As the midnight EST United Nations’ deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait neared last week, a group of about 1,500 people gathered outside the United States’ consulate in central Toronto. Chanting “No blood for oil,” they flashed peace signs and, at midnight, burned an American flag. Since Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, peace organizations that had been largely dormant in the United States, Canada and Western Europe have re-emerged. Said Mary Boite, a Toronto-based representative of the Alliance for Non-Violent Action, an organization that operates in Ontario and Quebec: “The peace movement has been very fragmented. I think this war is pulling it together. People are starting to realize they have to take some responsibility.”
In the days surrounding the attack by the U.S.-led coalition on Iraq, peace activists in dozens of countries demonstrated vigorously against the war. In New York City, police arrested more than 36 demonstrators at the United Nations, antiwar activists blocked entrances to federal government buildings in San Francisco, and protesters fasted for peace in a park near the White House. In London, about 5,000 people marched from Trafalgar Square to Westminster Hall. In Argentina and five other Latin American countries, crowds burned U.S. flags
and held vigils outside American embassies.
In Canada, John Mate, a Vancouver-based disarmament campaigner for the environmental and peace organization Greenpeace Canada, angrily condemned the war. He told a crowd of demonstrators on Parliament Hill that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s decision to send
Canadian forces to the Middle East had caused “rage” to be “unleashed across the country.” He added that Greenpeace had targeted the offices of Conservative MPs across Canada for “direct action.” He declined to be more specif-
ic. Peace activists have been deluging MPs’ offices with faxes and letters. And the Alliance for Non-Violent Action announced plans to block access to the External Affairs building in Ottawa this week.
A specially stationed group of volunteers from 17 countries was among the hundreds of thousands of people who demonstrated against the war. About 84 members of the Gulf Peace Team, including Muriel Sibley, a mother of five from Victoria, camped in the Iraqi desert on the Saudi Arabian border. Before she departed for Iraq, Sibley told Maclean ’s that she was willing to make “the same sacrifices for peace” as the soldiers who had to leave their families. Late last week, team spokesman Eric Hoskins said in Toronto that the fate of the campers was not known.
Meanwhile, activists predicted that if the war is prolonged, the peace movement will continue to gain I strength. Nancy Pocock, an 80-yearold Toronto peace activist who also helps political refugees from other countries to settle in Canada, said that working for peace is “the most important thing there is.” But she, like others, expressed sadness that that lesson had to be learned by yet another generation.
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