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Around globe, millions protest war

In Rome alone, a million or more demand no invasion of Iraq. The marches, mostly peaceful, are called the largest antiwar protest since the Vietnam War.

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003

Several million demonstrators took to the streets of cities on five continents Saturday in a vast wave of mostly peaceful protests against the prospect of a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Organizers called it the biggest antiwar protest since the Vietnam War.

The largest rallies were in London, Rome, Berlin and Paris -- the heart of Western Europe -- where the generally peaceful demonstrations illustrated the breadth of opposition to U.S. policies among traditional allies. But there were also protests in dozens of other cities, from Canberra, Australia, to Oslo, Norway, and from Cape Town, South Africa, to Damascus, Syria, in an extraordinary display of global coordination.

Rome claimed the biggest turnout: 1-million, according to police, while organizers claimed three times that figure.

In London, at least 750,000 people demonstrated in what police called the city's largest demonstration ever. In Spain, organizers said 2-million people turned out at antiwar rallies in about 55 cities and towns across the country, with more than 500,000 each attending rallies in Madrid and Barcelona.

Some leaders in German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government participated in the Berlin protest, which turned the tree-lined boulevard between the Brandenburg Gate and the 19th century Victory Column into a sea of banners, balloons emblazoned with "No war in Iraq" and demonstrators swaying to live music. Police estimated the crowd at between 300,000 and 500,000.

More than 70,000 people marched in Amsterdam in the largest Netherlands demonstration since antinuclear rallies in the 1980s. Paris was estimated to have had about 100,000 on the streets.

About 80,000 marched in Dublin, Irish police said. Crowds were estimated at 40,000 in Bern, Switzerland; 30,000 in Glasgow, Scotland; 25,000 in Copenhagen, Denmark; 15,000 in Vienna; more than 20,000 in Montreal and 15,000 in Toronto; 5,000 in Cape Town and 4,000 in Johannesburg in South Africa; 5,000 in Tokyo; and 2,000 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

In New York, rally organizers estimated the crowd at up to 500,000 people. City police provided no estimate of the crowd, which stretched 20 blocks deep and two blocks wide.

Protesters were joined by several celebrities, including Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, the folk singer Pete Seeger and the actors Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon and Harry Belafonte. American flags and other symbols of patriotism waved in the crowds.

"Peace! Peace! Peace!" Tutu said while leading an ecumenical service near U.N. headquarters. "Let America listen to the rest of the world -- and the rest of the world is saying, 'Give the inspectors time.' "

Martin Luther King III told the crowd, "Just because you have the biggest gun does not mean you must use it."

There were similar though smaller demonstrations in Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego, Miami, Detroit, Milwaukee and scores of other American cities, organized under the umbrella of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of 120 organizations.

No large protests were reported in the immediate Tampa Bay area Saturday. Roughly 1,000 people attended an antiwar demonstration at Sarasota's Bayfront Park, and a handful of antiwar demonstrators staged a protest in downtown Clearwater.

In Tampa, near MacDill Air Force Base, a small group of demonstrators voiced support for military action in Iraq.

In Spring Hill, dozens of antiwar and promilitary protesters held opposing demonstrations on opposite sides of U.S. 19, waving signs and chanting slogans.

Protests unfolded in more than 350 cities around the world -- some drawing hundreds of thousands, others only a few hundred -- and for the most part the dissents were peaceful. The police in Athens, Greece, fired tear gas and clashed with demonstrators who threw a gasoline bomb, but no serious injuries were reported.

The demonstrations were the culmination of a global campaign that has been building for weeks in opposition to the growing threat of war, with thousands marching, rallying, signing petitions, raising money, publishing articles and using the Internet to enlist a diverse coalition of citizens and celebrities.

Unlike the stereotypically scruffy, pot-smoking, flag-burning anarchists of the Vietnam era, Saturday's protesters came from across the social and political spectrum: students, middle-aged couples, families with small children, older people who had marched for civil rights, and labor, environmental, religious, business and civic organizations.

-- Times staff writer Mike Brassfield contributed to this report, which used information from the New York Times, Associated Press and Washington Post was used in this report.

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