Creating people's geographies
PHOTOS and personal reflections coming …
Thousands protest in Sydney
July 22, 2006 – 6:40PM
About 15,000 people turned Sydney’s George Street into a human highway today as they protested at Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Palestine.
Waving placards with messages to the Australian government and the world that read, “We are not terrorists, we are being terrorised” and “John – save our country”, the protesters carried coffins and chanted “no war” as they marched down George Street to Martin Place.
The protest was by far the largest of three across the country, with much smaller crowds rallying in Melbourne and Adelaide against the Middle East conflict.
Several thousand demonstrators began gathering at Town Hall in central Sydney about noon (AEST) today.
Joined by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib and the spiritual leader of Australia’s Muslim community, Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali, the crowd quickly swelled.
Addressing the huge gathering, organiser Ibrahim Constantine said peace was the only way forward for the embattled region.
“We are marching today, Christian and Muslims united as one, marching to give peace a chance,” Mr Constantine said.
“This is a war that Israel will not win. This is a war that no one will win.
“We ask the international community to give peace a chance.”
Toddlers and young children wearing t-shirts with slogans like, ‘Stop killing the babies’ were escorted by parents carrying Australian and Lebanese flags.
A Lebanese-Australian woman who gave her name only as Diana, cried as she spoke of her family in Lebanon.
“They are murdering children and burying them under rubble,” she said.
“Something has to be done about this.
“I’ve got my mum and dad in Lebanon, my grandfather up in the mountains and my brother and his family were lucky to escape.
“It’s very horrifying.”
A young man who wanted to be known only as Mohammed, said he and his friends had given up part of their weekend to call for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“We are just here to say that the Lebanese blood is not worth less than Israeli blood,” he said.
“Our blood is blood, whoever it comes from, and all we want is peace from both sides.”
Organisers predicted up to 20,000 people would attend, but police placed official numbers at about 15,000.
At the start of the demonstration, organisers stressed the protest would be a peaceful one and warned demonstrators not to burn flags.
Police praised all involved, saying their cooperation ensured the event was peaceful and without incident.
No one was injured during the protest and no arrests were made.
The protest wound up shortly after 2pm and crowds were dispersed by 3pm.
Smaller protests also were held in Melbourne and Adelaide today.
In Melbourne, several hundred people turned out for the Rally for Peace and Justice in Lebanon.
Australian Arabic Council deputy chairman Taimor Hazou told the rally the Australian government had failed to pressure for a ceasefire.
“The inability to pressure for a ceasefire is a perfect illustration of the failure of our Middle East policy,” Mr Hazou said.
In Adelaide, about 500 people gathered on the steps of state parliament to protest at the conflict.