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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Zimbabwe Test starts after protests
Anti-Mugabe protesters
Some Mugabe protesters made their point on a red open-top bus
Exiled victims of President Robert Mugabe's regime staged a noisy protest at Lord's cricket ground as play began in the first match of the England-Zimbabwe cricket Test series.

Dozens of demonstrators played and sang in the rain while they held placards outside the north London ground on Thursday.

Nearly 100 MPs have accused the England and Wales Cricket Board of "putting profit before principle" by allowing the tour to go ahead.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, leader of another protest group, the Stop The Tour campaign, has said his group felt under no obligation to "show restraint" as encouraged by the MCC cricket board.

'End to violence'

And despite a ban on protests inside the ground, one campaigner was escorted off the pitch after walking on waving a banner saying "Bowl out killer Mugabe".

Mr Tatchell said the woman, in her 30s and from London, had been arrested and taken to Marylebone police station after reaching the outfield. A man was also led off as he stepped onto the pitch.

Fellow protesters got on board an open-top bus and were aiming to deliver a letter to the Zimbabwe Embassy, calling for an end to state-sponsored political violence.

Protester is led off the pitch
One campaigner made their protest on the pitch at Lord's

Protesters outside the ground made their message with music and dance.

They carried banners with the slogans "Say no to state terrorism in Zimbabwe" and "Wake up world! Zimbabwe is dying!".

A small police presence was visible near the demonstrators.

'Day for Zimbabweans'

Protest organiser Washington Ali stressed the intention from his group was to stage a peaceful demonstration.

He said: "We do not support pitch invasions or other attempts to disrupt the match.

"This is a day for Zimbabweans to draw the world's attention to the crisis afflicting our country. It is not a day for headline-grabbing stunts by individuals.

"The protest is intended as a show of solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering back home."

Many of the MPs who signed up to the opposition motion had urged England to boycott their games in Zimbabwe during the World Cup earlier this year because of human rights abuses under the Mugabe regime.

Members of the Commons foreign affairs select committee met on Thursday, calling for Mr Mugabe to be stripped of his honour as a Knight Commander of the Order of Bath.

This was bestowed on him by the Queen in 1994.

The MPs said: "He is not the first bearer of that honour to fail to deserve it."

Straw: Zimbabwe tour goes ahead
06 May 03  |  Eng v Zim 2003

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