Thursday, 7 July 2016

Remembrance of times past: Chilcot, Iraq, and having hindsight before the event

Like many people, the Chilcot findings got me thinking about the big anti-war demos on February 15th 2003.  Along with tens of thousands of others, I was at the one in Glasgow, with my partner and children.  Blair, speaking that day at his party's conference at the SECC, heard us outside and decided to ignore our concerns.

Blair has said in response to Chilcot that the post-invasion problems in Iraq could not have been foreseen, but they were - by millions.  We shouted our warnings at him and his cabinet.  We weren't magicians or mind readers, but we knew then what Chilcot has confirmed.

In remembrance of that day in February 2003, I reproduce here a report of the demo I wrote at the time.  My favourite bit is the words on my then 7-year-old daughter's homemade banner.  Her innocence then in some ways was also ours.  On 20th March that year, just over a month after that demo, I watched the reports of the first attacks on Iraq.  It was then that many learned for certain what they'd wanted to believe wasn't true: that a Labour prime minister could be just as jingoistic as a Tory one.  The innocence had been extinguished.

GLASGOW ANTI WAR PROTEST- 15th February 2003

My partner, two daughters and I arrived at Glasgow Green maybe 10.30, along with my mate Pete and his bagpipes, crossing the footbridge from Ballater Street. I texted our arrival to a few mates.

We set off to the People's Palace to try to find one of the friends I'd texted, but he must have got there earlier and joined the demo further up the queue. But some other mates were at the Obelisk, and we went over to track them down.

"Stop this War. Why do you want it anyway? Don't you know you might get killd?"

My eldest daughter had made her own banner, it read "Stop this War. Why do you want it anyway? Don't you know you might get killd?" We milled about and found some of our friends by a stall.

While we tried to track down some other friends, my partner got out the face paints and decorated a few of our party.

When we joined the queue waiting to move off, an anarchist girl gave my eldest daughter a small banner with a section of Picasso's Guernica on one side and No War But The Class War on the other.

She immediately abandoned her own banner to her little sister, proud to be holding a 'real' banner.

90 000

We finally got moving and the atmosphere was amazing! Some cops near us had told some stewards that the estimates were around 90 000 (so why did your bosses divide that by 3 when they spoke to the BBC, boys?).

The streets were totally full, and pubs and shops and flats had messages of support in the windows. Random cheers went up for reasons we couldn't see, but we joined in anyway, and people behind us followed us.

Fuck knows what was happening, but everyone was really happy about whatever it was! There was a drumming group behind us, and Pete was playing his bagpipes next to us. I knew my friend, Margo,  was somewhere with her band Samba Ya Bamba, but I think they were way ahead.

Samba bands, drummers, whistle players, pipers, stilt walkers, a giant anarchist dove, some banner-waving Quakers, people of many shades of opinion, some with totally unconnected banners.

A huge guy with a banner bearing the text of Burns' poem A Man's a Man For A That, a girl had one that read "Make Tea Not War". One said "Bomb Iraq? Blair, you must be on crack!" Another just said "Whatever".

The Saltmarket, Glasgow Cross, and the High Street were lined with folks waving and cheering, and when we finally passed St George Square onto St Vincent Street another huge cheer went up as we saw the whole street ahead full of people right up the hill to Blythswood.

When we got to the top of the hill, the whole of St Vincent Street all the way back was full of people, and friends still in Glasgow Green were texting asking where we'd got to. Meanwhile the front of the march had been at the SECC for hours.

The "Jericho Rumpus"

The SECC car parks were jam packed, and people had already started filtering away, but still the area was covered with people. We passed the Rotunda, but even though there was nowhere to go, people kept swarming in behind us.

We couldn't see the speakers, or hear them. But suddenly a huge noise went up. It was 2pm. This must be the "Jericho Rumpus". We all joined in, whistling, drumming, shouting, playing bagpipes. It was huge.

We tried to look for a friend's banner, but there was just no way we were going anywhere, so we slipped down a tarpaulin covered banking into a less populous area, where a striking fire crew were, and some stalls, a guy set fire to a Union Jack. The people cheering all had SNP badges.

We texted lost friends, but then decided to head off. We wound back to Sarti's in Wellington Street, and had some coffee; other marchers had had the same idea, but it wasn't as crowed as places we'd passed. Nobody blinked at our face paint. Then we set off home.

Reports on that day in the media:

On this day in Glasgow’s History: 2003, thousands protest against war in Iraq

Prime Minister Tony Blair was speaking at his party’s spring conference at the Armadillo, but as he took to the stage, thousands were gathering outside to demonstrate against the coming war. (STV).

Organisers hail anti-war protest

Organisers said they were "thrilled" as tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Glasgow to declare their opposition to war against Iraq.  (BBC)

UK's 'biggest peace rally'

Thousands of anti-war protesters also took to the streets of Glasgow, marching through the city centre towards the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, where the Labour party's spring conference is being held. (Guardian).

No comments:

Post a Comment