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London, UK

London, UK

I previously protested against the War in Afghanistan. That time there were estimated to be 38,000 people there. It was a wet day, we spent time doing a sit-in as close to Downing Street as we could get. Ultimately, there were a lot of police waiting for us to get fed up and go home. We did eventually, feeling glad wen and made our statement, but a little down-hearted at our lack of numbers. 15th February 2003 was so so different. The mood of the country was edgy. Everyone was talking about war, whether it was right or wrong to go to war. Blair’s credibility was at stake, and along with it that of the Labour Party. For many of us this was the final betrayal of a party that we had given all our hopes to for developing a fairer society. We were angry. We wanted to stop the war. And we were active. I travelled by train with friends and the whole train from Northampton was filled with fellow protesters. It was so busy at Euston, we were all heading to the same place. There was a lot of waiting around for the March to start, and we just became more and more amazed at the sheer volume of people that kept arriving, and arriving, and arriving. The police looked a bit lost. We began walking, many of us had placards, some people had megaphones. There were drums, chanting, groups being silent, groups shouting in different languages. This was an incredible event. Almost unbelievable for the Brits to actually get so involved in a march where normally the apathetic or politely political people keep their voices low even if they are complaining. We felt so empowered, and so sure that we would stop the war. How could Blair ignore so many people? Looking back, it still seems impossible. But that shows how undemocratic the UK still is, and was then. The media helped by showing some pictures of the march, but generally underestimating the numbers of people who were there, despite the fact that the pictures are a clear testimony. The Observer gave a dreadfully low underestimate of the number of people protesting, and there we were betrayed again. This time by the newspapers and media we had previously believed were of a left wing persuasion. This was so awful at the time. It seemed to fuel the pro war arguments further. It was a belittling of protesters, of anyone who was against the war, and of anyone who was prepared to stand up and speak their truth. We watched in horror and disbelief as Blair went to war. Our efforts were not in vain, but it was hard not to feel defeated and demoralised at that point. Perhaps, if anything, it strengthened our resolve to keep raising our voices, to keep protesting, and to no longer trust that our media would represent us fairly, or our governments listen. We have to find new places to express our views. But hopefully we will join together again for another march and raise our voices together if we need to. As long as we have the faith to do so, and the courage to demonstrate – in spite of any attempts to persuade us not to.