A protest against the bombing of Libya organised by 'Stop the War' to coincide with a parliamentary debate was supported by pro-Gaddafi Libyans and opposed by supporters of the Libyan opposition.
A protest against the bombing of Libya organised by Stop the War to coincide with the parliamentary debate was supported by pro-Gaddafi Libyans and opposed by supporters of the Libyan opposition. London, UK. 16/05/2011
A little over a hundred protesters turned up opposite Downing St in the early evening for a protest against the NATO bombing of Libya which had been called by Stop the War and supported by other groups including CND. Protesting with them were a number of pro-Gadaffi Libyans, some waving the all-green Libyan flag, and around there were around fifty of them who remained to continue the protest for a short time after the Stop the War protesters went home.
There were a number of speakers at the protest including Bruce Kent, all opposed to the intervention and calling for an end to the attacks on Libya. They were able to point to the escalation that has already occurred and the dangers of a continuing scaling up of the conflict.
Shortly after the rally started, a small group of Libyan opposition supporters arrived and set up a protest around twenty or thirty yards further up the street, where a line of police soon moved in to make sure they did not get closer. It was a noisy protest, with the Libyans shouting out that Stop the War were supporting the oppressive Gaddafi regime, and that 42 years of his rule was enough and that he had to go.
Close to them were an even smaller group around the Workers Revolutionary Party Young Socialist banner who were calling for everyone to support Gaddafi in his fight against the opposition who they claimed were taking part in an imperialist effort to replace him. After a while the police moved this group further away from the Libyan opposition, although there had been no actual trouble, just some rather loud and repetitive shouting between the two groups. One young man argued very loudly with the police when they were asked to move.
It seemed most unlikely to those of us watching that the tensions between the various groups would ever lead to more than angry shouting, but apparently the police thought otherwise, and soon reinforcements arrived and brought barriers to put around both the Stop the War protest and the Libyan opposition, who were also moved a few yards further away.
By this time the speeches at the Stop the War rally had finished, but a megaphone was still being used to lead the chanting of slogans. Officers at this point warned the man speaking through it that he was not allowed to use a megaphone, I think under the terms of the now discredited SOCPA legislation on demonstrations in the vicinity of parliament. It seemed a surprising move, particularly as the Libyans a few yards up the road continued to use their megaphone.
Around 6.40 the pro-Gaddafi Libyans decided to leave and made their way as a group towards Bridge Street, where they put away their placards, green flags and scarves and some as least dispersed. The Libyan opposition supporters jeered at them as they left, and then they too packed up. Although there had been no violence or trouble at the protest, as my bus took me away from the area I saw a small scuffle taking place between police and a couple of those who had been at the protest.