Hannah Sassaman, Philadelphia Independent Media Center
While Americans prepared to challenge the Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings in Miami, Florida on Thursday, at least 200,000 British people marched in protest of the United States President George Bush's formal state visit to the United Kingdom.
The permitted march, the climax of three days of coordinated events challenging United States imperialism in Iraq and around the world, bore many similarities to the anti-FTAA march in Miami. Police restricted the movements of protesters as they marched through the streets of Central London, after convening at the University of London. Officers dressed in riot gear, riding horses, strictly enforced the agreed-upon route of the march. There were at least 14,000 police on the streets, hemming in march participants, although organizers reported high spirits and a strong sense of solidarity among protesters and marchers.
Throughout the week, according to organizers in London, activists were targeted as part of the Metropolitan Police Force's 'special security operations'. The Forward Intelligence Team, a subset of the Metropolitan Police Force, regularly followed organizers leaving from the London Action Resource Centre, photographing individuals and following them to their homes, days in advance of any actions in London. 'That tactic that is used a lot in the UK, and that happened today also,' said an Indymedia organizer, contacted over IRC.
Commercial media reports noted that the high point of the march came when protesters toppled an effigy of the President at London's Trafalgar Square. The statue, painted bronze in an attempt to inspire comparisons with the US-orchestrated toppling of a Saddam Hussein statue in Iraq near the 'end of major combat' earlier this year, fell to a chorus of hundreds of thousands of cheers.
Instances of direct action successfully interrupted the pomp and circumstance of Bush's visit to the UK. The BBC reported that in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament was suspended after a protester dressed in a George Bush mask shouted anti-war slogans from the public gallery during a debate on Iraq. UK-IMC reported that Colin Powell most likely canceled a medal ceremony appearance due to the demonstrations ( http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2003/11/281317.html).
Anti-Bush activity bloomed in many cities across the country this week, ranging from the complete shut-down of the Cardiff city center ( http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2003/11/280960.html) to a rush of the American consulate in Edinbugh ( http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2003/11/281149.html).