Surrey: Eclectic protest

More than 100 people answered the call of the Surrey Stop the War Coalition to protest the start of the war in the 'conservative' county town of Guildford. Assembling in the town centre, they were addressed by John Morris, acting chair of the county STWC, Robert Cotton, vicar of the local Holy Trinity church, and a student from the Royal Grammar school. This eclectic mix was also reflected in the demonstration - christians, a few young 'anarchists', unaffiliated local people, as well as supporters of the CPGB and the SWP. Protestors slowed traffic, using a crossing controlled by traffic lights to march back and forth across the road to hoots of support from drivers. One, Joyce Kirkpatrick, was struck by a taxi, which fled the scene before it could be identified. Holding her hurt arm, she refused to leave, and hoped only that the incident might attract some publicity to the campaign. The group was joined by Sue Darling, who travelled from Guildford to Iraq on January 25 to join the 'human shield', before being forced to return last week. She complained of the bias the BBC showed in coverage of her group's efforts. Contrary to reports that this initiative had collapsed, she explained that, as she spoke, 50 or 60 western campaigners were facing, with the innocent people of Iraq, the prospect of their own government's aggression. The event was covered by local press and radio, on which John Morris of the Pacifist Party argued that the case against the war remained the same as it had before it began, expressing concern about civilian deaths abroad and anti-muslim racism at home. David Berlin Menwith: Lessons learnt Meeting at the main gate of the communications centre, well over a thousand people of all ages, carrying foil kites, balloons, wind funnels, banners and placards, marched and danced to the sounds of the Sheffield Samba Band. We made our way around to the Nessfield gate, where calls were made to invade the base. People approached the fences, challenging the police presence. The atmosphere changed, as more people moved forward, pushing at them, testing them. The police numbers increased too, but that did not seem to matter. Police attitudes began to change, and, safely behind the wired fence, intelligence teams started to film protestors. They were filmed back by activists. At the Steeplebush gate, with the samba band in full flow, some people again surged towards the gates, decorating them with foil to sabotage the communications equipment. Scuffles broke out, as the police tried to intimidate and bully protestors. Police in a heavy-handed manner tried to force people away from the gates. A cheer went up as a police helmet soared into the air. Groups got through gaps in the outer small fences and ditches. There was a mass trespass, as people surged through trees and bushes towards the base. This was met by police with dogs, and at least eight were arrested, although most were released later. Police clad in riot gear, blue helmets and the full gear, appeared from inside the base and some violence began. Some people were clubbed and kicked. Young women and men were dragged face down through bushes, mud, and trees and then ejected over fences - On the road people shouted, "Shame on you" at the police overreaction. As I left, I could still see people undeterred, breaking through to reach the fences and the war machine beyond. It was a wonderful, inspiring day, where people of all ages showed their determination to oppose this war. Lessons have been learnt. We will be back. Edited from Indymedia North East: Challenge root cause The North East has seen major demonstrations of public opposition to the war in the last week. Spontaneous protests were held in several of the region's towns and cities on March 20. On Saturday March 22 nearly 1,000 anti-war demonstrators attempted to march through Newcastle city centre, but were prevented from reaching their destination by heavy-handed policing tactics. The same day Teesside Against the War organised a magnificent go-slow motor cavalcade. An estimated 300 vehicles, adorned with anti-war slogans and most carrying several passengers, joined the convoy, which travelled at a snail's pace from Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium to a former pit village in Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency. Hundreds of pedestrians and motorists voiced their support for the demonstrators, as the parade passed through the towns and villages on its 25-mile route. The demonstration culminated with a packed rally in Fishburn Miners' Welfare Hall, addressed by veteran peace campaigner Pat McIntyre, Teesside Against the War's chair Pete Smith and Yunus Bakhsh of Unison and the SWP. Also on Saturday morning 100 people gathered outside Trimdon Labour Club, where Blair's Constituency Labour Party was holding a meeting. On Monday March 24 around 400 people attended a public meeting in Middlesbrough town hall. Many speakers from the floor pointed out how war is inextricably linked with capitalism and will continue for as long as our current ruling class remains in power. Guest speaker John Rees (Stop the War Coalition and SWP) received a standing ovation when he called on protestors not to give up the struggle just because the conflict had started. Now it is more important than ever that we stand together and build this movement into something that can challenge the root causes of imperialism. Steve Cooke Stoke-on-Trent: Noisy start Around 200 people attended a noisy vigil-cum-demo outside Hanley town hall. Organised at short notice by North Staffs Stop the War, the event attracted an audience far beyond the 'usual suspects', and it was heartening to see that around half those present were under 25. The assembled crowd heard a number of speeches by leading figures in the local anti-war movement. Jim Cessford (Socialist Party) reported on anti-war strike action by 50 Manchester council workers, and praised a walkout by pupils at nearby Wolstanton High School. He also thanked half a dozen activists for flyposting the event along the main approaches to the city centre in the hours following the initial attack. Other speakers included Peter Lawrence of the AUT lecturers' union, who denounced Bush and his oil junta and reported on actions at Keele University. Jason Hill (CND) gave an angry and militant speech on Blair's hypocrisy, and Andy Bentley (SP) called for more workplace action against the war. The crowd eagerly snapped up papers and leaflets, signifying a hunger for the ideas capable of challenging the humanitarian gloss given to the war by the Blairite lie machine. Neil Lloyd