LIEGE, Belgium - Demonstrators marched on Saturday through a number of European cities, ranging from London to Berlin and Budapest, in opposition to possible U.S. strikes in retaliation for the devastating September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Around 1,000 protesters marched through the Belgian city of Liege under banners reading "Make Love, Not War" as European finance ministers discussed the September 11 assaults on the United States.
The organizers, a broad alliance of social rights groups and left-wing activists dubbed D14, staged a festive rally several hundred meters (yards) from the barricaded conference center where the ministers met, and later dispersed peacefully.
A girl holding a leaflet joins some 4,000 peace supporters in an anti-war vigil across the street from British Prime Minister Tony Blair's London residence on September 22, 2001. The U.S. is asembling a massive military force in the Gulf and Indian Ocean for a possible on Afghanistan. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
"Today, the first principle is to be anti-war and refuse to participate in U.S. action," D14 activist George Robert said.
The rally broke up in late afternoon after a minute of silence for the dead in the September 11 terror attacks on the United States.
In London, about 4,000 demonstrators gathered peacefully outside the Defense Ministry dressed in black and carrying pieces of paper saying : "Stand shoulder to shoulder for peace and justice. No more violence."
Several thousand demonstrators took to the streets of Berlin and other German cities, shouting "No Third World War" and urging the United States not to answer attacks on its cities with more violence.
Carrying banners reading "Enough deaths" and "No retaliation", the demonstrators gathered outside the Berlin city hall. Police said a few thousand people were on the streets. Smaller protests were also held in Cologne, Bremen and Kassel.
In Budapest, hundreds of people marched through the city center to voice their opposition to possible U.S. retaliatory strikes.
Police in Liege kept a stayed low profile, with horses, water cannon and other anti-riot gear well out of sight to avoid raising tensions as the colorful crowd of mostly young protesters converged at a nearby crossroads to the sound of heavy drum beats.
After the suicide plane attacks that left some 6,800 people dead and missing in New York and Washington, and European Union leaders' pledge of support for a U.S. riposte, the militants coupled calls for more jobs and democracy in Europe with an antiwar message.
"We think military action can only end in more deaths," another D14 activist, Raoul Hebebouw, told Reuters. "We want Europe to pull out of NATO."
The organizers had hoped as many as 3,000 people would join the march from a town hall square to the rally point near the conference center on a blockaded island in the middle of the River Meuse.
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited.