Massive anti-war rallies mark Iraq war 2nd anniversary

Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters rallied in several cities all over the world on Saturday, marking the second anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

However, Saturday protests weren’t as huge as those held in February two years ago, a month before the war started, when nearly two million anti-war demonstrators took to the streets, calling on the U.S. President George W. Bush and his allies not to attack Iraq.

Tens of thousands of protesters demanded on Saturday the full and immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.

In New York and other American cities, anti-war activists were gathering in the streets, stopping traffic and lying down alongside flag-draped cardboard coffins.

New York police arrested some of the protesters demanding the immediate pullback of U.S. troops from Iraq.

"The war is illegal"

"This country was founded by acts of civil disobedience," said David McReynolds, 75, one of the marchers in New York. "We have an obligation to make our resistance public and to say as clearly as we can that the war is illegal."

"We are telling people to bring their families, their mothers, their children.

"We're taking the security and the integrity of these demonstrations very seriously," said Bill Hackwell, a spokesman for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, one of the main organisers of Saturday march.

Reporters at the scene said that a small contingent of protesters knelt in front of a military recruiting station, stopping traffic for nearly five minutes, and then the police came in and arrested 27 of them.

"It's such a small act in light of over 100,000 Iraqis dead and 1,500 American soldiers dead," Anna Brown, 40, of Jersey City, N.J., said before she was arrested.

In Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, more rallies were organised, where at least nine people were arrested, according to an unofficial police count.

Veronica Momjian, 24, carried a handmade "Give Peace a Chance" sign in the Manhattan demonstration.

"I'm here to chastise the government for putting us in the middle of a bloody and disgusting war," she said. "Things are looking worse and there's no foreseeable end to this."

In South Africa, hundreds of members of the Gauteng Anti-War Coalition took to the streets of Johannesburg demanding the end of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and calling for the respect of human rights.

"Stop the killing of innocent people", chanted the demonstrators.

The coalition members said that the U.S. policies are preventing the poor from living decent lives.

"You want to take back our power as human beings, your policies are hurting us preventing us from actually living decent lives whether it is in Iraq or Palestine or Soweto," said Preshane Naidoo, an organiser of the march.

'Murderer Bush, get out'

In Istanbul, Turkey, about 15,000 protester marched in the Kadikoy neighborhood, denouncing the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

"Murderer Bush, get out,"read one sign.

Reporters present at the scene said that two marchers dressed like U.S. soldiers pretended to rough up another, who was dressed as a detainee with a sack on his head, criticizing the prisoners abuse cases in Iraqi jails.

In London, more than 10,000 anti-war demonstrators gathered in Hyde Park
"We got the Iraqis into this mess, we need to help them out of it," said Kit MacLean, 29, standing near Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner, shortly before the planned march to the U.S. Embassy and Trafalgar Square started.

Analysts say that Saturday’s anti-war rally in London, is a warning to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair that protests' votes could threaten his majority at the upcoming general election.

Organisers expected 250,000 anti-war protesters to join the march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square on Saturday.

Earlier, a temporary "peace camp" was set up in Trafalgar Square.

Two years after the U.S.-led war on Iraq began, the Stop The War Coalition said the mood of today's event is "hardened" by President Bush's decision to nominate Paul Wolfowitz for the post of chairman of the World Bank.

Wolfowitz’s nomination “outrage most decent people”

Convenor Lindsey German, one of the founders of the Stop the War coalition, said: "One might have expected a little humility from the Bush administration after its destruction and occupation of Iraq. However, the nomination of Wolfowitz, the man who is recognised as chief architect of war with Iraq, will outrage most decent people."

Ms German says that the continuing public unease over the British military presence in Iraq reflects the non-discovery of weapons of mass destruction, civilians casualties and the erosion of civil liberties in an inconclusive "war on terrorism".

A coalition of socialists, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Muslim Association of Britain, as well as pacifist church groups and anti- globalisation activists form the backbone of the movement in London.

Members of the coalition, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Muslim Association of Britain were expected to speak at the rally.

"The support for what we are doing is holding up because important issues that have been raised by the war in Iraq have not been positively resolved by this government," said Lindsey German.

"We are calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq but we are also asking the question - where next Mr Bush?", Kate Hudson, of CND, said.

Controversial MP George Galloway, says: "The demonstration will form the backdrop to the election and we will not rest until we have forced the prime minister to withdraw our forces from Iraq."

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