Anti-War Rallies in Italy and India Attract Hundreds of Thousands of Supporters
Published on Monday, October 15, 2001 in the Independent/UK
Anti-War Rallies in Italy and India Attract Hundreds of Thousands of Supporters
by Frances Kennedy in Rome and James Palmer
A growing anti-war movement found its feet across the world yesterday when thousands of peace protesters in Italy and India called for an end to the bombing of Afghanistan.

Rainbow Flag in Italy
Hundreds of thousands of people participate in an annual peace march between the towns of Perugia and Assisi, central Italy, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2001. (AP Photo/Leonetto Medici)
More than 200,000 demonstrators braved an unseasonably hot autumn day for the annual peace march from the central Italian town of Perugia to Assisi.

Carrying colored banners and singing songs, historic pacifist groups, boy scouts, trade unions, the Tute Bianche (White Overalls), and left-wing and Catholic-inspired political parties buried their differences in their call for peace.

The protesters shouted "We want peace not war", "Stop the terrorism against Afghanistan" and chanted slogans attacking George Bush, the United States President.

There were similar scenes in India where about 70,000 people in Calcutta staged the biggest antiwar protest the country has seen. The demonstration in the West Bengal capital, organized by the state's ruling Left Front coalition government, drew intellectuals and students and members of leftist groups and unions.

The protesters marched more than 7.5 miles through the city, entertained by performers who sang antiwar folk songs.

In Italy, on the eve of the march, there had been concern of tensions or violence marring the event. For members of the anti-globalization movement, whose emphasis has turned towards antiwar, it was the first appearance in the piazza since the bloody repression of the protests at the G8 summit in Genoa in July. The anti- globalization groups carried huge polystyrene hands to give a virtual "slap" to politicians who backed the war.

Organizers say at least 200,000 people took part. Members of the Greens carried Stars and Stripes and Islamic flags on the same standards with the slogan "Peace Immediately". Helicopters buzzed overhead as the colorful procession wound its way through the Umbrian countryside. The leader of the opposition Olive Tree coalition, Francesco Rutelli, was in the front line despite being challenged by the more radical groups. "We are all committed to see that the conflict finishes as soon as possible but the military intervention was right and indispensable to combat terrorism," he said.

The march was initiated 40 years ago by an Italian advocate of non-violence, Aldo Capitini, and has grown steadily since. In recent years, during the Gulf War and the Kosovo conflict, the event has become politically charged and this year many of the historic Christian pacifist groups were angry at the radical and political tone of the march.

© 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd