Who are they and what do they want?

The Prime Minister would like to write them off as extremists - but Andrew Johnson talks to those preparing to protest next week and finds the same diversity that made the anti-war movement impossible to ignore
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The Independent Online

The school pupil

Michael Higgs, 15, from Clapham, south London, is among hundreds of pupils who intend to walk out of school on Thursday afternoon to attend the demonstration.

"I'm completely opposed to George Bush's state visit," he says. "It is completely wrong for Tony Blair to invite him. It's been shown that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, or they have done a very good job of hiding them.

"I don't think the march will stop him coming but he's got to know that most people in Britain don't want him here. There's no point being opposed to him coming if we're not going to do anything about it.

"I'll leave school at lunchtime and I'll be gone for two hours, so I don't think I'll be in trouble. There was no trouble last time. Thirty or 40 of us left school when war broke out. The headmaster tried to talk us out of it.

"I've been leafleting in schools. I don't think George Bush should have been invited. It's not just because of the war, I don't like him, or rather, disagree with him, for a number of reasons - his refusal to sign the Kyoto treaty, for example.

"I want him to go home thinking he got us into a war the majority of the British people didn't want. I want him to know he is wrong."

The barrister

Ernest James, 52, is a barrister who joined the national demonstration against war in Iraq earlier this year. He believes President Bush will use his visit to launch his re-election campaign.

"The Americans love the Royal Family," he says, referring to the President's scheduled stay at Buckingham Palace.

"The problem is that Blair can't say no to President Bush - he is a great respecter of authority because of his upbringing and background. He has a problem saying no to people he respects.

"The last use of a state visit for a US President was 85 years ago. America has done nothing for this country, we've just done things for them. Pakistan has received more, we're still closing our steel mills.

"He is never going to get a good reception from the people of this country, but maybe he's encouraged by they way we treated protesters when the Chinese premier visited."

The Muslim

Shaz Manir, 29, a Muslim who lives in Birmingham, has been on previous marches. She wants to send a message to President Bush, and the world, that not everybody in Britain supports the war.

"I think its disgusting that the world's number one terrorist has been invited on a state visit. I'd like him to know that the British people are not with him on this. When people are occupied they are going to resist.

"I don't know how he's not going to see the demonstration. Because of the demo his plans have already been changed - he is not going down Pall Mall nor will he speak in Parliament, so he has already got the message.

"I'm not against the war because I am a Muslim. On previous demonstrations there have been all religions. It's about justice and equality. The British public, whether we are Muslim or not, are saying 'not in our name'."

The war veteran

Colin Jones, 76, from Emsworth, Hampshire, joined the navy aged 17 in 1943. He served on minesweepers on the coasts of France, Holland and Norway.

"I've been to war, I volunteered to go. That would put me in a situation where I would applaud our military. But I've seen war where it is necessary and unnecessary.

"We should act together through the UN. For all its faults it has some legitimacy. And I don't think America has acted properly with respect to Palestine and Israel. The Islamic world must see that as part of the problem. If the Democrats had got in I don't think the war would have happened.

The seasoned activist

Dean Ryan, 37, from east London has been going on demonstrations for 12 years. He has protested against racism and the BNP, for pensioners' rights, and has attended anti-capitalist marches.

"I'm a trade unionist and an activist. I've been against the war from the outset. I think it's about oil and US aggression. There's a growing anti-war feeling in America. There are levels of poverty and hardship not seen since the 1930s. I'm not anti-American; I'm anti-Bush and anti-war. It's disgusting that so many Americans are living in poverty, but they are spending billions on the war.

"The way they are treating the Iraqis is disgusting. It is outrageous, they are taking oil to pay American companies to rebuild the country they bombed.

"It's important that we show the Americans we support their opposition to the war and we want the troops to go home. I don't want American soldiers from ghettos who only joined to get a decent education to die.

"If Britain and America are serious about rebuilding Iraq they should pay reparations. The more pressure we put on them the more they are going to think twice about going to other countries, and we are showing people in the Middle East it is not the West against the Middle East."

The young mother

Jo Lazzarie, 23, from Kent, is not demonstrating against the war. She will go with her son Jack, nine months, to protest against President Bush's policies on abortion.

"I'm protesting against his disgusting and cynical cuts to abortion rights. A woman more than 12 weeks pregnant could be denied an abortion. Although it's been a right for nearly four decades it is undermined. Even in the UK women still don't have an absolute legal right. Bush is just chipping away at a woman's right to choose.

"I want to bring up my son to respect women's bodies. I'd like to tell him later that he made a stand against this man.

"Bush has no regard for democracy and seems to live in a bubble. I hope he realises when he's here how much his policies are despised."