By Daniel Waldron, Belfast Socialist Youth
On 16 June, the slogan ‘No Bush’ was displayed on Divis Mountain, overlooking Belfast. While George Bush was greeted with smiles and handshakes by the politicians, this piece of artwork by local activists summed up the attitude of ordinary people towards the visit of the warmonger. Radio shows were flooded with calls about the massive disruption being caused to people by the huge police operations in place to protect this unwelcome visitor.
Bush’s visit was met with vibrant protest, much bigger than recent anti-war mobilisations. At a lunchtime rally at City Hall organised by the Belfast Anti-War Movement, 500 protestors gathered, many from nearby workplaces. The crowd was very youthful, with many saying they had never been to a protest before. Clearly, revulsion at Bush’s invitation and everything he represents had inspired a new layer of young people to get active.
Ogra Shinn Fein and SDLP Youth had members at the rally, protesting Bush’s reception while their leaders posed for the cameras by his side and smiled as he tried to bask in the reflected glow of the ‘peace process’. Rightly, this hypocrisy was denounced from the platform.
Unfortunately, the idea of building a political alternative to challenge the sectarian parties and the neo-liberal agenda that they share with Bush was not raised. Those, like Socialist Youth, who raise socialist ideas have been consciously excluded from BAWM platforms. The Socialist Workers Party, which undemocratically controls the BAWM, doesn’t want to risk ‘scaring off’ right-wing trade union bureaucrats.
Despite the intimidatory police presence, 200 made their way to the gates of Stormont, to bring the protest right to the local politicians’ front door. There were noisy chants and speaker after speaker denounced both Bush and the local politicians.
These protests were important and ensured that Bush was not able to freely portray himself as a ‘man of peace’. They also gave an indication that, by consistently connecting the crisis in the Middle East to the attacks on workers’ conditions here, it is possible to rebuild a mass anti-war movement.