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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 17:21 GMT
Stars join anti-war protest
Anti-war protest at Westminster
The protesters filed in to parliament to meet MPs

A pop star was there, and a playwright has pledged his backing. The banners getting soaked in the Westminster drizzle came in the main from the usual sources - the Socialist Workers were out and about, as was the famous CND symbol.

But also there were the less prominent people of Individuals Against War in Iraq, down for the day from Welwyn Garden City, complete with homemade banner declaring "Aim for peace, not for the Iraqi people".

I don't think we have been consulted as a democracy. It is the wrong war

Damon Albarn
All were in Westminster to lobby their MPs as part of a day of protest organised by a coalition of groups opposed to military action against Iraq.

Blur singer Damon Albarn is backing the campaign, as are Bianca Jagger, playwright Harold Pinter and Robert "3D" Del Naja of pop group Massive Attack.

By mid-afternoon, the queue of those hoping to see their MP, flanked by police officers, had snaked down towards the traffic lights outside the Commons, a mixture of peacenik chic and sensible shoes waving to the motorists who hooted their horns in support.

Damon Albarn
Albarn: No public support for war
"There has always been a sense of unease about this war and as it gets closer I think that is manifesting itself on the streets," Albarn said as he watched the protesters file in to parliament.

Vicky Woodcraft from Individuals Against War in Iraq, agreed. The group was formed, she said, in order to create a forum for people concerned about the prospect of military action but with no particular political axe to grind.

"We came together because all of us as individuals were really worried about the fact that the government seemed to be blindly following America.

Party line

"We don't feel that Saddam Hussein is a good thing, but there are plenty of other countries with bad leaders. It's not America's job to go about dealing with other countries."

Anti-war protests at Westminster
The lobby was arranged by a coalition of groups
They had seen their MP, Treasury Minister Melanie Johnson, earlier in the day.

"Her answer was the party line, " said Ms Woodcraft. "That we don't want to go to war but that it must be made clear that we are prepared to go to war if necessary.

"She did accept though that something should be done about Israel."

Another of the group, Mike Harding, added: "We are concerned for the democracy of this country as well, that they can go to war against the wishes of the country."

'Wrong war'

It was a message echoed by Albarn: "I feel that it is something that I was brought up with, that war is never an answer. In this particular instance I don't think emotionally the country has any stomach for it.

If there was no oil in Iraq, Bush would not be bothered about Iraq

Patrick Coulton
"I don't think we have been consulted as a democracy. It is the wrong war.

"We need a bit more imagination. All we are saying is the country is mature enough to sit down and have some kind of referendum."

Albarn said he believed Saddam was "a monster who is the creation of the West anyway, so if we are going to depose him we need to look at the elements in the West that created him".

Patrick Coulton, 77, who had travelled into central London from Greenwich to make his point, said he is concerned about possible reprisals if the UK attacks Iraq.

Oil

"While being an old man, I don't want my children and grandchildren butchered," he said. "If they continue with these efforts they will be asking for people to come here and do all sorts of things.

Anti-war protests
Many protesters feel oil is behind talk of war
"Bush intends to get control of the world's oil - if there was no oil in Iraq, Bush would not be bothered about Iraq."

The placards splattered with rain said the same.

"There is no justification whatsoever for this war," said David Polden of CND.

"The inspectors they have sent in have not managed to find anything. They are just desperate to have a war - it's about oil and domination in the Middle East."

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  The BBC's Vicky Young
"They have staged a sit down protest"

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See also:

21 Jan 03 | Politics
21 Jan 03 | Middle East
21 Jan 03 | Politics
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