By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Several people who had spoken at the Friends Meeting House two nights earlier were at this rally as well Kovic, Galloway, Lucas and others. Anas Altikriti, head of the Muslim Association of Britain, finished his speech with the words “Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar.” The protesters, though outraged by Bush’s references to the Almighty, cheered.
Then there was our old friend Galloway, getting a massive welcome as he launched into his “Brothers and sisters, salaam aleikum,” routine again. A video screen displayed his face in reverential close-up as he worked the crowd. He struck me as thoroughly sinister, an authentic dictator type, and I noted the ease with which he equated Iraq and Afghanistan with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, rolling them up into one poisonously anti-American ball for his audience to swallow.
Later, at a table outside a pub near Trafalgar Square, I talked to a pair of London lawyers enjoying a pint and a cigarette after their day’s labors. One of them, who said he worked for an American firm, wouldn’t give his name. I asked him why he’d come to the demonstration, and the answer emerged as promptly as if I’d dropped a dollar into a slot machine.
“I was there to remind Bush and Blair that they should be accountable for their lies, to remind them not to tell us more lies and force another absurd military adventure in Syria or Iran, and to hold them accountable for the promises they made to bring peace and justice to Palestine.”
Should Bush and Blair be held accountable for the al Qaeda bombing that had taken place in Istanbul earlier in the day?
“Bush and Blair have to realize that they have polarized the world with their war against terrorism. It was Bush who said ‘Bring them on’ in Iraq, and sure enough they’ve come on.”
“Do you think terrorists take their orders from Bush?”
“I think it was a very foolish challenge,” he replied.
“So where does the anti-war movement go from here?”
“I think we have to keep the pressure up. I think we have to make Bush and Blair understand that there are many people out there who are not happy with their imperialist agenda. You’ll find at that demonstration today, as you did at the ones in February and earlier in the year, an enormous spectrum of people, from the anarcho-syndicalists through the stockbrokers, lawyers and other classes. I saw schoolgirls there, I saw old ladies there.”
At 8:30, thousands were still milling around Trafalgar Square, now illuminated by the flickering light of bonfires. Almost everyone over 30 had left. Impromptu DJs played songs with anti-American lyrics. A girl, accompanied by someone on electric guitar, sang from the midst of a throng pressed around her, her face barely visible amid all the other faces as audience and performer merged.
By the biggest bonfire, a group of Muslim teenagers chanted pro-Palestinian slogans in Arabic as they danced around the flames. One of them, his face wrapped in a keffiyah, shot fireworks into the dark night sky, his right hand raised in a Black Power salute, face pointed down. He looked like he was practicing how to shoot down a plane. A white kid yelled, “Bush is a piece of shit,” over and over again. The ground was littered with beer cans and newspapers and cigarette packs and plastic cups and candy wrappers and discarded placards.
At 9 p.m., City of Westminster trucks moved in to clean up, and the square slowly emptied. As I walked to the Charing Cross tube station, a drunk was tottering down the street waving a huge peace flag. “Fuck America! Fuck Bush!” he yelled.