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(en) UK, Media: Anti-war groups vow to bring Britain to a halt

From viviane <vlerner@interpac.net>
Date Mon, 17 Feb 2003 11:00:56 +0100 (CET)


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by Paul Harris
Sunday February 16, 2003
The Observer

Anti-war campaigners are planning massive civil disobedience and direct
action protests to try to bring Britain to a halt on the day any bombing of
Iraq begins.
Activists from the Stop the War Coalition, which organised the huge London
march yesterday, intend to hold a series of demonstrations and actions
within hours of news breaking that the first bombs have been dropped.

They will be joined by other protest groups, including anarchist cells and
organisations linked to the annual May Day protest movement and
anti-globalisation campaigns. While the overwhelming majority aim to be
peaceful there are fears that some protests may turn violent.

Action to be organised across Britain will include strikes, blockade main
roads, attempts to enter government buildings and sieges or invasions of
military bases. Events where Ministers appear will be targets for sabotage
and disruption.

The Observer has learnt of planned protests from major cities to small
towns, including London, Bradford, Cambridge, Huddersfield, Hull, Lancaster,
Newcastle upon Tyne, Portsmouth, Scarbor-ough and Oswestry, Shropshire.

One anarchist group in Hereford plans to block local roads the morning after
any bombing starts to try to make 'business as usual' impossible, said one
local member. Other activists plan 'Stop the City' campaigns in Bristol and
Brighton.

Protests are being organised through the internet and at meetings. A
particular focus of demonstrators is likely to be both British and American
military bases, airfields and naval facilities.

'People are coming to realise that politicians are not listening to them any
more and that the only way to make public opinion understood is to act. Our
political leaders have forgotten what real public opinion feels like, and we
are going to give them the shock of their lives,' said a Stop the War
spokesman.

Police sources said they had been monitoring the protest groups for months
and had developed plans to cope with any protests that accompanied the
outbreak of a war. 'This will not come as a surprise to us. We have put
everything in place to keep public order,' a police spokesman said.

Any protests will almost certainly come when the security forces would be on
a heightened state of alert for potential attacks by Islamic terrorists to
coincide with the beginning of any Anglo-American-led war.

Police sources said, however, that they could deploy enough manpower to
fight terrorism and cope with the protests simultaneously. 'We are prepared
for the terrorist threat and we are prepared for the protests as well,' a
spokesman said.

There have already been a series of direction action protests around the
country in recent weeks. Last month, in the first such incident in more than
80 years, two Scottish train drivers refused to move a goods train carrying
ammunition destined for British forces in the Gulf. More than a dozen
colleagues at their depot now support the men's action.

Several peace activists have been arrested after attempts to enter key
American-run military bases at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, RAF Fairford
in Gloucestershire, where US bombers are based, and RAF Feltwell in Norfolk,
which activists claim is an American tracking base.

Last Friday five protesters were also arrested after locking themselves to
the gates of No 10, Downing Street. In Ireland peace protesters are facing
criminal charges after breaking into Shannon Airport and damaging US
military aircraft stationed there.

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