this week, an opinion poll by Britain's Guardian newspaper found strong pro-American sentiment, with two-thirds of those surveyed saying British and American troops should not pull out of Iraq now, but instead stay until the situation is "more stable".

At a news conference a few hours before the march, President Bush was asked how he felt about the demonstrations. He said freedom is wonderful.

"It's a fantastic thing to come to a country where people are free to express their views," said George W. Bush.

President Bush and Prime Minister Blair repeated their determination to keep their troops in Iraq until stability returns and the country is on the road to democracy.

As the protest proceeded, President Bush was relaxing at Buckingham Palace, ahead of a banquet in honor of Queen Elizabeth at the U.S. ambassador's residence Thursday night.