Bush's Official Visit Greeted
by Largest Weekday Protest Ever
Article for Foreign News Reporting November 21st, 2003
London – Amid a deafening screech of whistles and bullhorns yesterday, a massive British security force monitored a peaceful protest against President George W. Bush’s visit to the UK, while on the other side of Europe two car bombs struck British targets in Istanbul.
In Turkey’s worst terrorist bombing, two massive explosions detonated simultaneously at the British Consulate and the HSBC bank in Istanbul, mirroring last Saturday’s strikes on synagogues in the Turkish capital.
At least 450 people were wounded and 26 killed including the British Consul General to Turkey, Roger Short.
In response, Bush remarked yesterday at a joint press conference that, “The terrorists hope to intimidate, they hope to demoralise. They are not going to succeed.”
Meanwhile 100,000 to 150,000 anti-Bush protesters marched past Parliament to Trafalgar Square where organizers had erected a 17’ effigy of the President with a picture of Blair in its pocket and holding a rocket inscribe, “Strike First.”
After a speech by U.S. Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, the man for which the film Born on the 4th of July was based, the effigy of Bush was torn down to mimic the toppling of the Saddam statue in Baghdad last April.
Bush’s trip to Britain marks the first full official state visit of a U.S. president since Woodrow Wilson in 1918, and happens at a dreadful time for Prime Minister Blair who faces a British public increasingly critical of situation in Iraq.
“Bliar,” “The Axis of Evil: Bush, Blair, Sharon,” and, “Go Home Texas trailer trash and take puppy Blair with you,” marked just some of the sea of signs that stretched across the mass of marchers chanting, “Bush, Blair, CIA! How many kids did you kill today?” and the call and repeat, “George Bush is – the number one terrorist!”
President Bush seemed unfazed by the large protest and remarked that he was happy to be in a country that allowed free speech. “All I know is that people in Baghdad weren’t allowed to do this until recent history.”
According to Reuters, US soldiers handcuffed and wrapped masking tape around an Iraqi man’s mouth last week in Baghdad for making, “anti-coalition statements,” with no comment on what he said.
In spite of nonchalant remarks and attitude from the President, 250 secret service men escorted Bush and a state procession down the Mall outside of Buckingham Palace was excluded from the official visit because of security concerns.
Bush’s speech to Parliament was cancelled for fear of heckling and the President will make only one speech while in the UK to foreign policy and defence experts in London’s Banqueting House.
Fears of terrorist attacks or violent anarchist demonstrations proved to be empty, and despite a few scuffles, the massive group of protesters that ranged from all walks of life marched peacefully through London.
One of the limited scuffles was in a business district between anti-Bush marchers and three Bush supporters holding American flags and a sign inscribed, “support America”.
“I love George Bush. I like his policies. I like his direction. I like the fact that he’s establishing democracy in an Arab state,” commented one of the few Bush supporters. An American woman with a sign that read, “I love George W. Bush!” that stood just down the road from another American holding a Texas flag that read, “embarrassed Texan,” scrawled across it.
While Bush ate his dinner last night at the US Ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park, a party atmosphere hung over Trafalgar Square as the protesters tore down the President’s effigy and ripped it to shreds.
President Bush leaves Britain tomorrow evening and will arrive back in the United States on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.