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War Opponents Plan London Protest Saturday - 2003-03-21

London police are bracing for 100,000 anti-war demonstrators to march through the city on Saturday.

At Parliament Square in the heart of London, crews have been busy putting plywood covering over the statues of Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, and other prominent figures of history.

Police are worried that demonstrators will paint antiwar graffiti on the statues. That concern comes after Churchill was plastered with pamphlets denouncing the current prime minister, Tony Blair, because he has sent British troops to war against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Among the workmen covering the statues was a man who asked only to be identified as John. He said the demonstrators are misguided.

"This is really a lot of silly people who don't understand what's going on. I'm not really into politics that much but I think what's going on is right really," he said. "I mean, he's a bad person, Saddam Hussein, and he needs sorting out. It's a simple as that."

One of those who plans to march on Saturday is Edwin Linton, a retired veteran of the British army's Scots Guards. He says he never thought relations could get so bad between the British people and the American government that the Lincoln statue would have to be covered.

"I never thought. But then again, it's George Bush isn't it. And the way he carries on," he said. "I'll be honest. I don't like the man because I believe he's led Blair into where he is now. And that's why we're fighting."

Nearby was a trio of schoolboys who cut classes and came to London from the nearby city of Reading to express their antiwar sentiments. One of the three, who asked to be called John, said Saddam Hussein should have been given more time to disarm.

"There's really no need for it, to go that fast, because they should give him a bit more time to get rid of all of his weapons and disarm," he said.

Across town, outside the U.S. Embassy, Laurence and Louise Baron, from the western city of Bath, were holding a pro-war vigil by displaying the American and British flags. Louise said she was shocked to hear that demonstrators might try to attack the Lincoln statue.

"I think that sort of thing is an appalling disgrace," she said. "Do these people know nothing of history? Do they know nothing of what people like Lincoln stood for? And after all, those who forget history are condemned to repeat it."

London police say they will be on high alert during Saturday's march, and while they hope it will be peaceful, they are preparing for any contingency.