thousands join anti-war protests in nz

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    Thousands join anti-war protests in NZ

    4.00pm - By WAYNE THOMPSON and NZPA
    More than 5000 people took to the streets of Auckland today to voice their opposition to the war in Iraq.

    In Wellington, about 2000 protesters gathered in the central city's Civic Square before marching to Parliament and on to the United States embassy, by which time their numbers had doubled to 4000, police said.

    In other centres, a peace vigil in central Christchurch was attended by about 100 people and a Peace and Music Festival was being held at the Riverside Community, near Motueka .

    A minute's silence was observed outside the embassy, while anti-war speeches were made at each venue.

    Wellington police area controller Inspector Marty Grenfell said the protest was "well organised, peaceful and generally well behaved".

    Three people were arrested for throwing objects at the US embassy and would appear in Wellington District Court next week, he said.

    After the Auckland march, protesters held a rally in Myers Park, where they called on the Government to withdraw the New Zealand naval frigate HMNZS Te Mana from patrol duty in the Gulf of Oman.

    Addressing the rally, Anglican Bishop of Auckland Richard Randerson said it was disgraceful that the United States allowed use of depleted uranium munitions.

    He called it a war crime that ranked alongside nuclear destruction.

    It was blasphemous for President Bush to seek the blessing of God for such activities, said Bishop Randerson.

    Another speaker, Green Party MP Keith Locke, said it was a time of sadness for the community of nations which had their efforts for peace swept aside by the lust of corporate America for the Iraqi oilfields.

    He said the frigate HMNZS Te Mana was escorting United States warships entering the Persian Gulf war zone.

    The ship must be brought home and the Waihopai spy base in Marlbrough closed down so that it could not help the United States war effort.

    A march leader, John Minto, said he was pleased with the turnout which organisers estimated at more than 5000 but police present thought was nearer 10,000.

    Stretching over two city blocks, the march started from Queen Elizabeth II Square and moved up Queen St towards the park venue for the organised rally.

    Police looked on as a group of 80, some with their faces covered by black balaclavas, held an impromptu sit-in rally on the road opposite Myers Park.

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