Iraq War news

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Protests mark anniversary of Iraq invasion

CANOE -- CNEWS - Canada: Cdn protests mark anniversary of Iraq invasion: "(CP) - Thousands of antiwar protesters took their message of peace to the streets of Canadian cities Saturday, joining countless others worldwide marking the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.".

n Toronto, police estimated around 1,000 protesters, including students, trade unionists and religious groups, assembled in front of a downtown courthouse across from the U.S. consulate for the country's largest antiwar rally.

The demonstrators didn't limit their message to the Iraq conflict - also waving blood-splattered placards calling on Canada to withdraw its 2,200 troops from Afghanistan.

"What you're seeing today, with 36 towns and cities across Canada marching in the third anniversary of the war in Iraq is, I think, a resurgence in the antiwar movement," said event organizer James Black of the Coalition to Stop the War.

"The consequence of the antiwar movement in general in discrediting the war on terror has helped build a stronger opposition in Canada to our involvement in Afghanistan."

Before joining the main protest, members of the Christian Peacemakers Teams held their own demonstration in front of city hall to pay tribute to their slain colleague, American Tom Fox, whose body was found March 9.

Protesters gathered at the U.S. Consulate in Toronto on Saturday, March. 18, 2006 to protest the war in Iraq. (CP/Nathan Denette)

Fox and three colleagues, including Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden, were kidnapped in Iraq last November by the previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigades.

There has been no word on the fate of Loney, Sooden and Briton Norman Kember since Fox's body was found.

"There has been way too much bloodshed in Iraq and now the blood of our colleague Tom Fox is added to that river," peacemakers spokesman Doug Pritchard told the crowd. "We know what it is like to lose a loved one to the insanity of war, just like the tens of thousands of Iraqi families."

Toronto NDP MP Peggy Nash told the crowd that Canada should engage in debate on the war and not simply fall in line with the U.S. agenda.

"We can't slide into George Bush's war on terror, we have to have a national debate," Nash said.

"We must get it fully on the agenda of this country, including in our House of Commons where we want to be able to stand up and speak out for peace."

Protesters marched into the city's downtown core, with a dozen people adorned in black hoods, evoking photographs of prisoner abuse at Baghdad's infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

In Ottawa, about 80 demonstrators, mostly young people, gathered about two blocks from Parliament Hill and later at the National Gallery to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They shivered in flurries and a wind chill of -16, beating drums, waving placards and chanting: "Peace now. End the occupation."

Matthew Morgan, a Carleton University student working with the Student Coalition Against War, said many Canadians don't understand the issues.

"A lot of people feel powerless," he said.

"There was no public consultation, no debate about this.

"We think Canadian soldiers should leave Afghanistan because they are not accomplishing any of their stated goals."

Morgan said many members of the new Afghani government played roles in the former Taliban regime and that human rights are actually getting worse instead of better.

Several hundred protesters marched through downtown Halifax before gathering at a park to listen to speeches and live music, including American musician Michael Franti.

"(The Americans) are no good, and we want them out," said Yezin Al-Qaysi, a high school student who left Iraq with his family and came to Canada during the Gulf War.

The Halifax rally also addressed issues beyond the Iraq war, with speakers covering womens' rights and demands for a public inquiry into Canada's role in the ousting of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president of Haiti.

Organizers also passed out petitions calling for the immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan.

"The presumption is that people cannot decide their fate for themselves, whether it's Afghanistan, Iraq or Haiti, that Western powers have to assist people to make up their minds," said demonstrator Tony Seed.

"Afghanistan is a country with a rich civilization and culture and they can make up their own minds."

Close to 700 demonstrators braved bitterly cold weather in Montreal to march through the city's downtown core, at one point passing Canadian Idol hopefuls gathered at a convention centre.

Organizers had originally hoped to draw as many as 4,000 people to the rally.

Roksana Bahramitash, an Iranian-born author and filmmaker taking part in the march, said that while the low turnout may have been due in part to the weather, a general feeling of disenfranchisement may also be to blame.

"There were thousands of people in the streets and what happened? Nothing," she said, referring to large antiwar protests prior to the U.S.-led invasion three years ago.

"So some people do feel a little alienated. But I think its important that we do come out and appear in massive numbers, or as much as we can."

Brendan Hughey, a U.S. army deserter seeking refugee status in Canada, spoke to a rally following the march.

"When I signed up, I did believe I was defending my country," Hughey told the crowd. "But I didn't go overseas to destroy a country that was never a threat to my home or country."

In contract to the bitter eastern weather, warm, sunny skies helped attract more than 2,000 people to Vancouver's rally.

Dozens of organizations, coalitions and groups, ranging from the B.C. Teachers Federation to the Raging Grannies, gathered at the Seaforth Peace Park and marched downtown to assembly in front of the art gallery.

Jess Magee, attending his first-ever protest, said he felt it was important to participate in order to remind people that the war is ongoing.

"Three years ago, just before the invasion of Iraq, there were massive protests and now that it's three years later it seems as though the steam has worn off and people have become more and more complacent. Now's the time to be pushing for what we believe."

In Winnipeg, more than 200 protesters marched from City Hall to the steps of the Legislature in a campaign organized by the No War Coalition of Manitoba to protest the U.S. in Iraq and Canadians in Afghanistan.

Spokesman Glenn Michalchuk said the turnout "indicates to us that there is real concern about the course Canada is heading down."

Dr. Ghassan Joundi, president of the Manitoba Islamic Association, publicly thanked the crowd for participating. "You have joined millions of people worldwide on five continents to express our outrage and unwavering opposition to the U.S-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and aggressions in several other parts of the world," Joundi said.

In Edmonton, more than 100 people with the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism peacefully marched in heavy snow from University of Alberta down the city's southside signature street, Whyte Ave.

They carried signs that read Stop This Illegal War and No to U.S. Imperialism.


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