LONDON - Chanting slogans and waving banners, thousands of protesters marched across London on Sunday calling for an end to the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.
Demonstrators of different ages, religions and backgrounds chanted "Bush, Blair, CIA, how many kids have you killed today?" and waved placards urging "Stop the War" and "Not In My Name".
The Stop the War Coalition estimated that 100,000 people attended the march, which they said was the biggest of its kind since the Vietnam War three decades ago.
Thousands of anti-war protesters make their way along Picadilly in London on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2001. The rally is against the action taken by America and Britain in Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
"This is absolutely massive. We've never had such a variety of people coming together with one voice. This really shows that people do not support the bombing," said Stop the War spokesman Mike Marqusee.
But police said there were 15,000 people at the march, which snaked through London from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, where anti-war campaigners such as Bianca Jagger and former Labour politician Tony Benn spoke to a cheering, whistling crowd.
Benn said people should be putting pressure on British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington's main ally in the fight against terrorism, to end the bombing, which he said was killing thousands of innocent people.
A similar demonstration in October attracted 20,000 people according to police and 50,000 people according to organizers.
Witnesses said there were larger numbers of people at Sunday's march, where the carnival atmosphere provided some warmth on a cold, gray day.
An hour after the first protesters ended their march, members of trade unions, socialist and antiwar groups such as CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and pro-Palestinian organizations piled into Trafalgar Square.
Protesters said despite the fact the U.S.-led coalition appeared to have the upper hand in the fight against the Taliban, there were growing numbers of people opposed to the war in central Asia.
"This turn-out is amazing. It shows that most people are really dissatisfied with the war. And replacing the Taliban with the (anti-Taliban) Northern Alliance, is just replacing one group of bandits with another," said Sue Jones of anti-capitalist group Globalise Resistance.
Andleen Razzaq, a Muslim marching for the Just Peace organization, said thousands of Muslims had come from all over the country at the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
"Ramadan is a time when Muslims look to themselves and try and find a way to a better world. It's very important that we are here today. We're not saying we have answers, we just want a just solution," she told Reuters.
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited