Protesters paralyze town

As reported in Friday’s Oxford Times:

Nine anti-war protesters were arrested last Thursday as pacifist demonstrations paralyzed the center of Oxford.

Traffic ground to a halt as hundreds of campaigners opposed to war in Iraq blocked roads and chanted peace slogans at a series of demonstrations across the city.

Inspector Keith Henderson, of Oxford police, said the demonstrations had caused serious disruption.

He said: “It was a completely irresponsible act on the part of some demonstrators, without any thought for the community of Oxford. No warning was given.”

The protests were part of a national day of non-violent direct action, which saw 150 demonstrations take place throughout Britain.

The action in Oxford began at 1pm with a rally attended by about 400 people. The student contingent then marched to the Said Business School, with banners reading: “No Attack on Iraq”, “Justice for Palestine”, “No More Blood Money”, and “Oxford Students Against This Oil War”.

Outside the business school, the students, accompanied by musicians and stilt-walkers, blocked traffic by sitting in the road. About 40 officers were called out to contain the demonstration, supported by four mounted officers and a dog-handler.

The first person to be arrested had lain across the road in a mock death shroud. Another eight arrests were made during the day for public order offences.

Paul Greening, 45, a member of the Oxford Pledgers, whose members have pledged to take non-violent direct action in the event of war, said: “I felt very sorry that those young people were taken to jail, but I know them and I know they are very, very sure of their conviction that this war is wrong.”

After the demonstration outside the Said Business School, protesters then moved on to Castle Mound, in New Road, where they placed hundreds of white poppies symbolizing peace, together with two Palestinian flags.

In a separate action, shortly after 5pm, demonstrators on bicycles delayed rush-hour traffic.

The day of action culminated at 7pm with a talk at St Anthony’s College by Dennis Halliday, a former assistant UN secretary general who resigned over sanctions against Iraq.