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Vicpeace poster advertising the rally

Melbourne Protests for Peace
and Against war on Iraq
14 February 2003

Up to a quarter of a million people brought the centre of Melbourne to a standstill from 5pm to 7pm protesting against the War on Iraq. This is the largest demonstration Melbourne has seen and sends a powerful message to the Australian Government and to the United States and Britain about popular opposition to their warmongering on Iraq.

The protest was part of a weekend of protests internationally against the war on Iraq, which saw millions of people on the streets of over 600 cites and towns of the world. Estimates of numbers participating ranged from 10 million to more than 30 million people globally.

panormamic view outside State Library
A panormaic view of a sea of people outside the State Library at 6.05pm

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Feb 14 2003
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Anarchist Banner
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Anarchist banner
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Mothers and toddlers for peace
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High School Students - Make Love Not War Banner
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Outside the State Library looking up to RMIT
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Women waiting for march to start
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State Library facade
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Looking Down Swanston Street
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Looking up Swanston Street
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Get Fair Dinkum Banner
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Don't get Yanked into War Banner
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Students on Bourke and Wills Statue corner Swanston and Collins Street
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Up Swanston Street from Bourke and Wills Monument
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Down Swanston Street from Bourke and Wills Monument
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Make Lego not War Student Banner on Bourke and Wills Monument
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France Maintain your veto placard
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Americans against war banner
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War is Expensive - Peace is Priceless Banner
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Not in our name banner
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Peace not war banner - St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, and Mathew Flinders Statue
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Peace Not War patchwork banner

Peace Rally - 5pm Friday 14 February
State Library, Swanston st, Melbourne

Associated activities on 14 February:

Up to a quarter of a million people protesting for peace brought the centre of the city of Melbourne to a standstill on a sunny Friday Afternoon. The crowd stretched from the corner of La Trobe and Swanston streets outside the State Library down Swanston Street to Federation Square opposite Flinders Street Station, spilling down several side streets. It took more than an hour and a half for the crowd located north of Collins street to pass the Bourke and Wills Monument.

Organisers said this rally was up to 200,000 people, but I think there was more than that. I spoke to one of the high school kids on the Bourke and Wills monument at the corner of Collins street. The crowd before the march already stretched from the State Library past the monument to Federation Square. It took at least an hour and a half for the crowd from Collins to Latrobe street to pass this monument.

The Age newspaper gave reasonable coverage with a Front Page photo of part of the huge crowd in St Kilda road, and a two page spread of photos and articles on page 4 and 5. This really was the largest political demonstration Melbourne has ever seen.

Strangely, their were no media helicopters in the air to take aerial photographs to give the true size of the enormous crowd. No one person on the ground (or from a building on route) could see the full extent of the crowd. The police estimated there was more than 100,000 but did not give any estimate of how much more. I think 200,000 is a conservative estimate, and Channel 9 News reported the crowd up to 250,000 which I think sounds more realistic. Melbourne has a population of about 3 million people, so the demonstration had perhaps 8% of the population in attendance, a huge number to get out onto the streets.

I also know from some friends unable to get into town on public transport, that parts of the tram network appeared to stop functioning from about 4.30pm - 5pm, and many people could not get a tram into the city to join the huge demonstration.

This was not just your collection of socialists, anarchists and Greens marching, although they were all there. Middle Australia was there in droves, expressing its opposition to the Howard and Bush Government's drive to war on Iraq.

A festival atmosphere prevailed with many people brightly decorated in costumes, home made banners and placards, and slogans on their clothing. This crowd was a broad cross-section of Australians opposed to Australian involvement in the war on Iraq.

By late Friday evening, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Bernama (Malaysia) websites all reported 200,000 protesters in Melbourne. Channel 9 news at 11pm reported 250,000 protesters in Melbourne. The Age subsequently adjusted their estimate to "more than 100,000" for their frontpage story on Saturday.

The Age Masterhead and Page 1 photo - 15 Feb 2003
The Age 15 Feb 2003 Masthead and Page One photo
of the Peace march in Melbourne
Sunday Tasmanian Front Page 16 Feb 2003 Adelaide Advertiser Front Page 17 Feb 2003 Brisbane Courier MailFront Page 17 Feb 2003


18 February
The capital cities of Australia, over the weekend, have seen massive anti-war demonstrations. These demonstrations are record breaking rallies and marches that even eclipse the large rallies of the Viet Nam Moratorium movement of the 1970s. It includes over 250,000 people in Sydney, over 200,000 in Melbourne, 100,000 in Adelaide and Brisbane, 20,000 in Perth, Hobart and Newcastle, 15,000 in Canberra, and 1,000 in Darwin. But the anti-war feeling isn't restricted to the capital cities. Large numbers of people attended rallies in regional and country towns across Australia including:

In all, between 800,000 and one million Australians marched to stop the war on Iraq.

Naturally, our Prime Minister, Little Johnny Howard, will not be deterred by the public opposition, but already he has rejected a plebiscite on the issue proposed by Greens Senator Bob Brown. He has sent his Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, and deputy Prime Minister John Anderson to speak in orwellian doublespeak:

Mr Downer and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson yesterday downplayed the significance of the demonstrations. Mr Downer said wide-ranging views were held by the more than half-a-million people at the protests and many were not anti-war. He said the Government was accused of populism if it made decisions in line with public opinion and of not listening if it did not. Mr Anderson said the protests showed some people had very deep concerns about the Government's position. But they also showed many people were undecided and many wanted to see how things unfolded. Mr Anderson criticised protesters for concentrating on Mr Howard and US President George Bush rather than on Saddam Hussein.
The Age Feb 18 2003

On the contrary, a Newspoll opinion poll is said to show that most people opposed war in Iraq without the backing of the United Nations. Sol Lebovic, from Newspoll, said on ABC TV "The numbers are quite large and at that kind of level, I have no doubt at all. The other interesting thing is the intensity of that opposition, that we have half the Australian electorate say they are strongly opposed unless there is UN backing." I think a substantial number would still strongly oppose war even with the sanction of the U.N. Security Council.

Most people are aware of the nature of Saddam Hussein's regime, but does that justify a military invasion and occupation? There are many countries with brutal military regimes, none of which are being proposed for invasion and occupation. Invasion and occupation inflicts massive casualties on the civilian population. As the Iraqi regime is so brutal, perhaps we should also immediately grant any Iraqi refugees permanent residency visas.

On the question of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, the US government sold Anthrax spores and base chemicals to the Iraq regime in the 1980s. If it is good enough to demand that Iraq's chemical and biological weapons be inspected and destroyed, surely it is good enough for the same to occurr with other countries, starting with the USA. It was Anthrax from its own stockpiles that was sent anonymously by post after September 11 2001, yet we do not see any rigid accountability of those stockpiles:

In the summer of 2001, the United States walked out of another international conference, this one on how to enforce the 1972 treaty prohibiting biological weapons. Everybody agreed there needed to be stronger inspections of potential sites where germ weapons could be produced -- what Washington is always accusing Iraq of hiding. But this time it wasn't the Iraqis, it was us -- the U.S. delegation walked out because they refused to accept international inspections of American production facilities which the United States demanded for everyone else.

Source: TomPaine.common sense Journal

The Bush government is full of hypocrisy. The only rationale for occupation of Iraq is to take over the oil fields. Iraq's oil fields are massive. George Bush and Cheney, and other cabinet members have backgrounds in the oil industry. The invasion of Iraq is nothing more than a grab for American control of the Iraq oil fields. That the Australian Government is an accomplice in this immoral and avaricious attack will come home to haunt us.


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