Surprise at large turnout for national anti-war rally in London
By Cole Moreton, The Independent UK, 14 October 2001
Old men in Islamic dress marched with former Greenham women and dreadlocked anti-capitalists who booed when they passed McDonald's. Yesterday's peace rally in London was the first major public show of strength for a diverse coalition of people opposed to war which has grown up by website and e-mail faster than in any previous conflict.

Even the organisers were surprised at how many people turned up. "The police expected 10,000 but we have far, far exceeded that,'' said Carol Naughton, chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which cancelled a planned demo against Star Wars in order to host the rally.

The police estimated 20,000 people were on the march from Hyde Park Corner to Trafalgar Square, while the organisers put the numbers at 50,000.

It was a noisy and unruly demonstration on a hot day but people danced in the fountains instead of causing trouble. Attempts by far-left groups such as the Socialist Workers' Party to dominate the gathering were thwarted by weight of numbers.

Salma Yakoob of the Stop the War Coalition in Birmingham addressed the crowd from the plinth in Trafalgar Square. "If only the leftists had been here today people would have said we were all lefties," she said. ''If only CND had been here they would have said it was the middle-class elite. If it was only the Muslims they would have called us extremists. If it was only Asians and black people they would have said it was the ethnic minorities. Tony Blair, we are here united against this war. You cannot dismiss us all.''

The poet Adrian Mitchell performed a piece which he had first read out in Trafalgar Square in 1964. "It is about Vietnam,'' he said. "But it is still relevant. It's about sitting faithfully in England while thousands of miles away terrible atrocities are being committed in our name.''

The Stop The War Coalition announced that it intended to hold another national rally on 18 November.

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