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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 06:13 GMT 07:13 UK
Marchers demand Iraq withdrawal
Rose Gentle and her daughter Maxine addressed the protest
Rose Gentle and her daughter Maxine addressed the protest
Thousands of protesters, including the grieving parents of killed soldiers, have marched in London to demand the removal of British troops from Iraq.

Up to 100,000 people joined in the rally at Trafalgar Square, organisers the Stop The War Coalition said.

Police estimated about 20,000 people took part.

Rose Gentle, whose soldier son Gordon was killed in Iraq, said: "It's time for Tony Blair to pull the troops out, innocent people are getting killed."

'Government to blame'

She added: "I believe that the government is to blame for my son's death for sending him to Iraq without enough training - he had only done six months."

She had earlier addressed the protest, also organised by CND and the Muslim Association of Britain.

Placards up to 'Stop the War'

The protesters carried anti-war placards and flags from many different countries, with some opting for colourful fancy dress outfits including several dressed as bananas.

People from all age groups sung and chanted their messages, rang bells and blew whistles.

Speaking from Russell Square where the march began, Doctor Shahrar Ali, Parliamentary Candidate for Brent East, said: "Blair has recently advertised the fact that the second Iraq war has begun. To me that is just a scam.

"We have a continuation of a situation which started last year."

Former Labour MP George Galloway told BBC News Online it was a "wonderful celebration of European democracy".

He said Tony Blair was in "real trouble" over the US request for UK back-up in central Iraq.

Anti-war protesters of all ages attended the London march
Anti-war protesters of all ages attended

"We are here to say not one more British soldier, not one more inch of British occupation in Iraq," he said.

The crowd also heard from Reginald Keys, 52, the father of Richard Keys, who died in Basra in June 2003.

He was applauded for calling Mr Blair and US President George Bush "war criminals".

"I thank [the crowds] for their support to try and get troops brought home and end this illegal war."

His view was shared by veteran politician Tony Benn: "The Iraqi war is an act of criminal aggression which America launched and Britain supported - it's illegal and immoral and it will not succeed."

Arrests

Nine people were arrested during the demonstration - two were released without charge, two remain in custody and three people will appear at Bow Street Magistrates' Court, central London, on Monday.

One is charged with disorderly behaviour under the Public Order Act, another with assaulting a police officer, and the third person with possession of a bladed weapon.

Another person has been bailed to appear at the court on 26 October charged with a public order offence.

The ninth person arrested has been bailed to return to Charing Cross Police Station on 1 November for alleged threatening behaviour and assaulting police.

Protest banner near Parliament
The more people raise their voices, the safer we will all be
Ken Bigley's brother Paul

The march marked the end of the London European Social Forum, a three-day event opposing war, racism and corporate power.

On Saturday, Paul Bigley urged people to join the march "for the sake" of his brother Ken.

Ken Bigley, 62, an engineer from Liverpool, was beheaded in Iraq.

Paul Bigley said: "For Ken's sake and for the sake of everyone in Iraq I ask you to make your feelings known to our government, to protest and to join the demonstration. The more people raise their voices, the safer we will all be."

Ken Bigley was murdered on 9 October after being held hostage for more than three weeks.

In March thousands of protesters marched in London to mark the anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.


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