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Anti-war march leaves Derry bound for Belfast
national | miscellaneous | news report Thursday February 13, 2003 17:10 by Ali la Pointe - Fu-fighting anti-imperialistas
Protesters retrace 4 day 1968 Civil Rights trek.
AROUND 40 people took part in the first stage of a four-day anti-war march from Derry to Belfast yesterday to protest at the possibility of war on Iraq. The march, which includes Civil Rights Movement veterans and anti-Raytheon activists, is retracing the route of the Belfast to Derry march which launched the Civil Rights campaign in 1968.
Organised by Derry’s anti-war coalition, protesters held a brief rally at the city’s Guildhall before departing on the eight-hour first-leg journey to Dungiven.
Many marchers carried banners highlighting opposition to the policy of US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair towards Iraq. Some marchers also dressed in white CND suits.
The group was joined by more marchers as it neared Dungiven for an overnight stop. Another rally was held at Dungiven Castle last night.
Stage two of the march is set to leave Dungiven at 10am today for Magherafelt, where a meeting has been arranged at the Town and Country Inn tonight.
Tomorrow morning the group will depart Magherafelt at 10am for Newtownabbey where they will be joined by anti-war protesters for a rally at the Rushpark community centre.
The march concludes on Saturday when it is due to join a Belfast city centre rally as part of an international day of action. A similar protest has been planned for Dublin.
A group spokesman said they were delighted at the support they had received from the public.
“We had a great send off and the weather has been nice to us. We understand many people will not be able to join us because of work commitments,” he said.
“But we hope they can come along even for a short distance and time as we go through the various towns,” the spokesman added.
Speaking as the march left Derry, Sinn Fein assembly member Mary Nelis described British government spending on preparation for the war as “obscene”.
“It is obscene that at a time when Gordon Brown and Tony Blair claim they are unable to pay firefighters a decent wage, when senior citizens are living on a pension well below the poverty line and when the health service needs massive investment, they can conjure up almost £2 billion to invade Iraq,” she said.
The Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign (FEIC), which also took part in the march, placed a St Brigid’s Cross -a swords into ploughshares symbol- outside the Raytheon Plant on Derry’s Branch Road.
While no arms are manufactured at the Derry facility, Raytheon is the world's largest missile manufacurer and is using the Derry plant to develop ASTOR (Airborne Stand Off Radar) targeting software for its missile and attack aircraft co-ordination with £800 million British Ministry of Defence funds.
FEIC spokeswoman Rose Kelly said the move was in protest at the possible use of weapons manufactured by Raytheon in any war on Iraq. Raytheon, the manufacturers of cluster bombs, daisy cutters, hellfire, sidewinder and tomahawk missiles, are responsible for the "Bunker Buster" cruise missile which incinerated 400 Iraqi civilians taking refuge in a bomb shelter in Baghdad during the last Gulf War.