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Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 01:46 GMT
NYC peace rally 'tremendous success'
Protester hold a placard saying
Demonstrators stretched as far as the eye could see

A huge crowd gathered in New York for the largest demonstration against the war in Iraq in the US.

I'm appalled by the Bush administration's attempt to unleash the fiercest firing squad ever on defenceless people

Protester Charlene Leahey
The organisers were clearly delighted at the turnout which they said was far more than double their original estimate of 100,000.

The police would not comment on the numbers.

There was a huge variety of demonstrators who stretched down First Avenue as far as the eye could see, wrapped up warmly against the freezing weather.

They carried banners proclaiming "Not in our name" and "Peace is patriotic", and chanted and banged drums.

Ensuring the future

Some were veteran campaigners, such as the Reverend George Houser, a civil rights worker who was imprisoned for being a conscientious objector during World War Two.

Protesters holding placards in New York
Protesters came from all walks of life

"We think the US is very wrong on this one," he said.

"This is not the first time but it's the worst time; we have an administration that is going crazy."

The campaigners came from a wide variety of groups, religious workers, students and political activists and many arrived on specially organised buses and trains.

Charlene Leahey from New Jersey said she wanted to ensure her daughter had a future.

"I'm appalled by the Bush administration's attempt to unleash the fiercest firing squad ever on defenceless people," she said.

'An immoral war'

More than 50 speakers addressed the rally, including Nobel peace prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The message is loud and clear to George Bush, we don't want a war and we will do everything we can to stop it happening

Rally coordinator Lesley Cagan
"It would be an immoral war," said Archbishop Tutu, who drew rousing cheers.

"Those who are going to be killed in Iraq are not collateral damage, they are human beings of flesh and blood."

The Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon, who also made a speech, told reporters afterwards she believed the war would be destabilising and destructive for the whole world.

"President Bush said at the beginning you are with us or against us but that is not the American way," she said.

"Today you are seeing what democracy looks like."

'A tremendous success'

The organisers, United for Peace and Justice, had planned to march past the United Nations headquarters where the Security Council remains deeply divided on the issue of Iraq.

But a judge banned any march on security grounds, so the stationary rally was held a few blocks north of the UN building.

The police were on every street corner in the area around the rally and had put up barricades to block several access streets.

However the demonstrators spilled onto adjoining streets.

There were no reports of any violence.

"It's been a tremendous success," said one of the main coordinators, Lesley Cagan.

"The message is loud and clear to George Bush, we don't want a war and we will do everything we can to stop it happening."

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Emma Simpson reports
"Appropriately the protest is around the corner from the UN"

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15 Feb 03 | Middle East
15 Feb 03 | Americas
14 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
15 Feb 03 | Middle East
14 Feb 03 | Entertainment
14 Feb 03 | Entertainment
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