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Saturday, 15 February, 2003, 01:24 GMT
US joins anti-war protests
Anti-war protesters in Washington
Thousands rallied in January in Washington

Up to 100,000 protesters are expected to gather at noon on Saturday in New York City near the United Nations to express their opposition to a possible war with Iraq.

They will hear speeches from politicians, church leaders and entertainers, including the actress Susan Saradon, singer Harry Belafonte, and South African bishop Desmond Tutu.

And they be joined by some families of the victims of the attack on the World Trade Centre, marching as "9/11 families for peace."

Anti-war protester
Anti-war demonstrations are taking place across Europe
But they will not be marching past the UN building itself.

Last week a judge banned that march (although not the rally) after the police said that, with the terrorist threat, they could not ensure order.

Over 300 buses and four special trains will bring demonstrators from across America to the rally, with another rally planned for the West Coast in San Francisco on Sunday.

The march leaders say they are coordinating action worldwide, with protests in 600 cities across the globe.

"Our voices will be heard as we make our contribution to this unprecedented day of international anti-war activism," said organiser Leslie Cagan.

Europe in the lead

The US demonstrations are likely to be smaller than the mass anti-war rally in Washington in January, with organisers admitting that at the moment Europe is taking the lead.

Anti-war protester in Washington
US protesters have spread out across the country
But US public opinion is still divided on the war, despite the barrage of evidence and testimony by US leaders over the last few weeks.

According to the latest opinion polls, three-quarters of Americans now expect a war and two-thirds approve of war as a option.

But the latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows that 56% say that the US should seek UN approval before going to war, and 59% want to give the inspectors more time.

And there is no majority for military action if there were likely to be high casualties or a long war.

Mr Bush's overall poll ratings have continued to decline, with many people more worried about the economy or the threat of domestic terrorism.

Cities protest

Meanwhile, the US anti-war movement has fanned out around the country, urging cities to pass anti-war resolutions.

Over 90 have responded, including the third-largest city, Chicago, Baltimore, Seattle, and Philadelphia - although such resolutions failed in Minneapolis and Portland.

This week, representatives of 30 of these cities travelled to Washington to warn that the financial crisis that was gripping many cities and states would be made worse by the war.

And five Congressmen, led by Representative John Conyers of Michigan, plan to file suit in a Federal Court to block the President from going to war without another Congressional resolution.

While the US anti-war movement does not have the political support it does in Europe - and with many Democrats cautious about identifying themselves too closely with it - it is clear that there is still a vigorous public debate about a possible war going on.

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See also:

18 Jan 03 | Americas
05 Feb 03 | Europe
18 Jan 03 | Americas
14 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
06 Feb 03 | Americas
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