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Up to 100,000 expected at London Iraq protest
George Wright and agencies
Thursday September 25, 2003
Tens of thousands of people are expected to join a protest calling for the withdrawal of British and US troops from Iraq and the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in London this weekend.
Organisers today predicted a huge turnout because of mounting public anger over government "lies" about the war in Iraq.
That view has been backed by a new poll showing that Tony Blair's political reputation has been seriously damaged by the Hutton inquiry.
The march, which will be from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, is advertised as a "protest against the occupation in Iraq and for freedom in Palestine", and will be the fifth such demonstration this year.
The Stop the War Coalition (SWC), which is organising the event along with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Muslim Association of Britain, said that it expected at least 100,000 to attend.
Coaches have been booked to ferry demonstrators to the capital from towns and cities across the UK.
The organisers acknowledged that the turnout will not be as big as that for February's protest, when more than 1 million people marched through the capital before the bombing of Iraq began.
However, they expressed confidence that it would nevertheless be a "another landmark in the history of the British people's resolve against injustice and tyranny".
SWC chairman Andrew Murray said there was growing public support for the group's demand that British and US troops should pull out of Iraq immediately.
Mr Murray called for a full public inquiry into the UK's involvement in the conflict, and said it was becoming increasingly clear that the war was "unjust and illegal".
CND, which is helping to organise the march, said that a big demonstration would send a strong message to the government that the public did not condone the "lies" used to justify the war.
Chair Kate Hudson said today: "The British people have the right to know the truth about the events leading to the illegal war on Iraq, which is causing untold suffering to the people of that country."
George Galloway, the Labour MP who was suspended from the party following his outspoken comments against the war, said that, if the Iraqi conflict was not discussed at next week's Labour Party conference, it would make a "mockery" of the annual gathering and reduce its credibility.
"If this is fixed so that the most important event is not debated, the leadership would make itself a laughing stock," he said.
Mr Galloway will be among speakers addressing a rally in Trafalgar Square at the end of the march.
A statement issued by the Muslim Association of Britain said: "Marking the third anniversary of the Palestinian uprising and on the eve of the Labour party conference, MAB, along with Stop the War Coalition and CND, will once again be calling the country to demonstrate against the government's unethical stand on these issues.
"Early indications show that this will be another landmark in the history of the British people's resolve against injustice and tyranny, and that hundreds of organisations, associations and groups will be joining efforts to make September 27 a day to remember and one that will truly influence events at home and abroad."