The day one million people called for peace
On 15 February Central London witnessed its largest ever
demonstration as more than a million people marched to Hyde Park in the name of
In the slowly moving human crocodile were people of every political persuasion,
people of every faith - and none. Some were veterans of past demos - many were
first timers. There were pensioners and skinheads, organised protesters with
printed placards; families with pushchairs and paper signs - all saying 'No' to
war with Iraq.
Among the Southwark parishioners taking part was Julia Rhys of
East Sheen, who reflects on the day.
there still be peace when this is printed? 'Ask', said Jesus. On that Saturday
about a million people were asking for peace. The group from our parish met at
Mortlake Station at about 11am and lost each other very soon in the crowds.
Waterloo Station was all people - no space at all. It could have been quite
frightening if we had got impatient, or pushed, but we didn't.
time we got to Waterloo Bridge it was well after 1pm. We looked out over the
Thames, at a tide, not of water, but of people moving over the bridge and both
sides of the river, so dense that there was no road, just people and their
drifting banners, some with tabloid-type slogans and some thoughtful personal
messages. There was a punk with a notice saying unprintable things about
politicians and near him, a nun with a notice on which was written a
Westminster Embankment we found a bus shelter for a few minutes rest. We saw,
high up, Pax Christi, white paper doves floating silently on their white canes
and Quaker banners saying wise things. We watched a young woman climb far up a
heavy Victorian memorial and give the statue its own placard. It read, 'In war,
only the innocent suffer'.
time to time, great surges of clapping and whistling moved down the procession
and we sang Taize chants. We met up with Lucy a philosophy student, and Sam, a
mathematician who had started out from Sheffield at 5 am.
seemed warm enough on that freezing day. But the other sort of warmth was much
"However different we all were, in ages, race, or beliefs, for that day, we
were all together, hoping for the same thing - peace, not war."