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banner Sunday, 30 September, 2001, 18:49 GMT 19:49 UK
Peace protest targets Labour conference
About 4,000 people joined the protest march
A coalition of protesters opposing the international "war on terrorism" has staged a peaceful march on the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

About 4,000 demonstrators, including veteran activists of anti-globalisation protests in Genoa and London, came face to face with police as they arrived at the Brighton Centre conference venue.

But senior police officers said the march organised by the Green Party and Globalise Resistance movement had been a "resounding success" and praised the protesters for their orderly behaviour.

We want to stop these obscenities from happening in Afghanistan

Activist Jonathan Neal
A spokesman said there had been seven arrests, six of which had been intelligence-led to prevent crimes by suspected troublemakers.

Officers policing the march were part of a massive security operation in Brighton for Labour's conference, which includes a five-mile air exclusion zone to help guard against possible terrorist attacks.

As the conference opened, Tony Blair pledged to press on with plans to reform the NHS and other public services despite opposition from union bosses.

Focus change

He said he was determined to push ahead with more private sector involvement in services such as health and education.

But the public sector union Unison has decided to postpone a 1m advertising campaign against the plans because of the current international crisis.

Police at conference
A massive security operation is in place for the conference
The demonstration was originally planned to oppose what organisers called New Labour's "adoption of Tory policies".

Green Party spokesman Hugo Charlton said his party members were not bothered that opposition to the war on terrorism became the main focus of the event.

"We got the message across that we are worried about privatisation and that we do not want an aggressive approach to the war," he said.

"We were also able to show that large numbers of anti-globalisation protesters are able to gather together and protest in a very peaceful and proper way."

'Mass slaughter'

Police had been ready to deal "robustly" with anyone threatening order.

But the majority of marchers, including two topless women, were in a buoyant mood, following carnival-style drummers and chanting: "They want to drop the bomb, we want to drop the debt."

Before the march, activist Jonathan Neal spoke to the crowd of demonstrators, who called for "Peace not war" and waved placards with the message "We are not at war".

Most marchers were in a buoyant mood
He said the "the mass slaughter" of innocent people in Afghanistan had to be avoided.

"I lived in Afghanistan for two years and I know the people there have suffered enough," he said.

"We are told today that 13 lorries of food are going into Afghanistan to feed five million people who are facing starvation.

"I was born in New York City, but I do not want to see what happened there happening 30-fold to the people of Afghanistan."

'Successful protest'

Mr Neal, who said he had been "gassed by police" during the Genoa demonstrations said there was a time for civil disobedience.

"But this is not the time," he said.

"We must send the right message back today that we want to stop these obscenities from happening in Afghanistan."

After the event, Chief Inspector Robin Smith said the police operation had been designed "to facilitate lawful protest, to prevent incidence of crime and to deal positively with offenders".

"I feel we can put a tick by all of those," he said.

"Today was a success and a large part of that was down to the protesters who behaved in a very orderly way."

See also:

30 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Spending plans are safe - Brown
03 Sep 01 | ppp
Unions lead opposition
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