Anti-war protest brought chaos to Hereford – 20 March 2003

SitdownArmy recruitment officers have today been in town trying to sell a ‘career’ of murder and violence to the Hereford public. This day 10 years ago, however, High Town looked very different.

In the build up to the invasion of Iraq local anarchists and students had been at the forefront of campaigning for civil disobedience the day after the war kicked off.

19 March 2003: the first bombs were dropped on Baghdad.

20 March 2003: anti-war protests took place around the world.

In Hereford around 200 demonstrators—mainly students who had walked out of colleges and schools—gathered at the train station first thing that morning. With only one police officer to ‘facilitate’ things it was clear who was going to be in control that day.

We marched out onto Commercial Road bringing traffic to a snail’s pace before holding a sit-down protest at the army recruitment office. Traffic stood still until more police arrived and we made the decision to keep on the move.

We marched into town, out of town, on the roads, on the pavements. Police tried to kettle us in the new Bath Street car park until we agreed to hold a peaceful demonstration in High Town. We did … only to move off to what is now the Asda roundabout, blocking one lane and bringing traffic to a slow crawl once again. Having made our presence felt for another good hour we moved off to the TA centre in Harold Street.

Our aim was to cause as much disruption as possible. We were in control that day and we certainly did a damn good job of showing that people in Hereford opposed the war too.

Five arrests were made and one police officer was overheard to say “don’t be afraid to use force, even if they are children”. Although this was nothing compared to the violence and destruction battering Iraq.

Since the beginning of the invasion between 100,000 and 1,000,000 Iraqis have died (depending on what statistics you read). And the whole pretence of the war—Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, which few believed at the time—has been shown again only this week to be a lie, with BBC’s Panorama revealing that both the CIA and MI6 were fully aware that the Iraqi regime possessed no weapons of threat.

Further demonstrations were held by us in Hereford and by many millions more around the world. But all our marches and petitions and die-ins were not enough to stop the brutality.

If there ever is a next time—and we hope there never is—our civil disobedience and the desire to totally disrupt ‘business as usual’ must be increased ten-fold.

No war but the class war!

A Hereford Anarchist

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