American expatriates to lead the protests against Bush

By Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent

15 November 2003


Americans marching beneath a banner proclaiming "Proud of My Country, Shamed by My President" will lead a demonstration against George Bush during his state visit next week. The Stop the War Coalition, which is organising the rally, expects up to 100,000 people to take to the streets of London and express their hostility to the American President.

Trade union members, Muslim groups, environmentalists and peace activists will join forces for the march, with about a hundred US expats, who are adamant the event should be perceived as an indictment of their President, not a snub to their country.

Luke Robinson, 29, a website developer from the United States who has lived in Britain for four years, is among those who will attend the protest. He will be joined by American academics and City workers."Most of us love our country and won't take any anti-American sentiment but we feel this guy is leading us down a bad path," he said. "Allowing a fully fledged state visit is [sending] a bad message that Britain is really backing Bush. The pictures from this visit will definitely be used in his election campaign."

Demonstrators carrying placards reading "Bush - Blair Dumb and Dumber", "Bush Eco-terrorist" and "George Criminal", as well as blood-splattered anti-Bush banners, will gather in Trafalgar Square where a mock statue of the US President will be symbolically toppled.

Coachloads of demonstrators who oppose the war in Iraq and Mr Bush's environmental and economic policies are to be bused in from Wales, Scotland and the West Country among other points. Michael Moore, the American film maker and comedian who is known for his outspoken views on the US leader, is donating $1,000 to transport demonstrators in from Manchester. Pupils missing school, worshippers from mosques around Britain and a busload of pensioners from an old people's home in Hounslow, west London, will also join the march to express their anger at the visit. Alongside them will be members of the far-left Socialist Workers' Party, the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, and peace demonstrators from CND and other anti-war groups. A large contingent of Greens will make their feelings known on President Bush's environmental policies. They plan to express their opposition with a week of events including a street party and an anti-Bush home-made T-shirt competition outside Buckingham Palace on Wednesday evening.

"Bush would be better off staying at home to sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming than coming to Britain," said Spencer Fitzgibbon, a former army officer and member of the Green Party executive.

The exact route of the march is still being negotiated with the Metropolitan Police, who will have 5,000 officers on duty. The protesters want to parade past the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street but police have suggested a shorter route, which would keep them away from Whitehall.

There will be 500 stewards to try to ensure the march does not deteriorate into the sort of violent attacks on American businesses, such as McDonald's restaurants, that have marred anti-capitalism demonstrations in recent years.

The march organisers insist they have not had any trouble during seven previous events and insist Thursday's protest will not be hijacked by anarchist groups. Meetings with the police yesterday were said to have been constructive. They will meet again on Monday to discuss the route.

A spokesman for the Stop the War Coalition said: "We are not anti the American people - in fact many share our reservations about President Bush. This is about the President. There are 500 local Stop the War groups who are bringing people from around the country and the phones are ringing non-stop. We are making 6,000 placards."

The march represents the main event in four days of anti-Bush events, for which the President has drafted in an entourage of more than 500 people, including up to 200 secret service and security personnel. On Tuesday activists are organising a public rally in London with high-profile speakers including the acclaimed playwright and actor Harold Pinter, and the Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, whose story inspired the Tom Cruise film Born on the Fourth of July. The former Labour cabinet minister Tony Benn and George Galloway MP, who was recently thrown out of the Labour Party for his public comments about the war, will also speak.

There will be a march to the American consulate in Edinburgh on Wednesday and a petition from people throughout Britain will be presented to Downing Street on Monday.