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EDITIONS
Monday, 2 December, 2002, 13:57 GMT
Anti-war protesters block Whitehall
Protesters are given their instructions ahead of the march.
About 250 people took part in the protest

Comedian Mark Thomas was among scores of demonstrators who brought busy central London traffic to a standstill with a protest against a potential war with Iraq.

Vehicles were backed up into Trafalgar Square as Mr Thomas and fellow anti-war rebels dropped to the ground in Whitehall to simulate people dying following an attack on Iraq.


People are having to carry out civil disobedience to get their point across

Mark Thomas
The TV performer, who said he would have risked arrest, had to be dragged off the road three times by police officers before he gave up his protest.

The demonstration took place as the UK Government released a dossier of human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the Iraqi regime, including torture and rape.

In six days, Baghdad must submit a full declaration of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, or face "serious consequences" under United Nations resolution 1441.

'Illegal war'

Protesters, wearing bandages and bloody clothes, said they wanted to depict some of the consequences a military campaign would have on civilians in Iraq.

Mr Thomas told BBC News Online: "I don't want to be arrested but it has got to the stage where people are having to carry out civil disobedience to get their point across.

"About 40% of the British people are opposed to this war, but this is not reflected in the political debate which has been curtailed in Parliament.

Mark Thomas
Mark Thomas is dragged off the road by police
"A huge number of people are going to die as a result of any war. It's immoral, it's illogical and it's illegal."

The demonstration was organised by the group Voices in the Wilderness UK, which aims to end economic sanctions against Iraq, believing any invasion would cause widespread suffering.

Drumbeat

More than a dozen police vans and tens of officers poured in to Westminster ahead of the 250-strong march which moved in to Whitehall with people waving banners.

The group were warned by a legal adviser that they risked being arrested under an ancient Metropolitan Police Act that prohibits demonstrations around Parliament while it is sitting.

Protesters lying down in the road at Whitehall.
Many protesters wore bandages marked with 'blood'
A slow drumbeat and sounds of war were pumped out on to the street.

Green MEP Caroline Lucas was among the demonstrators who stopped the traffic, several hundred yards from the Houses of Parliament, with a 10 minute lie down.

As the police partially opened the road, she was even able to give media interviews from the ground with traffic thundering past within inches of her head.

'Hideous consequences'

Clutching her handbag, she told BBC News Online: "I don't think people do what they do here lightly, but we want to do everything possible to stop a war.

"There will be innocent children, mothers and fathers killed in Iraq and the most hideous consequences.

"Tony Blair has forgotten that in his quest to support George Bush in this immoral and illegal war against Iraq."

Dr Salih Ibrahim
Dr Ibrahim is fearful for his fellow Iraqis
With a mock bandaged head, placard and bag of rubble to signify fallen buildings, consultant pathologist Dr Salih Ibrahim, an Iraqi joined the protest.

Father-of-three Dr Ibrahim, who works at Ashford and St Peter's Hospital in London, said: "At the end of the day, this is a war to control the tap of oil. It's not fair - innocent lives will be lost.

"I've been here 21 years but I don't want to take my kids back to be cannon fodder."

'Vivid reminder'

Around him, the group, who represented a wide age range, carried banners stressing "Iraqi lives in the firing line - no war on Iraq" and "Innocent, don't attack Iraq".

Richard Byrne, spokesman for Voices in the Wilderness, said he believed only one person had been arrested during the protest and he was a joint co-ordinator of the group.

"Today has been a vivid reminder to people of the scale of suffering Blair and Bush are planning for 23 million people in Iraq," he said.

"This is a small taster of what's to come if they do take action against Iraq.

"Over 2,000 people have pledged to take part in non-violent civil disobedience if that happens."


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02 Dec 02 | Politics
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