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Global Protest Iraq War

February 17, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT
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BETTY ANN BOWSER: Around the world, millions of demonstrators turned out in hundreds of cities on all continents.

PROTESTORS: Two, three, four, we don’t want another war!

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Some estimates were as high as 7.5 million people. But the largest protests were held in Europe. In London, an estimated one million protestors marched past Big Ben and through Piccadilly Circus, all to converge on Hyde Park, where they were greeted by the city’s mayor, Ken Livingstone.

MAYOR KEN LIVINGSTONE: I want to start by saying this: I cannot tell you the pride I feel that, as mayor of London, I can officially welcome you here to this city in the biggest political demonstration in 2,000 years of British history.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: More than a million people also demonstrated in Rome. There were also massive demonstrations in Berlin. (demonstration) Thousands of people protested in Paris.

PROTESTORS: Hey, hey, ho, ho! This crazy war has got to go!

BETTY ANN BOWSER: In the United States, demonstrations were held in more than 100 towns and cities. Most of the shows of anti-war sentiment were festive in nature, but in New York City, the atmosphere was tense.

PROTESTORS: Stop the war! Stop the war!

BETTY ANN BOWSER: A nervous police department, operating under heightened terrorism alert, citing security concerns, got a New York judge to stop a march past the United Nations.

SINGER: Freedom, freedom…

BETTY ANN BOWSER: The crowd of protestors stretched north for over a mile up First Avenue. Thousands of other demonstrators couldn’t hear or see anything. Police held them back on adjacent avenues, where they were jammed shoulder to shoulder for blocks.

WOMAN ON STREET: A few people wanted to go though the barricades, because we’ve been here all day wanting to hear the speeches, and finally the horses… the guys on the horses pushed back, and all of a sudden, like, they started hitting people. At least three people were hit really badly.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Police reported about 100 arrests, but said for the most part, demonstrators were cooperative. For those able to get close, there were more than 60 speakers: Politicians, activists, and entertainers who unleashed their anger on Pres. Bush and a possible war with Iraq.

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: Any war, before you have exhausted all possible peaceful means, is immoral. And those who want to wage war against Iraq must know it would be an immoral war.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Some, in the name of peace, prepare us for war; in the name of liberty, prepare us for submission; in the name of courage, prepare us for fear. Let all Americans challenge war, submission, and fear.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Although not on public display, some police carried radiation detection devices and hazardous materials decontamination equipment, in case of a terrorist incident. Some were also were dressed in riot gear, as bomb-sniffing dogs wandered through the crowds. But most of the protestors were oblivious to all of that. They seemed more interested in expressing their opposition to a possible war. It was a diverse crowd, young people handing out leaflets.

WOMAN: We’re having two dollar donations for a sign.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: There were moms, like Mary Ellen Madison, from upstate New York, who came with a message and one of her five children.

MARY ELLEN MADISON: I grew up with this idea of America, we Americans are heroes. We’re the real heroes. We go in and do good things. But this sort of preemptive strike against a sovereign nation that has not attacked us is not my idea of what I was brought up to believe that we Americans are. Saddam Hussein has not attacked us. I do believe that the man is an evil man, and the U.N. should be doing something with him, but there are peaceful steps that should be taken.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: The unions were also out in force, including the purple/blue hats from New York City’s Local 1199, a service employees’ union. William Newby, a hospital cleaning technician, came with several hundred of his colleagues.

WILLIAM NEWBY: This seems that… you know, in other situations going on in the world, it seems like we’re going into a self-centered, selfish war. You know, the whole world is saying that they’re against it. It seems like, you know, it’s a personal vendetta for the Bush family to go into war to get money, to get oil, to gain control. The unions believe that we need more money in health care, we need money in the failing education system, we need more money in housing.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: There were also lots of newcomers to anti-war protest, people like Abbie Vaughn, a 25-year-old Brooklyn Nanny.

ABBIE VAUGHN: I don’t think it’s about terrorism. I mean, I think George Bush needs Saddam Hussein. You know, you make it about one, man, one issue, and… yeah, I just don’t think it’s about terrorism. If it was about terrorism, then whatever happened to Osama bin Laden?

BETTY ANN BOWSER: There was no official estimate on the size of the crowd. Police said they thought about 100,000 people attended. Organizers believe the number was closer to 400,000.