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Anti-war rally outside Buckingham Palace

February 03, 2003


LONDON: The British government is facing the embarrassing prospect of reversing its ban on an anti-war protest at London’s Hyde Park or allowing more than half a million demonstrators to hold a rally outside Buckingham Palace, it emerged on Friday.

A spokeswoman for Britain’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that Pall Mall, was now the “frontrunner” on a list of alternative venues for the February 15 rally, which was banned from Hyde Park by Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary, because of fears it might damage the grass. Department sources said Ms Jowell feared she was in a “no win” situation whatever the government decided to do.

Pall Mall would be acceptable to the anti-war campaign leaders but allowing half a million demonstrators to protest outside the palace would be a public relations disaster for the government.

On Friday celebrities lined up to condemn the government, while Michael Foot, the former Labour Party leader, offered to lead a mass trespass of Hyde Park if ministers did not relent or refused entry to the Mall as an alternative.

A spokesman for the Stop the War coalition ruled out the Millennium Dome and Victoria Park in east London, alternative venues suggested by the Metropolitan police.

“It will be just as muddy in Victoria Park as it will in Hyde Park, while the dome has a history of being a complete failure and we are not going to be associated with that. But the bottom line is we are not going to be moved out of central London. It is the seat of government and we have a right to demonstrate there.”—Dawn/The Guardian News Service.