The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

A Unity Of Purpose Against The War

Aine Fox • 19 February 2003

A crisp winter morning set the scene for the events that were to follow globally throughout the remainder of that day. I awoke to the sun shining down on Belfast, and with the rain staying thankfully away my immediate thought was Mother Nature is with us too.

The day being Saturday February 15th where people in 603 different cities all over the globe and throughout mutiple team zones marched together jointly to loudly speak out to the US/UK lead alliance that any attack on Iraq would be “Not In Our Name”.

Congregating for the West Belfast feeder march, (which was organised by the ‘West Belfast Stop The War’ campaign) at the bottom of the Whiterock Road a few hundred people stood and listened while the speakers; Michael Ferguson (Sinn Fein), Feilim O’Adhmail (Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign) and David Carlin (Socialist Worker’s Party) highlighted the issue and reasons as to why so many people were there, willing to give up their time to ensure their voices are heard. The over riding theme - that this proposed war on Iraq is not a legitimate one and should be stopped before thousands of innocents die. No blood for oil was the basic message. Feilim also focused on the severity of the situation in Palestine and the importance of not allowing Israeli agression to continue and to be further reinforced by the ridiculousness that is in my view “The War Against Terror”.

Shortly after 1pm, once posters and banners where distributed, the people came together and set off down the Falls Road behind a banner reading “ West Belfast Says No to War on Iraq “. The atmosphere was wonderful - people of all political spectrums marching down the Falls under one united issue, almost unbelievable if one had looked to some of the individuals that made up the marchers.

I happened to be at the front of the march and therefore was unable to realise the crowds of people that had joined in since leaving the starting point. At one point just after the Beechmount Leisure centre Others asked the three would-be -revolutionaries at the front eager to carry out the day's task to slow down and let the rest of the march catch up - it was at that point I remarked to others in amazement at how many people were present. What also made the journey down the road even more appealing was the police escort. Many a march down the same road would at one time or another been stopped or harassed by the security forces, but not today.

Marching past banners like that on the Falls Women’s Centre calling for “No War on Iraq” and following what was mostly Davy Carlin and Sean Symth’ chants, one of which seemed to be the favourite of the crowd - “Who let the bombs out “ response being “ Bush, Bush and Blair”. Car horns sounding in support of marchers and passers by either joining in or at least stopping; paying attention to the numbers passing them on the road reinforced the beginning of what was indeed a beautiful day.

Upon reaching the city centre, it occurred to me that for many years marches from ‘our’ end of the town never even got past Castle Street let alone the continued escort from the security forces. Walking up Royal Avenue I remarked jokingly to a fellow marcher that we where walking up the street with a banner written on the back of Celtic wallpaper. When in our lifetime would any of us have done so and not feared a beating? This feeder march was on its way to the Arts College to meet with other protestors that had gathered there to begin a joint procession and rally to the City Hall. We luckily arrived at around the same time as the Derry feeder march only instead of a crisp afternoon walk those protestors had just walked for four concurrent days from Derry to Belfast. They were greeted like heroes by the rest of the thousands that had squeezed into the surrounding area. We arrived to cheers and applause as well as the crowd joining in with slogans rung out yet again by Davy and his loud speaker. At this point it was hard not to feel elated when it was obvious so many had turned out to make this day one we should not to quickly forget.

Arriving and making our way to the front of the Cathederal it was an amazing site, banners and posters of all origins. A few made remarks of “my god there is an SDLP banner too”. The only noticeable parties not present by banners were that of the unionist political parties and not to my surprise no Sinn Fein banners or posters that where so evidently distributed in Dublin. (Does this mean the North wing of Sinn Fein is pro war?) Regardless of any absence or presence nothing would have been able to dampen the carnival like atmosphere of these protestors who came from all walks of life. Diversity of the crowd reinforced that people are genuinely aware that this war is unjust. As the crowd grew and grew stewards where busy trying to get everyone in place to move on and begin our procession to the City Hall. Walking once again through Royal Avenue I noticed that the shop ‘Cult’ had closed its doors to allow employees to attend the protest. This I thought should have ideally been the policy of all business owners even for those few hours.

Walking shoulder to shoulder it was impossible not to notice that thousands had made the same decision as myself, an attempt that their voices were to be heard by those in power. Once I had reached the end destination I stood and observed the historic event taking place - again speakers adressed the crowd; probably the biggest crowd any of them has had the opportunity to address. Among the speakers where, Jamal Iweida, President of the Belfast Islamic centre. Eamonn McCann, Journalist and Anti-war activist, representatives from the ‘School Students Against War’ (SSAW) The assistant general secretary from Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) spoke. They all reiterated what we had heard at the beginning of our journey. Eamonn voiced quite loudly the words that Sean Symth had sprayed on his own banner “ Ulster Says No - To War”. Words that were once infamous - having their origins with right wing unionist Ian Paisley - ''Ulster Says No'' rang out and were applauded by the tens of thousands that had turned out onto the streets of Belfast.

I was glad to hear from the podium that those from the coalition gave credit where it was due and thanked the SWP for the hard work that they had done to enable the march to take place. Regardless of one’s opinion about the party’s politics the work that their members put into this coalition was shown when they along with others were able to mobilise so many in an otherwise normally apathetic political climate. It was indeed a sight for sore eyes. And as Anthony (waistcoat and Sean Thorton hat-free) had stated - for a city who have a few years previously given a Mexican wave to the one and only Mr Bill Clinton, it was now uplifting to witness it having over twenty thousand people on its streets letting these so called people who are leading this tyranny that they dare not do so - ''NOT IN OUR NAME''

That’s an accomplishment in a city like Belfast where even the deaths of its own inhabitants had never been able to bring tens of thousands together onto the streets in unity of purpose and protest.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

23 February 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Knowing Too Much and Saying It Too Well: Bernadette McAliskey Barred from US
Anthony McIntyre


A Unity of Purpose Against the War
Aine Fox


UK Complete Me
Jimmy Sands


The Left Isn't Listening
Nick Cohen


The Letters page has been updated.


20 February 2003


The Shadow of the Gunman
Paul Dunne


'Ulster Says No!' to a Bush Bomb Blitz
Newton Emerson


The Rally
Anthony McIntyre


Impressions of the NYC Anti-War Demonstration
Sandy Boyer


In Praise of Father Mc Manus
Congressman Ben Gilman


"Just Get Out!"
Gabriel Ash




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