| Peace demonstration Amsterdam M20 report |
stop occupation of Iraq - 20.03.2004 20:10
Like in many cities around the world, Saturday 20 March in Amsterdam was marked by a big demonstration against the occupation of Iraq. Report
Earlier peace demonstration Amsterdam, 15 February
20 March Amsterdam: big demonstration against occupation of Iraq
Like in many cities around the world, Saturday 20 March in Amsterdam was marked by a big demonstration against the occupation of Iraq; one year after George W. Bush started his war. In spite of it raining cats and dogs, and gales damaging buildings and sweeping people off balance, thousands still came to Dam square. Photos are at: http://www.wereldcrisis.nl and http://www.indymedia.nl/nl/2004/03/17597.shtml
It might have been even more demonstrators if on this day, Queen Mother Juliana of The Netherlands would not have died, pushing all other news aside in the Dutch media; maybe leading some people to the (wrong) conclusion that on this day of mourning (for a queen who almost divorced her Prince Consort in the 1950's Cold War years because of his opposition to her supposed “pacifism”) when many other things were cancelled, a demonstration did not befit them.
I spoke to Jan Bosma, a demonstrator from Friesland province, who had arrived early in a bus with thirty fellow demonstrators. He said they had got much sympathy in Friesland for this demonstration. Especially also from Iraqi refugees, many of whom live in Friesland. As recently, however, the Dutch government made the situation for refugees worse in all aspects, including money, many of them were too poor to afford the bus ride.
From Yugoslavia to Afghanistan to Iraq
Meanwhile, continuing violence in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, shows the spuriousness of earlier Western governments’ claims to bring “peace” by military attacks. Usually, Bush supporters if shown the hollowness of their claims of bringing “peace” to Iraq used to point to Kosovo and the Balkans. Well, nowadays the centuries old mosque of Belgrade; and sometimes even centuries older monasteries and churches of Kosovo, burn during a bloodbath compared by a UN official to the Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany in 1938. All of these centuries, the majority of people living around that Belgrade mosque were Christians or otherwise non-Muslim. They did not burn that mosque then, also not during the 1999 NATO war attacks. For a long time, most people around the Kosovo Serb Orthodox shrines have been Muslim or otherwise non-Christian. The attacks there came along with the 1999 NATO troops, and now flare up more than ever after five years of “Pax Americana” or “Pax NATOica” in Kosovo. So, do not try to fool anyone with talk about those savage Balkan, Afghan, or Iraqi natives; supposedly needing the cluster bombing hands of the imperial US White Anglo Saxon Protestant Ascendancy. The quack medicine of the Project for a New American Century, the National Endowment for Democracy, IMF, NATO, and their ilk, has proved to be just that.
During the demonstration, the bloody trail of militarism from Yugoslavia to Kabul to Baghdad was marked with playing the sound of the 1999 Belgrade air raid; during the post demonstration Dam meeting, with an Afghan women’s organizations’ representative speaking.
Speakers and music on Dam square
The organizers were the national “Platform Tegen de 'Nieuwe Oorlog'” including over 200 organizations, and the Iraqi Platform in The Netherlands including various organizations of Iraqi residents. Papers on sale, like Manifest, Rode Morgen, and De Socialist, soon got soaking wet because of torrential rain. The Workers’ Communist Party of Iraq had a banner, saying: US out of Iraq; UN in. No to Pentagon State; yes to schools and workers’ rights. The Iraqi platform had a banner in both Arabic and Dutch, opposing terrorism and pro democracy. One sign said: One, Aznar, down; three (Bush, Blair, Berlusconi) to go (with Howard of Australia for Berlusconi also on today’s The Economist). Also demonstrators from the Philippines, Turkey (with a sign “Against imperialist occupation”), the USA (see http://www.ava-nl.org ; US residents in The Netherlands linked to United for Peace and Justice in the US), and many other countries. There were toddlers in perambulators, ladies over 80 years old, and invalid people in their special vehicles.
The official beginning was at Dam square, 13:00. At first, Harry Loco and his band played two songs, dedicating them to the Iraqi people; “as they, not occupiers, should rule Iraq.” Then,
Ms Daniel de Jong addressed the crowd on behalf of the organizers. She also mentioned that on 10 April, there would be once again a big demonstration at the Dam, then against government plans to send refugees back to war zones like Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. After Ms de Jong, the singers Femke and Matty sang.
The next speaker was Pere Gay i Fauza, of the 'Plataforma Uturem la Guerra' peace movement from Barcelona. His speech (in Castilian, with Catalan introduction) was afterwards translated into Dutch.He demanded immediate withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq; a court case against outgoing Prime Minister Aznar for lying on the terrorist attacks which killed over 200 people in Madrid; and Bush, Blair, and Aznar should all stand trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for aggressive war He concluded: There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.
Then, Faisal Nasser.of the Iraqi Platform spoke. He thanked all supporters of the Iraqis, from the 80.000 who in February 2003 in Amsterdam had opposed Bush’s war plans and Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, to those present today. And, “We need you to continue this solidarity, in order to end the occupation.” He explained the terrible economic and safety situation in Iraq.
Sometimes, things went wrong with the electricity on stage. Compere Frank van Schaik thought this was a lesson to oppose privatization of electricity (though the weather probably was also a factor).
Through the city center
After a song by the band Plutonium, at 14:00 the demonstrators started marching, behind a big Stop the Occupation of Iraq banner. Behind it were many rainbow coloured flags, with Pace in Italian, Peace in English, etc. on it; blue Dutch peace flags with white dove; red flags of the New Communist Party of the Netherlands and the Communist Youth League; red and black anarchist flags; red tomato and white Socialist Party flags; green and white flags of Dwars (Green Left youth); blue and white flags of the peace group of the Doopsgezinde Kerk (a pacifist church founded in the sixteenth century by a preacher from Friesland).
The demonstration went from Dam square, to Rozengracht - De Clerqstraat - Bilderdijkstraat - Kinkerstraat - Marnixstraat - Rozengracht - Raadhuisstraat - back to Dam. A sign said: Get the Dutch troops back home. People shouted: Bush, Blair, [Dutch Prime Minister] Balkenende; hands off Iraq! Hey ho, hey ho, Bush and Blair have got to go. Who causes misery [Dutch: ellende]? That is Balkenende! Balkenende, join Aznar to dismissal! Stop the occupation (three times) of Iraq! A song was sung on Dutch bovine cartoon character Boes, with lyrics changed to mock Bush. Many passing motorists honked in approval; at least one waving a big rainbow peace flag from the window of his car.
The demonstrators arrived back on the Dam, to music by Iraqi refugee keyboard player/singer Mohammed Al Bekk. When “electricity privatization” trouble stroke again, the band Plutonium was able to immediately take over from another stage; until Mohammed Al Bekk could play on.
Then, Harry van Bommel, MP for the Socialist Party spoke. Harir Faquiri, of the Afghan Women’s League, succeeded him on stage. She mentioned that tomorrow 21 March would not only be the beginning of spring, and International Day against Racism, but also Newroz: New Year for Kurds, Iranians, and Afghans. So, a time to take stock of last year. Again a year of war, violent warlords, and women who do not dare to go outside their houses in Afghanistan. A reality, different from Bush’s propaganda. Also different from Dutch minister Verdonk’s plans to expel, to deport, 26.000 refugees, 7.000 Afghans among them, back to war and danger in their countries of birth. Please, come back to the Dam to protest on Saturday 10 April!
Then, Mohammed Al Bekk played again. At first, four Iraqi women started to dance. However, soon there was a big dancing circle of scores of people holding hands.
Then, the final speech, by Mariëtte Moors, an anti nuclear weapons activist. She said: Bush was right on one count: there are weapons of mass destruction. However, not in Iraq; but in Volkel military base, in The Netherlands, are nuclear bombs! She called for direct action to stop these weapons and to stop military transport trains and Dutch troops bound for Iraq.
About 15:50 people started to dance again, to the final set of Mohammed Al Bekk The fight against war and occupation will go on. As will the fight for refugees’rights.
More on the 10 April pro refugee demonstration at http://www.keerhettij.nl
More on the “Platform Tegen de 'Nieuwe Oorlog”'at: http://www.wereldcrisis.nl