- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2003

LONDON — Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through the heart of London yesterday, toppling a 17-foot papier mache statue of President Bush to show their anger about the Iraq war and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s support of it.

As Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair vowed “not to flinch or give way or concede one inch” to terrorism in the wake of deadly bombings against British targets in Turkey, protesters said the close relationship between the two leaders made them deeply uneasy.

“We’re angry that Bush appears to be leading our country,” said marcher Ted Edwards. “Why Blair is allying himself to Bush I do not know.”

Some placards referred to Mr. Blair as the president’s “poodle.”

Many in the crowd said yesterday’s bombings in Istanbul, which killed more than two dozen people, strengthened their resolve to oppose U.S.-British policy in Iraq.

“There have been more and more bombings since the action in Iraq and more terrorism,” said Mischa Gorris, a 37-year-old London lawyer. “You will never change the hearts and minds of terrorists by bombing them. This is what you will get.”

Amid chants, the blast of foghorns and the beat of drums, protesters marched past the Houses of Parliament and through the heart of governmental London to Trafalgar Square.

The march took almost two hours to clear its starting point at the University of London. The Stop the War Coalition, which organized the march, said 200,000 people participated; the police estimate was 70,000.

As the workday ended, many non-marchers joined a rally in Trafalgar Square, where the bronze-painted statue of Mr. Bush was toppled to wild applause — a mocking reference to the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue after coalition troops took control of Baghdad April 9.

Opposition to the Iraq war, and Britain’s role as the staunchest partner of the United States, has been strong and vocal in Britain. The largest protest, in February, drew about a million people.

Security, which has been tight for Mr. Bush’s state visit, was intense yesterday, with more than 5,000 officers on duty in London. Police said about 50 people were arrested on charges that included theft, drunkenness and drug possession.

As marchers chanting “George Bush, terrorist” made their way through a business district, a few scuffled with three Bush supporters holding U.S. flags and a sign saying “support America.” Police quickly intervened and bundled the three into a nearby building.

“I think it’s a disgrace that these people are basically siding with Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda,” said one of the three, Robert Temple of London.

The protests did not appear to faze the president.

“Freedom is beautiful,” Mr. Bush said yesterday, adding he was happy to be in a country where people were allowed to speak their minds freely. “All I know is that people in Baghdad weren’t allowed to do this until recent history.”

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