European Anti-War Rally Streams Through Florence
Nov 9 2002
By Luke Baker
FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) - More than 450,000 anti-war protesters
across Europe marched through this Italian Renaissance city on Saturday,
denouncing any U.S. plans to attack Iraq.
Fired with anti-American sentiment and angered by a tough new
resolution to disarm Iraq, European activists joined forces in a carnival
atmosphere and marched together singing Communist anthems and blowing shrill
whistles. "Take your war and go to hell," one of the colorful banners read.
"No to war," said another.
The rally marked the climax of the first European Social Forum,
brought together anti-globalisation campaigners from across the continent
for four days of talks and concerts.
The forum was planned months ago, with tens of thousands of
from dozens of countries stretching from Portugal to Russia. Delegates
discussed topics from debt-reduction to support for the Palestinian
But organizers said the march was given added relevance by Friday's
unanimous vote in the U.N. Security Council, which gave Iraq a last chance
to disarm or face almost certain war.
Authorities estimated more than 450,000 protesters were on the
people were still streaming in from a fleet of buses and trains hired for
Organizers said the crowd could swell to more than a million
it one of the biggest rallies ever seen in Italy.
"The atmosphere here is wonderful. Absolutely perfect.
It shows that a new
young left is emerging," said Stavos Valsamis, a 27-year-old Greek activist
French farmer Jose Bove arrived on a tractor. Protesters clambered
scaffolding around arches near the city center to get a better view of the
The march was bigger than a protest at a G8 summit in Genoa
last year, when
300,000 demonstrators took to the streets and an orgy of violence left one
protester dead and hundreds injured.
Some 7,000 police were on call but security forces kept a low
most held in reserve some distance from the seven-km (4.5 mile) rally route.
The rest of Florence was a ghost town with most shops in the
historical center pulling down the shutters for fear of violence. The city's
famed museums were open and offered free entry to the few tourists around.
"We no longer have any illusions about institutions like
the United Nations
(news - web sites) and their ability to help humanity," said Alain Krivine,
a far-left French politician. He was convinced the United States had already
made up its mind to attack Iraq.
"Marches alone won't stop wars, but this is quite literally
a first step,"
While Friday's U.N. resolution gives the Security Council a
central role in
assessing the new arms' inspection program for Iraq, it does not require the
United States to seek council authorization for war in the case of
"It's totally clear that this is a war for oil, a war for
Simon Hardy, 21, a member of the British Socialist group Revolution. "Iraq
can't win, the U.S. wants war."