Antiwar Protests at Home and Abroad
By Brian Knowlton
International Herald Tribune | New York Times
Friday 21 March 2003
Protests against the war in Iraq continued around the globe today, many of them spontaneous and causing disruption in urban areas. In the most violent demonstration, at least three people were reported killed in a chaotic confrontation outside the United States Embassy in San'a, Yemen.
Elsewhere, a small protest took place outside the American Embassy in Beijing; in Melbourne, about 25,000 demonstrators blocked streets for the second straight day; and in Copenhagen, about 1,000 students protested outside Christiansborg Palace, the home of Parliament.
In Washington, about 100 demonstrators gathered a block from the White House, many of them smeared with fake blood. About two dozen were arrested for blocking traffic. Scores were arrested at protests in Baltimore, Chicago and Minneapolis. The total number of arrests in San Francisco reached 1,300, as the war stirred some of the broadest antigovernment protests in years.
In the Yemeni capital, San'a, as in some other Arab capitals, the clashes followed Friday prayers. In several mosques, militant preachers had delivered emotional anti-American sermons.
The clash in the Yemeni capital came when thousands of demonstrators, some of them hurling rocks, tried to storm the embassy and were blocked by hundreds of police officers and soldiers who first used tear gas and water cannon, but later fired rifles, news services reported.
The Associated Press, citing a security official it did not name, reported that a police officer was shot dead by a protester. Witnesses said an 11-year-old Yemeni boy had died of a gunshot wound. Some reports said that one or two others had died.
The demonstration mobilized an estimated 30,000 protesters, many of them chanting "Death to America!" Soldiers in armored vehicles were called in to back police officers ringing the embassy, as rock-throwing protesters pressed in on them.
Residents said it was the most violent demonstration in San'a in years. The embassy had been closed as a precaution, as have about 14 other American diplomatic missions in the region and elsewhere.
Yemen has been the scene of a series of large antiwar demonstrations, and news reports have portrayed anti-American feeling running high. This week, a Yemeni gunman earlier killed three oil workers, including an American and a Canadian, before shooting himself to death.
There were clashes in other Middle Eastern countries as well, though none was as violent as in Yemen. Riot police fired rubber bullets at a smaller crowd in Bahrain. The police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse demonstrators in Beirut and Amman. In Cairo, at least 5,000 Egyptians protested outside the historic al-Azhar mosque. "Bush is the enemy of God," some shouted.
Around the world, hundreds of protesters were arrested as they sought, with considerable success, to carry out a disruptive campaign of civil disobedience.
Among the cities most affected was San Francisco, where by this morning more than 1,300 protesters had been arrested. Most demonstrators were peaceful, bBut others used an array of obstructive tactics to paralyze traffic. Some opened fire hydrants, others smashed police car windows, some set hay bales ablaze, others vomited on the pavement before a federal building.
The protests, and the long delays they caused, sharply raised tensions. Television pictures showed one man leaving his car to throttle and punch several protesters. "We went from what I would call legal protests to absolute anarchy," said the assistant police chief, Alex Fagan Sr., said.
Several thousand marchers snarled traffic along Chicago's main arteries on Thursday, defying police officers on horseback. In New York City, more than 300 protesters blocked traffic in Times Square. The police arrested 36.
There was a swelling of smaller prowar demonstrations in the United States, as well. They included 2,000 people who gathered outside the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. People carried hand-lettered signs that said "God bless our troops" and "Let's roll." About 200 people cheered and prayed in Lincoln, Neb. There were prowar rallies in Texas, as well.
"The debate is over," Robert Strickland, an Army veteran, said as he waved an American flag in Louisville, Ky. "It's time to rally around our troops."
Some antiwar demonstrators also expressed support for American troops. "We support them so much that we don't want one to die in an unjust war," Mike Slaton said at a rally in the same city.
There were individual protests as well.
In Copenhagen, the German conductor of the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gerd Albrecht, issued an impromptu denunciation of Danish support of the war before a packed concert audience, Agence France-Presse reported.
"Should musicians stay silent?" Mr. Albrecht said. "The answer is no." Some audience members cheered him loudly, while others walked out.
In Brisbane, Australia, Lord Mayor Jim Soorley had a huge United Nations flag hoisted before City Hall, in defiance of provincial officials and several local residents. He said that it would remain, in protest of the war, until the last Australian soldier had returned from Iraq.
In Beijing, dozens of foreigners staged a peaceful protest against war today near the American Embassy, before the police dispersed them, witnesses told Agence France-Presse.
Demonstrations were expected to continue through the weekend. Organizers and the police in New York City said they expected tens of thousands of people to join an antiwar march in Manhattan on Saturday.
"The interest and momentum has escalated dramatically," said a march organizer, Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice.
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