Despite a tiny counter protest supporting the war, marchers got a good reception on the streets as they chanted for peace writes Chris Nineham

London Demonstration Photos: Steve Eason

Thousands marched through central London on Saturday calling for peace now in Ukraine, to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion. The march, organised by Stop the War and CND, assembled outside the BBC and ended with a rally in Trafalgar Square. Jeremy Corbyn addressed the protestors at the start of the rally demanding the big powers end their escalation and work for serious negotiations to stop the fighting and the killing.

Despite a tiny counter protest supporting the war, marchers got a good reception on the streets as they chanted for peace and against escalation by Western powers and Russia.

Stop the War President Brian Eno welcomed the crowds to Trafalgar Square and congratulated people for standing up against the suffocating pro-war consensus in the establishment.

Anti-war German MP Andrej Hunko brought greetings from the movement in Germany, there were speakers from the PCS and RMT unions who condemned the government for increased spending on foreign war while cutting essential services and from Leicester MP Claudia Webbe and Emma Dent Coad, the leader of the Labour group in Kensington and Chelsea Council.

Mohammed Asif from the Afghan Human Rights Association pointed out the continuities with previous foreign wars. As he said the mainstream media attacked the anti-war movement over Afghanistan, over Iraq, Syria and Libya. ‘The movement was proved right in all these cases’ he said, ‘and we will be proved right again.’

Stop the War’s convenor Lindsey German said that everyone who marched should be proud of taking a stand against war in difficult circumstances. This is now clearly a proxy war between the West and Russia and once again she said ‘it is the arms dealers, NATO, the US empire, not the workers or the poor’ who will benefit. Stop the War vice-President Andrew Murray railed against those who back the Tories push for escalation; as he said ‘we wouldn’t trust the Tories over domestic policies, why should we trust them over the rush to back war in Ukraine?’

Over the weekend there were hundreds of protests, large and small, for peace across Europe, expressing growing opposition to the war around the continent.  The anti-war wave started with a protest on Thursday 23 March at the OCSE meeting in Vienna and a candlelit march from Assisi to Perugia in Italy. Over the next few days there were protests in over 120 Italian towns and cities including several thousand in Florence, Bologna, and Rome and other major cities.

Thousands of students and school students marched through the streets of Palermo in Sicily. In Genoa, dockers led thousands of people into the port to protest against arms shipments to Ukraine from the city. Italian organisers estimate at least 100,000 marched across the country, brought together by the CGIL and other trade unions, the peace movement  and Catholic organisations. Though there was very little media coverage of the protests, activists say the media has had to accept there is now majority opposition to supplying weapons to Ukraine in the country.

In Genoa, dockers led thousands of people into the port to protest against arms shipments to Ukraine.

Andrej Hunko announced in Trafalgar Square that 50,000 had protested in Berlin against the war, easily the biggest protest against the war in Germany so far. Despite rumours that the protest at the Brandenburg gate had involved right wing forces, the demonstration was led by the left and the peace movement and the far right AFD were told by organisers that they would not be welcomed on the protest. There were scores of other smaller protests around Germany on the weekend.

There were peace protests in around one hundred towns and cities across France over the weekend mainly organised by Movement Pour La Paix. In Spain at least 20 cities held protests including sizeable mobilisations in Barcelona and Valencia, all against Putin and NATO, and a similar number of protests were planned in Portugal.

In Brussels at least 3,000 people from the unions and the peace movement marched against war on Sunday in an initiative of the platform ‘Europe For Peace and Solidarity’, composed of more than 60 organizations, including peace movements, trade unions, NGOs, and climate and refugee organizations.

The emergence of a European movement against the war in Ukraine, co-operating under the banner of Europe For Peace, is an important step forward. In the dangerous months ahead, the movement urgently needs to be widened and deepened. It is the main force standing against the frightening drift into big power conflict.

27 Feb 2023 by Chris Nineham

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