More than six million take to the streets from New Zealand to Syria to protest U.S. plans for a war against Iraq. In Berlin, a 600,000 strong protest is also attended by government ministers.
Muslim students in Kuala Lumpur protest U.S. war plans
Hundreds of thousands gathered at protests across Germany on Saturday to protest U.S. plans for a war against Iraq. Berlin's demonstration alone drew an estimated 600,000 peaceful protesters -- the largest such event seen here since reunification. The events were part of a world-wide protest that included between six and eleven million people in 600 cities, ranging in latitude from Canberra, Australia, to Reykjavik, Iceland.
The day's largest protest was held in Rome where, according to conservative estimates, more than three million people took to the streets. Nearly as many gathered at protests across Spain.
In London, an estimated 1.5 million demonstrators turned out to contest Prime Minister Tony Blair's pro-American Iraq policies. Speaking at Hyde Park, London Mayor Ken Livingstone accused U.S. President George W. Bush of warmongering. "This war is solely about oil. George Bush has never given a damn about human rights," he said.
At a 100,000 person strong rally in New York, South African Archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, plead for Bush and the Security Council to allow inspectors to continue their work. "The just war says you have exhausted all possible and peaceful means, and the world says, 'No, we haven't.'" Marchers in New York even carried signs that read: "Thank you France and Germany."
Largely, the rallies were peaceful, but in Athens police fired tear gas at anarchist protesters.
Thousands also gathered in a number of Asian capitals, including Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where 1,500 demonstrated near the U.S. Embassy. In U.S.-aligned Australia, 150,000 people protested against an Iraq war. In the Middle East, at least 200,000 demonstrated in Syria.
German leaders take to streets
Despite a personal plea from Chancellor Gerhard Schröder that members of the government -- which is under considerable pressure from Washington to change its Iraq stance -- not participate in the demo, several top members of his cabinet appeared near the Brandenburg Gate.
Among the top German officials present were environment minister Jürgen Trittin, agriculture and consumer protection minister Renate Künast and development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. They were joined by Wolfgang Thierse, president of the German parliament and Green Party co-chairs Reinhard Bütikofer and Angelika Beer.
Prior to the rally, Beer defended Germany's position in a speech. "If going out into the streets with millions of people around the world is 'isolation,' then that's an alliance we feel good about," she said.
But opposition leaders criticized the politicians for participating. Friedbert Pflüger, the Christian Democratic Union's foreign policy spokesman, said it was a "disgrace" that the president of the Bundestag took part in the protest. And CDU General Secretary Laurenz Meyer said participation was damaging to the overall reputation of German politics.
Setbacks for Bush and Blair
Saturday's mass protests came as a second setback for Bush and Blair within two days. During their second presentation at the Security Council on Friday, U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said they had found no signs of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and asked for more time for inspectors to complete their work.
France, Russia, China, Germany and other countries on the council supported calls for inspectors to continue their work -- a development that complicates Washington and London's efforts to launch a military invasion.