Peace marches across Britain

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The Independent Online

Thousands of people ignored torrential rain in the north of England yesterday to take part in regional demonstrations against a war in Iraq.

Thousands of people ignored torrential rain in the north of England yesterday to take part in regional demonstrations against a war in Iraq.

Organisers estimated that more than 10,000 people took part in three marches in Manchester that converged for a peace rally in Albert Square, in the centre of the city.

In another protest yesterday, 24 people were arrested at a 250-strong demonstration in Colchester, Essex. The 24 had staged a sit-down protest outside the Army's Goojerat Barracks, and refused police requests to move.

At Manchester, the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, said Christian and Muslim communities should unite to oppose war. "There is no moral justification for any unilateral action by the US or the UK," he said. "The only action must be done through the United Nations. There is no moral case whatsoever for us going to war alone with the US."

The bishop said it was important that all communities in the UK joined together so the issue did not become "any kind of religious conflict".

Around 5,000 people demonstrated in Sheffield and 2,000 in Nottingham. There were other demonstrations in Barnsley in South Yorkshire, Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, Chichester in West Sussex, Cambridge and Bridgend in south Wales.

A spokesman for the Stop the War Coalition, which organised the protests, said they were partly timed to coincide with International Women's Day "in recognition of the women and children who will die in Iraq if there is a war".

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