SYDNEY — IN one of Australia's largest antiwar demonstrations yet, peace demonstrators marched through central Sydney Saturday and sang ``All we are saying is give peace a chance.'' The march, which police estimated at 10,000 people (organizers claimed 30,000 people), attracted many of Sydney's activist groups, including veterans of protests against apartheid in South Africa and members of the antinuclear movement.
One of the leaders of the peace movement, Tommy Uren, a former Labor minister under Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke, says the march was still modest in size compared with some of the antinuclear marches, which drew 170,000 people. ``But this is just the beginning,'' he says.
Tony Harris of Sydney Greens, another leader of the antiwar movement, says the protesters intend to pressure Parliament and the Hawke Cabinet when it meets in a special session on Jan. 21-22. ``We have the right to demand that the Hawke ministers who are opposed to Australia's commitment in the Gulf submit their resignations,'' says Mr. Harris.
The rally attracted a range of Australians. Middle-class Sydneysiders marched in their straw hats, known as ``boaters.'' University students painted their faces with antiwar symbols. Homosexuals, feminists, and union workers were well represented.
Although the march was ostensibly antiwar, much of the tone was anti-United States. This feeling alienated Sarah Barrionuevo, who says she came to the rally for the sake of peace. ``This is an anti-US rally, not a peace rally,'' she says. Many of the speakers were from socialist and left-wing groups that have long had anti-US sentiments.
A large peace rally was also held on Friday night in Melbourne, where organizers estimated 20,000 people marched through the streets. Smaller rallies were held in Perth, Adelaide, and Brisbane.
Despite these protests, the Australian government remains a part of the Gulf alliance with two frigates helping to guard the US carrier, Midway.