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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 15:27 GMT
Iraq protesters halt assembly debate
The chamber at the Welsh Assembly
AMs look round to see the cause of the disruption
The Welsh Assembly has seen its first protest from the public gallery after six people interrupted a debate with shouts of: "Don't Attack Iraq."

The six jumped over barriers between the public and AMs and attempted to tie themselves to the Presiding Officer's desk.

I would not support the sealing off of the public gallery from the chamber

Clwyd West AM, Alan Pugh

A woman protester was carried from the chamber, while a man in his fifties put up such a struggle that it took three assembly and police officers to remove him.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan and other AMs did not seem to be particularly shaken and health minister Jane Hutt resumed her speech on the assembly's government's nutrition strategy.

It appears the protesters - five men and a woman - avoided the attention of security staff by entering the building separately. Some of their colleagues continued the protest outside in the rain.

What is perhaps harder to understand is why the protesters demonstrated on Wednesday - the day after AMs debated the possibility of war with Iraq.

But one AM has said a measured response was called for.

Alan Pugh
Alan Pugh: 'Assembly must not be fortress'

Alun Pugh, AM for Clwyd West said: "Security measures are in place to stop firearms and weapons into the assembly but today's incident must not be allowed to turn the assembly into a fortress.

"The Welsh public must always be welcome in their assembly building and I would not support the sealing off of the public gallery from the chamber."

The protesters were held in a small room next to the assembly's committee rooms after they were removed from the chamber.

The demonstrators are believed to represent the South Wales Coalition against the War, which issued the following statement and promised further demonstrations in Cardiff city centre on Thursday.

It said: "We are acting in sympathy with the innocent Iraqi people who will be murdered by US and UK weapons of mass destruction if we go to war with Iraq.

Health Minister Jane Hutt
Jane Hutt: Spots trouble as she speaks

"George Bush and Tony Blair are determined to attack Iraq.

"It will not be a war for democracy - it will be a war to control the oil-rich and strategically vital Middle East.

"The majority of people in Wales oppose war.

"We urge our representatives in the Welsh Assembly to make an extraordinary public statement condemning the UK government's continued support for this illegal, immoral and politically catastrophic war."

People entering the building have to pass through a metal-detection scanner.

But Deputy Presiding Officer John Marek has announced a security review.

"Obviously we will have a review of the situation to see what lessons can be learnt.

John Marek
John Marek: Ordered security review

"But this is a national Assembly and any member of the public has the right to access and lobby their AM.

As soon as we say that, it means we cannot have 100% security."

A spokesman for South Wales Police said: "Police officers and ushers removed them from the chamber and they were detained before being released without charge.

"Nobody was injured and no damage was done - it was a peaceful protest."


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THE IRAQ DOSSIER
See also:

28 Oct 02 | Americas
21 Sep 02 | Wales
09 Sep 02 | Wales
06 Sep 02 | Middle East
30 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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