Up to 15,000 people in Ottawa and another 7,000 in Halifax took to the streets yesterday to protest the official visit of United States President George W. Bush.
The diverse crowd, ranging from raging grannies to furious students, gathered under sunny skies to demonstrate against Bushs policies of U.S. domination, war and injustice.
Marches, rallies and vigils took place throughout the day and night. With less than two weeks to organize, local activists were thrilled.
Thousands gathered on the lawn of Ottawa city hall to kick off the day, with 3,000 people arriving in buses from Montreal and Toronto alone. Protest music blared from the sound system to keep spirits up as the crowd swelled.
CUPE members and staff joined with workers and activists from other unions, including the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the United Steelworkers of America.
CUPE National President Paul Moist told the crowd that CUPE supports the anti-Bush activities. He denounced Bushs war policies and urged Prime Minister Paul Martin to say no to missile defence and no to war!
Moist reminded the audience of the millions of Americans who share Canadians concerns. He encouraged people to stay strong in the face of the relentless U.S. push to subsume Canadian policy. And he urged Martin not to get too cosy with Bush.
Other speakers included No Logo author Naomi Klein and Iraq solidarity activist Andrea Schmidt, who spoke passionately against the deadly U.S. occupation. Lawyer and author Michael Mandel urged the Canadian government to follow its own laws and indict Bush as a war criminal.
The protest marched from City Hall through downtown Ottawa past several government and corporate buildings housing Canadian complicity in Bushs agenda. Marchers denounced SNC-Lavalin Defence, a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin that manufactures bullets for the U.S. military. The office of federal immigration Minister Judy Sgro was called out for Canadas unjust deportation of Palestinian refugees. The noisy and boisterous march snaked through downtown with chants ringing out against Star Wars Missile defence, the occupation of Iraq and U.S. foreign policy generally, ending at Parliament Hill where a 20-foot Bush statue was toppled.
An evening vigil brought another 5,000 out to the lawns of Parliament Hill, lit up in the dark winter night with thousands of candles and lamps in memory of the Iraqi victims of the illegal U.S. invasion and ongoing occupation. Speakers included NDP leader Jack Layton and a brave U.S. soldier who refused to serve in Iraq.
From there, thousands marched to the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River to get as close as possible to Bush where he and 700 distinguished Canadians were tucking into a deluxe taxpayer-funded meal at the Museum of Civilization. Riot police and barricades kept the crowd from getting too close, but many were surprised, and pleased, to have gotten that far. Eight people were arrested, with jail and legal support provided by protest organizers.
Placards, banners and posters throughout the crowd denounced Bush as a war criminal and the worlds No. 1 international terrorist. For photographs of the day, visit the Ottawa indymedia web site at www.ottawa.indymedia.org.