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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 February, 2004, 14:23 GMT
Zimbabwe police ban 'love' march
Police arresting the unionists last November
The women's group says there is too much hate in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe police have stopped women activists from holding a Valentine's Day march in the capital Harare.

The group, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, had been planning to march against political violence and what they call the spread of hate across the country.

"We wanted to demonstrate that Zimbabwe returns to love again," spokeswoman Jenni Williams told AFP news agency.

Earlier the police apparently warned they would shoot any demonstrators who defied a legal ban on the protest.

Women of Zimbabwe Arise - a group that encourages women to stand up for their rights and freedoms - deliberately chose Valentine's Day to mount their protest.

'Right to love'

Organisers said Zimbabwe was crying for the victims of political violence and politically motivated rape, for hungry children and orphans, and for those who die of HIV and Aids.

They want to remind people that only love can overcome the hate that they say is so prevalent in Zimbabwe.

"The demonstration is about Valentine's Day. We are saying Zimbabwe is crying and wants to love again. We must defend our right to love," said Ms Williams.

But permission for the protests to go ahead in Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls was withdrawn.

Ms Williams claimed police had threatened to shoot to kill if the protests went ahead.

Police did disband a group of women who had gathered in Harare.

Instead a smaller group of women handed out roses and Valentine's Day cards at a shopping mall outside the capital with no interference from the police.

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