February 15, 2003 anti-war protest

The February 15, 2003 anti-war protest was a coordinated day of protests across the world in which people in more than 600 cities expressed opposition to the imminent Iraq War.[1] It was part of a series of protests and political events that had begun in 2002 and continued as the war took place. Social movement researchers have described the 15 February protest as "the largest protest event in human history."[2]

Sources vary in their estimations of the number of participants involved. According to BBC News, between six and eleven million people took part in protests in up to sixty countries over the weekend of the 15th and 16th; other estimates range from eight million to thirty million.[1][3][4]

Some of the largest protests took place in Europe. The protest in Rome involved around three million people, and is listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest anti-war rally in history.[5][6] Madrid hosted the second largest rally with more than 1½ million people protesting the invasion of Iraq; Mainland China was the only major region not to see any protests on that day, but small demonstrations, attended mainly by foreign students, were seen later.[7]


  • Background 1
  • International coordination 2
  • Europe 3
    • Alpine countries 3.1
    • Benelux 3.2
    • Bosnia and Herzegovina 3.3
    • Croatia 3.4
    • Cyprus 3.5
    • Czech Republic 3.6
    • France 3.7
    • Germany 3.8
    • Greece 3.9
    • Hungary 3.10
    • Ireland 3.11
    • Italy 3.12
    • Malta 3.13
    • Nordic countries 3.14
    • Poland 3.15
    • Portugal 3.16
    • Russia 3.17
    • Serbia 3.18
    • Spain 3.19
    • Turkey 3.20
    • Ukraine 3.21
    • United Kingdom 3.22
      • London 3.22.1
        • Organisation
        • The event
      • Scotland 3.22.2
      • Northern Ireland 3.22.3
  • Americas 4
    • Canada 4.1
    • United States 4.2
      • New York 4.2.1
      • Other U.S. cities 4.2.2
    • Mexico 4.3
    • South America 4.4
  • Asia 5
    • Middle East 5.1
    • Other areas in Asia 5.2
  • Africa 6
    • South Africa 6.1
    • Tunisia 6.2
  • Oceania 7
    • Fiji 7.1
    • Australia 7.2
    • New Zealand 7.3
  • Antarctica 8
  • Effect 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13


In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly on September 12, 2002 which argued that the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein was violating UN resolutions, primarily on weapons of mass destruction, and that this necessitated invasion.[8]

The proposed war was controversial with many people questioning the motives of the U.S. government and its rationale.[9] One poll which covered 41 countries claimed that less than 10% would support an invasion of Iraq without UN sanction and that half would not support an invasion under any circumstances.[10]

French academic Dominique Reynié between the January 3 and April 12, 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 anti-war protests, the demonstrations on February 15, 2003 being the largest and most prolific.[11]

The invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003.

International coordination

The February 15 international protests were unprecedented not only in terms of the size of the demonstrations but also in terms of the international coordination involved. Researchers from the [12]

World Social Forum in Porto Alegre."[13] Some commentators claim this is an example of "grassroots globalisation", for example one book claims that "The worldwide protests were made possible by globalisation ... But make no mistake—this was not your CEO's globalisation. The peace demonstrations represented, not a globalisation of commerce, but a globalisation of conscience".[14]

The idea for an international day of demonstrations was first raised by the British anti-capitalist group Globalise Resistance (GR) in the wake of an anti-war demonstration in Britain of 400,000 on September 28. At the time GR was involved in planning for the Florence European Social Forum (ESF) and brought up the suggestion at an ESF planning meeting. According to GR's Chris Nineham, "There was considerable controversy. Some delegates were worried it would alienate the mainstream of the movement. We, alongside the Italian delegates, had to put up a strong fight to get it accepted."[15]

The proposal was accepted and at the final rally of the ESF, in November 2002, the call officially went out for Europe-wide demonstrations on February 15, 2003. This call was firmed up in December at a planning meeting for the next (2003) ESF which took place in

  • Cities jammed in worldwide protest of war in Iraq CNN article. February 2003.
  • Over 200 Pictures from 133 Protests around the World on February 15/16, 2003
  • www.15feb2003.co.uk - Archived interviews from London on February 15, 2003
  • Sound montage from London February 15, 2003

External links

  • We Are Many, documentary film and website about the February 15, 2003 movements
  • 15 February 2003 multimedia documentary online
  • The World Says No to War, Larry Neilson, QuickTime movie
  • Stop the War: The story of Britain's biggest mass movement, Andrew Murray and Lindsey German, ISBN 1-905192-00-2
  • Archived copy of United for Peace and Justice's organizing webpage for the February 15, 2003, demonstrations (includes list of cities)

Further reading

  1. ^ a b Verhulst, Joris (2010): February 15, 2003: The World Says No to War. In: Stefaan Walgrave & Dieter Rucht (Eds.): The world says no to war: Demonstrations against the War on Iraq. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, pp. 1–19. p.1
  2. ^ Walgrave, Stefaan & Rucht, Dieter (2010): Introduction. In: Stefaan Walgrave & Dieter Rucht (Eds.): The world says no to war: Demonstrations against the War on Iraq. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, pp. xiii–xxvi. p. xiii
  3. ^ a b c "Millions join anti-war protests worldwide". BBC News Online. 2003-02-17. Retrieved January 4, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d Simonson, Karin (March 2003). "The Anti-War Movements – Waging Peace on the Brink of War" (PDF). paper prepared for the Programme on NGOs and Civil Society of the Centre for Applied Studies in International Negotiation 
  5. ^ "Guinness World Records, Largest Anti-War Rally". Guinness World Records. Archived from the original on 2004-09-04. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  6. ^ a b Largest anti-war rally, Guinness Book of world records, 2004
  7. ^ [9] China Daily report on 31st of March protests
  8. ^ President Bush's address to the United Nations, CNN, September 12, 2002
  9. ^ [10], Robert Fisk, January 18, 2003, The Independent
  10. ^ Iraq Poll 2003, Gallup international
  11. ^ a b Anti-war protests do make a difference , Alex Callinicos, Socialist Worker, March 19, 2005.
  12. ^ a b Stefaan Walgrave and Joris Verhulst, The February 15 Worldwide Protests against a War in Iraq: An Empirical Test of Transnational Opportunities. Outline of a Research Programme. (PDF). Draft paper online. p.5. Accessed January 24, 2006. (see for permission to quote paper)
  13. ^ Wallerstein, Immanuel (2003-07-22). "Entering Global Anarchy". New Left Review. Retrieved 2006-01-24. 
  14. ^ Kevin Danaher and Jason Dove Mark (October 2003). Insurrection: The Citizen Challenge to Corporate Power. Routledge.  
  15. ^ a b c d e f "The day the world said no to war on Iraq". Socialist Worker. 2003-02-22. 
  16. ^ Organisers of Antiwar Movement Plan to Go Beyond Protests, Glenn Frankel, The Washington Post, March 3, 2003
  17. ^ Anti-war demonstrators rally around the world, CNN.com, January 19, 2003
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Voices from the world's biggest anti-war protest
  19. ^ Nein zum Krieg gegen Irak - Kein Blut für Öl!, GSoA, Not in English, Used as reference for Switzerland demonstration
  20. ^ [11], TV Slovenia, in Slovenian
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k [Largest coordinated anti-war protest in history (4th ref)
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Anti-war protesters hold global rallies (7th ref)
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Mass demonstrations inaugurate international antiwar movement (4th ref)
  24. ^ a b c d Dublin brought to a halt by march (Second ref)
  25. ^ a b c d e f Cities jammed in worldwide protest of war in Iraq, CNN.com, February 16, 2003
  26. ^ a b c d Massive Anti-War Outpouring, CBS
  27. ^ "Göteborg: 25 000 demonstrerade för fred". Yelah.net. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  28. ^ "Helsingin Sanomat Finnish-language archive, February 16, 2003". Hs.fi. 2003-02-16. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  29. ^ Spanish Yahoo news article ? link no longer goes to article.
  30. ^ ABC website article not in English, This is used as a reference for Austria march
  31. ^ RE-COLONIZING IRAQ, Tariq Ali, New Left Review, May–June 2003
  32. ^ Laville, Sandra; Dutter, Barbie (2003-02-16). "Protest has rattled Number 10, say march organisers". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-05-10. 
  33. ^ a b "Anti-war rally makes its mark". BBC. 19 February 2003. Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  34. ^ "Anti-war protest Britains biggest demo". Daily Mail (London). 
  35. ^ a b c d Stop the War: The story of Britain's biggest mass movement, Andrew Murray and Lindsey German, ISBN 1-905192-00-2
  36. ^ Stop the war, Nyier Abdou, Al-Ahram
  37. ^ Anti-war protesters fight rally ban, BBC Online News, January 31, 2003
  38. ^ Peace march 'to attract 500,000', BBC Online News, February 14, 2003
  39. ^ Protesters join huge anti-war march, BBC online, February 15, 2003
  40. ^ One million. And still they came, Euan Ferguson, The Observer, February 16, 2003
  41. ^ 'Million' march against Iraq war, BBC Online News, February 16, 2003
  42. ^ Stopping the war and beyond, Matthew Tempest, The Guardian, December 22, 2003
  43. ^ A new era of activism?, Nyta Mann, BBC news, February 15, 2003
  44. ^ Million throng for Jubilee finale, BBC News Online, June 4, 2002
  45. ^ February 2003 Poll, ICM, 14–16 February 2003
  46. ^ PsandLove.org Archived site of internet broadcasts from Hyde Park
  47. ^ [12] BBC News story of the day's event
  48. ^ Glasgow: 100,000 protest against Blair and Iraq war, World Socialist Web Site, February 17, 2003
  49. ^ The day the clans gathered to say No, Stephen Khan, The Observer, February 16, 2003
  50. ^ Thousands back Belfast anti-war rally, BBC online, February 15, 2003
  51. ^ US joins anti-war protests, BBC Online News, February 15, 2003
  52. ^ a b The Anti-War Protest And The Police, Julia Vitullo-Martin, Gotham Gazette; New York city news and policy, March 2003
  53. ^ New Yorkers join anti-war protests, BBC Online News, February 15, 2003
  54. ^ Ronda Hauben (2003-02-16). "TP: Massive Anti-War Protest in New York City Demonstrates". Heise.de. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  55. ^ a b c U.S. sees protests big and small, CNN.com, February 15, 2003
  56. ^ San Francisco ends world peace rallies, BBC Online News, February 17, 2003
  57. ^ Photos show 65,000 at peak of S.F. rally Aerial study casts doubt on estimates of 200,000, Wyatt Buchanan, San Francisco Chronicle, February 21, 2003
  58. ^ Statement From Feb. 16 Anti-War Coalitions Regarding Rabbi Michael Lerner, February 11, 2003.
  59. ^ The World Says No to War, Larry Neilson, Director's Cut,2/15/03, 10 min, 19MB
  60. ^ Florida Protesters Bare All Against War in Iraq, Palm Beach Post, February 15, 2003.
  61. ^ Reports on February 14-16 antiwar demonstrations, WSWS, February 21, 2003
  62. ^ Notes on the Numbers, Gary Leupp, CounterPunch
  63. ^ The "Street" and the Politics of Dissent in the Arab World, Asef Bayat, Middle east report, Spring 2003
  64. ^ 3,000 march in Tel Aviv WSWS
  65. ^ a b c d Antiwar marchers defy large police presence in Seoul, WSWS, February 17, 2003
  66. ^ Tens of thousands march in South Africa against Iraq war, Eric Graham, WSWS, February 18, 2003
  67. ^ Anti-War Marches in Four Cities, SA Sends Mission to Iraq, AllAfrica.com, February 18, 2003
  68. ^ "Australia launches anti-war protests". BBC News online. February 14, 2003. Retrieved January 4, 2010. 
  69. ^ "Melbourne Anti-war Protest for Peace and Against war on Iraq - 14 February 2003 - Photos". Takver.com. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  70. ^ February 15: birth of a mass movement Socialist Worker Monthly Review, March 2003
  71. ^ Vidal, John (2003-02-13). "10 million join world protest rallies". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-04-17. 
  72. ^ "Unprecedented worldwide actions for peace". International council for peace and justice. Retrieved 2006-04-17. 
  73. ^ Threats and Responses: News Analysis; A New Power In the Streets (requires purchase to access), The New York Times, Patrick Tyler, February 17, 2003
  74. ^ Reasons to March, Mike Marqusee, UK Watch, March 16, 2006
  75. ^ Global and local echoes of the anti-war movement: a British Muslim perspective, Salma Yaqoob, International Socialist Journal, Issue: 100
  76. ^ Generation, A (November 16, 2009). "Renouncing Islamism: To the brink and back again". The Independent (London). Retrieved May 2, 2010. 


  • We Are Many, a 2014 documentary film about the February 15, 2003 protest

See also

Despite failing in its explicit aim, the February 15 global day of anti-war protests had many effects that, according to some, were not directly intended. According to United Kingdom left-wing [76]

According to Alex Callinicos some people argue from the idea that the demonstrations have failed, to the notion that the anti-war movement should concentrate on direct action rather than mass demonstrations. He argues against this claiming that putting pressure on governments not to join in with "Bush’s imperial project" requires an expression of opposition of large numbers of people and claims that "scattered, localised direct actions do not provide the necessary visibility" He further claims that "big national demonstrations are also important in sustaining the momentum of the [anti-war] movement".[11]

Though demonstrations against the Iraq war and subsequent occupation have continued none has matched this day in terms of size. One explanation for this that has been suggested is that people have become disillusioned with marching as a political tactic because of the failure of these demonstrations to achieve their explicit aim. In 2006 three years after this day, in an article arguing for people to attend a further march, Mike Marqusee put forward two counter arguments to this. Firstly he claimed that it was too soon to judge the long-term significance of the demonstrations noting that "People who took part in the non-cooperation campaigns in India in the 20s and 30s had to wait a long time for independence." and that "There were eight years of protest and more than 2 million dead before the Vietnam war came to an end". Secondly, he claimed that while the effect of marching may be uncertain, the effect of not marching would surely be to make it more likely that the occupation would continue.[74]

Her view was borne out as the day of protests, along with the protests that followed it, failed to stop the war. However, the protests and other public opposition have been held up as a key factor in the decisions of the governments of many countries, such as Canada, to not send troops to Iraq.

The potential effect of the protests was generally dismissed by pro-war politicians; the then US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was reported as saying that the protests would "not affect [the US administration's] determination to confront Saddam Hussein and help the Iraqi people".[4]

The unprecedented size of the demonstrations was widely taken to indicate that the majority of people across the world opposed the war. However, the pro-war Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, claimed that the protests were not representative of public opinion, saying "I don't know that you can measure public opinion just by the number of people that turn up at demonstrations."

At the time, many commentators were hopeful that this global mobilization of unprecedented scale would stop the coming Iraq war. New York Times writer Patrick Tyler claimed that they showed that there were "two superpowers on the planet - the United States, and worldwide public opinion".[73]


A group of scientists at the US McMurdo Station held a rally on the ice at the edge of the Ross sea.[71][72]


The first actual demonstration of the day took place in New Zealand where 10,000 people demonstrated in Auckland and Wellington. The Auckland march was bigger than expected, forcing police to shut off Queen Street. People were reported to be still starting the march as those at the front of the march reached a rally in Myers Park several kilometres away. In Wellington the march had to carry on after the then planned end point as there were too many people to fit into the park. There were also protests in at least 18 other centres, including Dunedin, Thames, Opotiki, Whakatane, Whangarei, Timaru and Rotorua, and Picnic for Peace in Christchurch.[18][70]

New Zealand

At protests in Australia in Bellingen, New South Wales around 2,500 people (SW estimate) joined a rally at the towns sports ground. As well as hearing from speakers, the demonstrators were entertained by a group of a cappella singers called 'The Bushbombs'. The rally was about as large as the town's population.[15]

Bundaberg (150), Mackay (1,000), Noosa (?), Rockhampton (600), Toowoomba (800), Townsville (1,000 to 2,000)
New South Wales
Armidale (5,000), Bathurst (peace bus to Canberra 12 Feb) 32, Bellingen (3,000), Bega (400), Byron Bay (3,000), Forster, New South Wales/Tuncurry (700), Kempsey (300), Kingscliff (1,000), Lismore (7,000), Newcastle (20,000), Tamworth (500), Taree (?), Tathra (1,500), Wollongong (Feb8) (5,000), Wagga Wagga (1,000)
Launceston (1,000), Strahan (50), Devonport (750)
Geelong (200), Albury, Mildura
South Australia
Mt Gambier (500), Whyalla (Peace Vigil)
Western Australia
Margaret River (Peace pilgrimage) (20)
Northern Territory
Alice Springs (400)

Beyond the capitals, many major cities and towns around Australia had protests.[69]

On the Saturday protests also took place in Australia’s six state capitals with 200,000 protesters (BBC estimate) demonstrating in Sydney, and an estimated 600,000 demonstrating in cities around the country. The Sydney demonstration included a feeder march of 10,000 trade unionists.[18]

[68] Friday also saw protests in


Protests in Fiji took place on the day before, on Friday morning, heralding the weekend of demonstrations. Protesters handed floral Valentine's Day messages to the representatives of the US, British and Australian governments urging them to avoid the war.[21]



A protest of around 3,000 (SW estimate) in the Tunisian city of Sfax was attacked by police who beat the protesters with batons and truncheons, injuring at least 20.


A number of prominent ANC politicians attended marches. At the Cape Town rally the South African Minister, Pallo Jordan addressed the protesters saying; "We will stop the war. The voice of the people will be heard."[67]

Protests of thousands of people also took place at Durban and Bloemfontein.

In Anti-War Coalition and the Stop the War campaign of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).[22][66]

Protesters in Cape Town.

A protest of between 8,000 and 10,000 (AllAfrica.com estimate) and 20,000 people (SW estimate) joined a protest in Johannesburg in South Africa.

South Africa


No protests were reported as having taken place in mainland China. According to a WSWS correspondent from Beijing there were two factors that explain the lack of protest in mainland China; "[Beijing’s] appeasement of imperialism and its fear of any public protest, whatever its content." There was a demonstration in Hong Kong of up to 1,000 people (WSWS estimate).[65]

In South Korea there was a demonstration of 2,000 people (WSWS estimate) which took place in the capital city Seoul. The protest started with a rally at Ma-ron-i-ea Park after which there was a demonstration that ended in Jong-Myo Park were the size of the protest increased in size to 3,000 people (WSWS estimate). Jong-Myo Park was surrounded by riot police who almost out numbered the protesters. Protests also took place in the South Korean cites of Pusan, Taegu, Taejon, Kwangju and Wonju.[65]

India saw protests across the country including 10,000 (BBC estimate) in Calcutta.[3] In Bangladesh 2,000 people joined a demonstration in Dhaka.[22]

Around 3,000 people (SW estimate) joined an illegal demonstration in the Malaysian city of Kuala Lumpur despite police warnings that any participants in a protest would face stern action. The demonstration ended at the US embassy at Jalan Tun Razak.[18] Taiwan had a protest of more than 2,000 people (WSWS estimate) in the capital city of Taipei under the slogan of “No Blood for Oil”.[65]

Small protests took place across Japan mostly being held outside US military bases. The biggest demonstration of the day took place in Shibuya were 5,000 (SW estimate) people marched.[18] However, there was a demonstration of 25,000 in Tokyo on Friday, the day before as well as smaller demonstrations in Osaka and other cities. Amongst the protesters in Tokyo was a group of survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[65]

Other areas in Asia

In left-wing groups, including Peace Now and Meretz.[64] The demonstration was co-ordinated with a similar demonstration which took place in Ramallah.[21][22]

A large protest also took place on the streets of Damascus in Syria which borders Iraq. Protesters chanted anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli slogans while marching to the "People's Assembly" in a demonstration of between 10,000 (GLW estimate) to 200,000 protesters (CBS estimate and USA Today estimate).[26] In Lebanon, 10,000 protesters (CBS, GLW estimate) took part in a demonstration in Beirut. However, the protest ended early when it rained heavily.[21][26] There were also demonstrations of 5,000 people (GLW estimate) in Amman, Jordan.[21]

In Iraq, the country in which the war would take place, protesters were forced to march down Palestine Street in Baghdad where several thousand Iraqis—many carrying Kalashnikov rifles—joined in the global protests. Unlike the vast majority of protests across the world the protest in Baghdad was also in support of the Baathist regime; it was called by Saddam Hussein as "World Anger Day". Protesters carried posters of Saddam and burned US flags.[4]

Middle East

The reasons for this are no doubt complex, but one factor that is commonly cited is the suppression of protest movements by the conservative leaders of those countries. A report by Asef Bayat in the Middle East Report suggests that "the Arab governments allow little room for independent dissent" as is shown by the fact that "Since 2000, demands for collective protests against the US and Israel have been ignored by the authorities" and "unofficial street actions have faced intimidation and assault, with activists being harassed or detained".[63]

Areas in Asia with large Muslim populations, in particular the countries of the Middle East, had the highest levels of opposition to the proposed Iraq war, however demonstrations in many of these countries were relatively small. One United Arab Emirates newspaper Al Bayan led with the statement: "The people of the world and more than one million Europeans demonstrate against an attack on Iraq while the Arab people and their leaders are in a deep coma." [24]


In Buenos Aires, Argentina, an estimate of 50,000 protesters attended.[62]

Protests took place across South America including Uruguay, where their protest took place on the day before February 15, Friday. An estimated 70,000 people marched down Montevideo's Avenida 18.[61] In Brazil, a protest led by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was attended by 1,500 marchers (Police estimate).[22]

South America

The chief demonstration in Mexico took place in Mexico City where around 10,000 people (USA Today estimate) joined a demonstration which ended with a rally at a heavily guarded US embassy. Among the demonstrators was Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú.[22]


In Florida a small number of protesters staged a naked protest on Palm Beach. They initially had some problems getting permission for the action, but on the Thursday before, a U.S. District court ruled that the planned nude protest was legal at the public beach. Most of the attendees had come from the four-day Mid-Winter Naturist Festival that was taking place at the same time.[60] There was also a demonstration of 900 people (USA Today estimate) on the island of Puerto Rico.[22]

Demonstrations also took place in Philadelphia, where thousands (CNN estimate) joined a march to the Liberty Bell,[55] and in Chicago where 10,000 people demonstrated (GLW estimate).[21]

In WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999.[59]

In Colorado Springs, 4,000 protesters were dispersed with pepper spray, tear gas, stun guns and batons. 34 were arrested on failure to disperse and other charges[25] and at least two protesters had to have hospital treatment.[55]

In Austin, Texas, 10,000 protestors marched down Congress Avenue from the state capitol building. [7] [8]

There was some controversy over New York Times and Tikkun community email newsletters, his inclusion in the program would violate [this] agreement." They also noted that two rabbis with views similar to those of Michael Lerner would be speaking.[58]

in large public demonstrations. crowd estimates This dispute highlights the continuing debate over the accuracy of [57] Other activists in California originally planned to hold a protest in

At a demonstration in Los Angeles, California, 50,000 (WSWS estimate[23]) to 60,000 (GLW estimate) protesters (CNN said "thousands") marched down Hollywood Boulevard filling it for four blocks. Amongst the protesters were the actors Martin Sheen and Mike Farrell and director Rob Reiner. Martin Sheen, who at the time was playing a fictitious U.S. president in The West Wing, said that "None of us can stop this war ... there is only one guy that can do that and he lives in the White House."[55]

60,000-200,000 protesters of various ages demonstrated in San Francisco, (accounts vary as to the total number present)

Other U.S. cities

A CNN journalist reported that the crowd was diverse, including "older men and women in fur coats, parents with young children, military veterans and veterans of the anti-war movement." [25]

There were numerous complaints that the police were too heavy handed. Many streets were blocked off and protesters reported feeling hemmed in and scared. By the end of the day, police reported that there had been roughly 275 arrests; organisers dispute this number, claiming that there were 348 arrests. The local Independent Media Center produced a short video claiming to show inappropriate and violent police behaviour, including backing horses into demonstrators, shoving people into the metal barricades, spraying a toxic substance at penned-in demonstrators, using abusive language, and raising nightsticks against some who couldn't move. However, NYPD spokesman Michael O'Looney denied the charges claiming that the tape was "filled with special effects" and that it did not prove the police had not been provoked.[52]

The protests were largely peaceful though a small group of protesters who were reported to have broken off from the main rally, caused damage to property in the Union Square district, and threw stones at police officers, which resulted in forty arrests.[3]

As people tried to reach the rally area they ended up constituting an unplanned march, stretching twenty blocks down First Avenue and overflowing onto Second and Third Avenue.[25] In total estimates range from been 300,000 to 400,000 protesters (WSWS estimate).[23] to over a million protesters (Berlin Heise estimate)[54]

NYPD officers advance on protesters during a brief outbreak of violence

On the day, over 300 buses and four special trains brought protesters in from across the country. 100,000 protesters (BBC estimate) took part in a rally near the UN building. Among those taking part was the 9/11 Families For Peaceful Tomorrows, a group made up of some relatives of victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Speakers included politicians, church leaders and entertainers, such as actress Susan Sarandon and South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.[53]

According to Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York City Civil Liberties Union, judicial denial of a permit for a protest march was an unprecedented restriction of civil liberties, as marching and parading through New York's public streets to express various points-of-view is "a time-honoured tradition in our country that lies at the core of the First Amendment".[52]

Organisers of the New York City protest had hoped to march past the United Nations Building. However, a week before the march, police claimed that they would not be able to ensure order and District Court Judge Barbara Jones ruled against allowing the route. Instead, protesters were only permitted to hold a stationary rally.[51]

New York

The largest protests took place in the nation's largest cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, but there were also smaller rallies in towns such as Macomb, Illinois; and Juneau, Alaska, among scores of others.[25]

Protests took place all across the United States of America with CBS reporting that 150 U.S. cities had protests.[26] According to the World Socialist Web Site, protests took place in 225 different communities.[23]

United States

There were protests in 70 cities in total. These demonstrations took place despite very cold weather, average temperatures were below −35 °C (−31 °F).[15][23] In Chicoutimi, 1,500 people braved a −40 °C (−40 °F) wind-chill temperature including wind gusts reaching 50 km/h (31 mph), in what was one of the coldest marches on that global day of protest.

Canada saw protests in 70 cities and towns (WSWS estimate).[23] The biggest took place in Montreal where more than 100,000 people protested (SW and WSWS each estimated 150,000) despite wind-chill temperatures of below −30 °C (−22 °F). 80,000 people joined a demonstration in Toronto, 40,000 in Vancouver, 18,000 (by police estimates) in Edmonton, 8,000 in Victoria, 4,000 in Halifax and 6,000 in Ottawa. Some of the other major centres where protests were held included Windsor and Calgary[21]



The Northern Irish march was held in Belfast, where 10,000 (Guardian estimate) to 20,000 (SW estimate) protesters from across the sectarian divide joined the demonstration. The march started at the Arts College at 14:30 and moved through that Royal Avenue towards Belfast City Hall. Prominent politicians from Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the centrist Alliance Party joined the protest. Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams spoke from the platform at the end rally saying "If President Bush and Mr Blair want war, it should be war against poverty and for equality." There was also a rally in Newry in County Down attending by hundreds of protesters (BBC estimate).[18][24] [50]

Northern Ireland

On the day between 50,000 people (Guardian estimate) and 100,000 (World Socialist estimate)[48] joined the march, which started at Glasgow Green. By the time the front of the march had travelled the two miles (3.2 km) to the SECC, Blair had delivered his speech and had left the area. One protester was quoted as saying "We've chased him out of town."[49]

In addition to the demonstrations in London, the United Kingdom also saw protests in Scotland. Anti-war activists planned a demonstration in Glasgow which would end at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) where the Labour Party was holding a conference for party members. The Labour Party requested that the SECC refuse permission for a stage and PA system outside the conference hall. In response to this the then Scottish Socialist Party MSP Tommy Sheridan tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament to allow the event to take place, condemning what he claimed were attempts to "stifle all opposition to warmonger Blair". The Labour Party was unsuccessful in blocking the demonstrators' plans. Tony Blair was due to give a speech at the same time as the protesters would have arrived outside the conference centre, but the speech was rescheduled to an earlier time to avoid this.[21]


A sole person demonstrated in opposition to the march outside the Iraqi section of the Jordanian Embassy on the day - Jacques More a writer from Croydon - with a placard saying that, although a last resort, war is necessary "[w]hen evil dictators rule and murder their own people".[47]

RadioVague in conjunction with the now defunct CableRadio broadcast speeches, music and interviews from the event to the internet throughout the day using a satellite uplink provided by Psand.net.[46]

In an ICM poll for The Guardian (February 14, 2003 – February 16, 2003), 6% of people claimed that someone from their household went on the march or had intended to. The StWC claims that this translates into 1.25 million households and thus supports the estimate of two million people, assuming that more than one person could come from each household.[35][45]

Because of the size of the march, accurate estimates of the number of people in attendance are difficult. It is relativity uncontentious that the march was the largest ever political demonstration in the UK[43] and the biggest taking to the streets since the Golden Jubilee weekend in 2002.[44]

Charles Kennedy, then the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was a late addition to the list of speakers. There was some media speculation that he only decided to speak after a lead article in The Guardian was critical of his absence from the planned speaker list.[42] There had been some controversy within the StWC over allowing Kennedy to speak since his party was committed to opposing the war only in the absence of a second UN resolution, but the coalition decided that failing to invite him "would have been divisive for the movement and would have fragmented anti-war opposition to the war."[35]

Protesters who managed to reach Hyde Park in time heard various speakers, including Tony Benn and Bianca Jagger however many were not able to reach the rally as those travelling home by coach had to leave before completing the march route. Protesters at the back end of the march did not reach Hyde Park until hours after the speakers and performers had finished.

All police leave in the capital was cancelled for the event, though Scotland Yard later said that it passed off almost without incident.[41]

[As well as the] usual suspects - CND, Notts County Supporters Say Make Love Not War (And a Home Win against Bristol would be Nice). They won 2-0, by the way. One group of SWP stalwarts were joined, for the first march in any of their histories, by their mothers. There were country folk and lecturers, dentists and poulterers, a hairdresser from Cardiff and a poet from Cheltenham.

The weather, on the day of the protest was grey and cold, but reports noted that people remained "in high spirits" as London became gridlocked and protesters were stuck for hours at Gower Street and Embankment. Hundreds of coaches brought protesters from 250 towns and cities across the UK,[33] with around 100 coaches coming from Wales alone.[39] Many commentators noted the diversity of those attending the march. Euan Ferguson noted in The Observer[40] that:

The event

As the date for the march approached the BBC was predicting that around 500,000 people would attend, while the StWC was hoping for numbers to top the symbolically significant million mark.[38]

Plans for the demonstration were backed by the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone who used his position to help resolve the administrative issues. Previously the British press had taken a low view of the newsworthiness of demonstrations, with The Guardian claiming to have a general policy not to cover them. However, sections of the media came over to support this demonstration. For example, the Daily Mirror gave large coverage in the lead up to the march and provided thousands of placards on the day. The demonstration also received sponsorship support from Greenpeace and Mecca-Cola.[35]

The negotiations for this plan faltered when government Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Tessa Jowell instructed the Royal Parks agency to deny permission for the rally in Hyde Park - ostensibly for safety reasons and to protect the grass.[37] However, this was resolved when, after failure to agree on an alternative venue and pressure from the StWC, this decision was reversed.

In the lead-up to February 15, the StWC was organising the march from a small office donated by the Thames Embankment for Londoners and those travelling in from the south, and Gower Street for those travelling in from the midlands and the north. They planned for the two marches to merge at Piccadilly Circus and then proceed to a rally at Hyde Park.[35][36]

The StWC, who had previously held a series of demonstrations and rallies against the Afghanistan war and the upcoming Iraq war, jointly called the London demonstration with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Muslim Association of Britain joined the StWC for this event.


[34] The British

Anti-war protest in London.


United Kingdom

There was also a demonstration in Ukraine of around 2,000 people (USA Today estimate) joined a "Rock against the war" rally Kievs central square.[22]


The main demonstration in press conference.[31] There were also demonstrations in Adana, Ankara, İzmir, Zonguldak, İzmit, Antalya and Muğla.[18]


Spain saw demonstrations in around 55 cities and towns across the country;[22] the largest was probably in the capital city Madrid, where between 660,000 (Government source’s estimate) and 2,000,000 (GLW estimate) took part in what was probably the biggest demonstration since the death of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.[22] Barcelona also had a large, with estimates of 350,000 (Delegación de Gobierno), 1,300,000 (Barcelona city hall and Police) or 1,500,000 (GLW) people[29] joining a demonstration which moved from the Passeig de Gràcia to the Plaça de Tetuan. Spain also had demonstrations of approximately 500,000 in Valencia (GLW estimate), 250,000 in Seville (GLW estimate) (200,000 Government sources estimate), 100,000 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (GLW estimate) and 100,000 in Cadiz' (GLW estimate) as well as over fifty other towns and cities across the country (WSWS estimate).[23] Particularly remarkable was the turnout in the small Asturian city of Oviedo which had a turnout of 100,000 even though its total population was only 180,000.[30]


Small demonstrations also took place in Serbia, where there was a demonstration of 200 people (WSWS estimate) in the capital city of Belgrade.[23]


In Russia, which had several demonstrations, the largest occurred in Moscow, with 400 people (WSWS estimate) in attendance.[23]


In Lisbon gathered around 80,000 People to march through the city, it was a very peaceful march without police trouble.


There was a demonstration in Wrocław in the market square by the town hall, with 400–500 people participating.


In Sweden, 35,000 demonstrated in Stockholm.[22] and about 25,000 in Gothenburg.[27] In Helsinki, Finland, an estimated 15,000 people participated in one of the largest mass-protests in the republic's history.[28]

In Denmark 20,000 to 30,000 protesters (WSWS estimate) took part in a march in the capital city, Copenhagen.[23]

Norway saw its biggest series of protests since 1917. The biggest took place in its capital Oslo were more than 60,000 protesters (Police estimate and Socialist Worker estimate) joining a demonstration. Protests of around 15,000 took place in Bergen and Trondheim, and 10,000 in Stavanger. Small protests also took place in at least 30 towns across the country. At the rally in Oslo the vice-chair of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) spoke from the platform claiming that "Bush only cares about American oil interests".[18]

Nordic countries

The island of Malta saw around 1,000 demonstrators (SW estimate) join a protest. The weather was cold and rainy. After the demonstration an anti-war concert was held in the capital, Valletta.[18]


[21] (GLW), the demonstration contained people from across Italian society; "Catholic nuns and priests marched alongside young people with dreadlocks, nose rings and Palestinian scarves. Christians, anarchists and communists mingled".Green Left Weekly According to the [6] The biggest demonstration of the global day of protest took place in Italy in Rome. Nearly 3000 buses and thirty

A puppet representing Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi during the demonstration in Rome


In Ireland, the Dublin march was only expected to draw 20,000 people, but the actual figure was given variously as 80,000 (police estimate), 90,000 (BBC estimate), 100,000 (Guardian estimate) or 150,000 (Socialist Worker (SW) estimate). The march went from Parnell Square, passing the Department of Foreign Affairs at St. Stephen's Green, and on to the Dame Street for a rally where popular Irish folk singer Christy Moore, Kíla and Labour Party politician Michael D. Higgins were among many speakers from the platform. The march disrupted traffic for more than four hours. Protesters demanded that the Irish government stop allowing the United States military to use Ireland's Shannon Airport as a transatlantic stop-off point in bringing soldiers to the Middle East.[24]


There was a demonstration in Budapest, Hungary, of 60,000 people (SW estimate)[15]


In Athens, Greece, 150,000 people (WSWS estimate) demonstrated. The protest was generally peaceful, but a small group clashed with police. The police fired tear gas at the group some of whom threw rocks and petrol bombs. Police reported that the trouble was down to a group of anarchists who had split off from the main demonstration.[25]


In Germany, coaches brought people from over 300 German towns to Berlin to join a demonstration of 300,000 (police estimate) to 500,000 (organizers' estimate) people; the largest demonstration that had occurred in Berlin for several decades.[18] [25] Protesters, including members of Gerhard Schröder's government, filled the boulevard between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column.[4] [26] ATTAC Germany's spokesperson Malte Kreutzfeld was reported as praising the broadness of the demonstration, saying "The churches and trade unions have linked to make the coalition far broader than even the anti-nuclear missile marches in the 1980s."[21]


In France, there were demonstrations in somewhere between twenty (Observer estimate) and eighty cities (USA Today estimate) to 200,000 (WSWS estimate) people marched through the streets, ending in a rally at the Place de la Bastille. This location's role in the French Revolution was considered to give it a historical significance.[22] [23][24] There was also a demonstration in Toulouse of around 10,000 people.[22]


In the Czech Republic, over 1,000 people joined a rally at Jan Palach Square in Prague. Czech philosopher Erazim Kohak addressed the crowd, saying, "War is not a solution, war is a problem."[22] Protesters listened to music and speeches before marching to the Czech government building, where they submitted petitions, then march continued to the US embassy.[18]

Czech Republic

Cyprus saw a demonstration of between 500 (USA Today estimate) and more than 800 people (SW estimate) at the British army base in Dhekelia. Enduring heavy rain protesters briefly blocked the base. They then marched to Pyla village where they watched other demonstrations occurring across the world on a giant screen. The demonstration was mostly attended by Greek Cypriots but they were joined by some Turkish Cypriots.[18][22]


There were also protests in Croatia where 10,000 people (WSWS estimate) took part in a protest in the capital city of Zagreb. Croatia also saw protests in Osijek, Vukovar, Knin, Zadar, Šibenik, Split and Dubrovnik.[23]


Bosnia and Herzegovina saw around 100 protesters gather in Mostar. This protest spanned the sectarian divide with both Muslims and Croats attending.[23]

Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Brussels, which is the home of the European Parliament. They were shocked by a turn out of approximately 100,000 people (WSWS and GLW estimate). The march took over 3 hours to cross the city.[21] In Luxembourg, approximately 14,000 people demonstrated and the Netherlands saw around 70,000 (USA Today estimate) to 75,000 people (WSWS estimate) protest in Amsterdam.[22] [23] This was the country's largest demonstration since the anti-nuclear campaigns of the 1980s. [22]


This level of protest was also apparent in the Bern. On the day roughly 40,000 people joined the protest in front of the Bundeshaus, the seat of the Swiss federal government and parliament. The demonstration, which ran under the slogan "Nein zum Krieg gegen Irak - Kein Blut für Öl!" (No to war in Iraq - no blood for oil!) was the largest in Switzerland since 1945.[19] In Slovenia, roughly 3,000 people gathered in the capital's central park of Kongresni trg, supported by the mayor Danica Simšič, and marched the streets in one of the largest demonstrations since independence in 1991.[20]

Alpine countries

Demonstrations took place across Europe and some of the largest drawing attendance figures in the tens of thousands in many cities. Approximately one-fifth of the total demonstrators worldwide protested in Europe.


[15] Another important platform for the spreading call to demonstrate internationally occurred at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre,

In December 2002, the ISO, called for actions in North America supporting the proposed protests in Europe.[17]


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