Sun, Nov 16, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Protesters gear up for Bush's UK visit


The centerpiece of next week's Stop the War march to coincide with US President George W. Bush's state visit to England will be the symbolic toppling of a 6m high statue of the 43rd president. But long before the papier-mache figure is pulled from one of the plinths in Trafalgar Square, a group of direct action protesters will hope to have put their own indelible mark on the visit.

While the Stop the War Coalition, the Muslim Council of Britain, and CND are urging more than 100,000 people to take to the streets on Thursday for what they hope will be the biggest anti-war demonstration since the start of the invasion of Iraq, those involved in direct action are unlikely to number more than a few hundred.

But despite the relatively small numbers involved, much of the ?4 million security operation put in place by Scotland Yard will be taken up with trying to counter the actions of these hardcore protesters in a giant game of cat-and-mouse across central London.

Set up under the umbrella name "Resist Bush," the action is being spearheaded by several groups including Justice Not Vengeance (JNV), Grass Roots Opposition to War (Grow) and Voices in the Wilderness.

Many of those involved have become tired of the Stop the War demonstrations, which they say have become little more than talking shops.

"The marches have been great at mobilizing large numbers of people, but at some point we need to go further to really get our point across," one 23-year-old activist said. "I don't think Bush realizes just how angry people in this country are and how offensive his coming here is. Well, we're going to let him know."

Those with their ears to the ground -- including the police -- are not expecting any large-scale assaults in the style of the G8 conference in Genoa last year, which resulted in clashes with Italian police when a protester was killed.

Instead the direct action is likely to take the form of what one seasoned watcher termed "freelance" operations, involving small groups breaking off from the main body and performing random acts.

"In my experience, the most effective direct action is usually spontaneous," said another protester, a veteran of direct action at US airbases during the Iraq war. "You need to see what the police are doing. At the moment we don't even know what Bush's itinerary is or where he is going to be."

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