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Saturday, 15 February, 2003, 19:04 GMT
New Yorkers join anti-war protests
New York anti-war protest
People from all walks of life joined the protest
About 100,000 protesters have gathered near the United Nations headquarters in New York to demonstrate against a possible war with Iraq.

The crowd braved the cold weather to hear speeches from politicians, church leaders and entertainers, including actress Susan Sarandon and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Our voices will be heard as we make our contribution to this unprecedented day of international anti-war activism

Leslie Cagan, rally organiser
The demonstration was also joined by some relatives of victims of the attack on the World Trade Center, marching as "9/11 families for peace".

Police threw a massive security cordon around the UN - completely sealing off First Avenue for 16 city blocks and posting snipers and radiation detectors around the area.

"The government is not representing our concerns," said Sarandon. "There are alternatives to war. Nothing has been proved so far that warrants an invasion of Iraq," she told reporters.

Diverse participants

The BBC's Emma Simpson in New York says there are crowds as far as the eye can see, with people from all walks of life - from veteran activists to so-called Soccer Moms.

More than 300 buses and four special trains have been bringing demonstrators from across America to the rally, with another rally planned for San Francisco on the West Coast on Sunday.

Coastguard in front of UN
The UN has been completely sealed off

The New York rally leaders have said that they are co-ordinating with the protests taking place in 600 cities around the world.

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

Our correspondent in New York says the crowd roared their approval upon hearing news that the anti-war demonstration in London had been attended by about a million people.

But the demonstrators were prevented from marching past the UN building itself.

A judge banned that march last week after the police said that, with the terrorist threat, they could not ensure order.

Divided opinion

BBC News Online's Washington correspondent Steve Schifferes says US public opinion is still divided on the looming 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 the US should seek UN approval before going to war, and 59% want to give the inspectors more time.

And our correspondent says there is no majority for military action if it is likely to result in high casualties or turn into a long war.

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

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Emma Simpson
"This protest has sent a powerful message to the Bush administration"

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