Crowd gathering in Royal Exchange Square.
March about to begin in Queen Street.
Marching along St Vincent Street, Glasgow.
Sit down protest at the junction of Argyle Street and Union Street.
Sit down protest continues, it lasted five minutes.
Rally gathering in St Enoch Square.
Rev John Mann, minister of Pollok, addresses the rally.
Maxine Gentle speaks, to the left is George McNeilage who chaired.
Jimmy Buchanan speaks to the crowd.
Gil Hubbard of Globalise Resistance speaks about the G8 coming in July.
END THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ
REPORT OF GLASGOW DEMONSTRATION
Saturday March 19th saw an International day of demonstration against the Occupation of Iraq including demos in New York, Paris, London and Glasgow in Scotland. There were demonstrations in over 700 US cities.
The Glasgow march and rally started with an assembly from noon at South Hanover Street just off George Square, which is currently closed for refurbishment.
There was a heavy police presence though the sense was of a somewhat lower profile than the very heavy presence on February 15th when they actually outnumbered the demonstrators. I spoke to Scottish Nationalist MSP Nicola Sturgeon at the beginning who said that the war was based on lies and it was time to start withdrawing US and UK forces and perhaps replacing them with an Islamic force.
The large and noisy gathering had started assembling at noon and marched off at about 12.30 along Queen Street, St Vincent Place, St Vincent Street and Renfield Street. Flags and placards `BLAIR TELLS LIES`, `END OF TORTURE`, `NOT IN MY NAME` and `ACT LIKE IT’S A GLOBE NOT AN EMPIRE`. Marching along to chants of `TROOPS OUT NOW`, `BUSH AND BLAIR HAVE GO TO GO` and `WE ALL LIVE IN A TERRORIST REGIME` the demonstration moved into Union Street. `BUSH, BLAIR, CIA, HOW MANY KIDS HAVE YOU KILLED TODAY? ` and `US OUT OF THE GULF` was heard as the march came to the junction of Union Street and Argyle Street. There was a five-minute sit down at this point with chants of `POWER TO THE PEOPLE` and `TELL ME CAN YOU FEEL IT, IT GETS STRONGER BY THE HOUR` and `NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE `.
The march continued along Argyle Street, one of Glasgow’s busiest shopping streets, past Glasgow Central Station to the St Enoch Centre. A song featured in Danny Schechter’s new film `WMD weapons of mass deception` was sung:
`♫ It’s operation Iraqi liberation,
Tell me what does that spell?
It’s operation Iraqi liberation,
O___I ___L ♫`
The crowd of around 2,000 gathered in St Enoch Square just outside the giant shopping centre. George McNeilage of the Justice for Gordon Gentle campaign chaired the speakers. George said that Bush and Blair would never be part of the solution.
The first speaker was Iraqi Mahmoud al Sabah who said that in Fallujah the Americans used biological and chemical weapons as well as napalm. He said the people in Fallujah were living in refugee camps. He read the names of some of the many Iraqis who have died in the conflict - as many as 100,000 according to the Lancet. He spoke of the death of some of his relatives due to medical shortages in a country, which once had the best health service in the Middle East.
Next was Rev John Mann, Church of Scotland minister in Pollok. He read the names of 30 American soldiers who had died in Iraq ranging in age from 19 to 60, which he quipped, showed the US army was an equal opportunity employer.
Next was Maxine Gentle, sister of Gordon Gentle the young Royal Highland Fusilier who was killed in Basra last June. She thanked everyone for coming and then told the crowd that her mother Rose was speaking down in London. She then read out the letter she had written to Tony Blair in which she said the war was based on lies and was about oil not WMD. She said in her letter that she hated Blair and would not shake his hand if she met him. There were loud cheers and applause at the end of her letter.
After that Pauline Gentle, mother of Rose and Grandmother of Maxine spoke to say that the war was based on oil and greed. She called for all the troops to be brought home and said shame on Tony Blair.
Then George read out the names of the British troops who had died.
Isobel Lindsay of the Scottish Coalition for Justice not war then addressed the rally saying that Bush and Blair had blood on their hands. She read out the names of Scottish MPs who had voted for the war and each name was greeted by loud shouts of “Shame!”
Next was Jimmy Buchanan, father of two young Black Watch soldiers. He accused the government of telling lies and had to compete with the sound of a police helicopter hovering overhead. Someone commented that in Palestine the aircraft hovering overhead would be a helicopter gunship. Jimmy bemoaned the waste of £300 billion on the Euro fighter, which is useless.
Then George read from a statement by Iraqi Scot Susan Karim who has just returned from Baghdad. Susan did two sponsored walks in Scotland for Iraqi orphans. Susan said that the electricity and water supplies are still not fixed. There are 11 checkpoints between the Dorah suburb of Baghdad and the airport – a distance of 20 kilometres (12½ miles). The electricity in her sister’s house in which she was staying was intermittent at best. Remember that this is in a relatively affluent area and Susan couldn’t even have a shower. Can you imagine what life is like in a poor area like Sadr City? There are still car bombs, mortars, checkpoints etc
The journey to Iraq is fraught with danger. The plane comes in to Baghdad airport in a spiral escorted by two helicopters to avoid mortar fire. Everybody on the plane was praying, scared witless. It takes as long to come down to the airport as it does to fly there. “When you get to the airport it seems nice but you feel it is very militarised. Nobody talks to anyone and there were lots of men with heavy guns and I mean heavy guns. The luggage is searched in a tent outside and sniffed by dogs. The journey from the airport is hair-raising and I means hair-raising.”
On her return to Edinburgh airport a `welcoming committee` who gave her the third degree greeted her. Three security men questioned her in front of everyone asking her silly questions like: “Why did you go to Iraq? How often do you go to Iraq? Who did you speak to? Where is your companion? Are you a practising Muslim, Do you pray every day? Do you go to the Mosque?”
Susan said:” What has all this got to do with it?” and she said, “there is the letter from my charity Muslim Hands.”
A woman near here said, “I hope that you are not staying long here.”
Susan said: “Excuse me, I live here.”
They questioned her in front of the queue for 15 minutes, presumably to intimidate and embarrass her. The reception at Edinburgh airport was worse than Baghdad.
The final speaker was Gil Hubbard of Globalise Resistance, who spoke out against US imperialism. She criticised the horrific abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Belmarsh prison and said Blair was a liar. She reminded the crowd that the world’s number one terrorist George Bush was coming to Scotland in July for the G8 summit. He and the other leaders had not been invited. The security bill alone would come to £150,000,000 and this was our money. If you had £125,000 you could have your logo on the literature of the G8. She accused the G8 pf hypocrisy when they talked of their plans to cancel debt. She finished by saying there would be a march past the Gleneagles Hotel at the time of the G8 by many thousands of protesters.
George McNeilage warned of the US plans to attack Syria and/or Iran and announced that the rally in London was very large (the final figure given by the organisers was 100,000). He urged the rally to keep up the struggle.
There was some music and then at 2.10pm a number of the protesters went to the MOD building in Argyle Street (which is not marked on the Glasgow A-Z). The clippety clop of a large number of police horses told the uninformed where the building was. Apparently an admin building, there was a small of demo of several dozen who then went on to some other venues. After the MOD, the next stop was the Scottish Labour Party HQ, which was locked up, then on to Sauchiehall St, into MacDonald’s (or `Mad Donald’s` where the police, as one protester put it, "chucked" it, obviously realising they hadn't a clue what the group were doing). Then some promptly moved up to SMG (Scottish Media Group) at Cowcaddens where a few of them were threatened with being locked inside. However there really weren't enough of them to make an impact so after some discussion they headed to the Mono Cafe in King Street for a pint to finish off the day with plans for their next action.
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