Picture from Stop the War rally
Stop the War rally in Downing Street (Umberto Bacchi)

The UK's leading anti-war organisation has staged a protest against potential military action in Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons on the town of Ghouta by the Assad regime.

Three hundred people gathered in Downing Street to oppose any planned military intervention in Syria in a rally organised by the Stop the War coalition. Placards read "Hands off Syria", "Don't attack Syria" and "No more imperialist war" and there were chants of "Obama Obama why why, David Cameron why why, When you lie, People die, When you lie, Syrian die".

Among the demonstrators were pro-Assad demonstrators holding Syrian flags, anti-Israeli activists, and Green and Labour party members.

Rosemary Warrington, of the Green party women's group, told IBTimes UK at the scene: "War is very seldom a good solution. I'm not in favour of tyranny and dictatorship but discriminatory bombing is not the solution.

"We want negotiations. These people are supposed to be good at talking. There is no track record of short intervention."

A 48-year-old woman from president Assad's home province of Latakia, who identified herself as R Ibrahim, said: "I don't believe Assad used chemical weapons. No one provided evidence. I think Islamic terrorists are to blame."

Adnan Alwan, an Iraqi producer who was working in Latakia when Syria's civil war erupted, said that prime minister David Cameron would make the situation worse. "In Iraq we're still suffering from 2003 intervention. We don't need that again. Cameron should help us by killing the terrorists or staying away from Syria."

Earlier on Wednesday, Labour leader Ed Miliband told Cameron that any military action in Syria "must have a proper, sound legal base in international law."

Miliband said that Labour would support contemplated military action "only on the basis that it was legal, that it was specifically limited to deterring the future use of chemical weapons, and that any action contemplated had clear and achievable military goals".

Britain's Security Council voted unanimously in favour of retaliatory action against the Assad regime for the chemical attack on Ghouta and army authorities in the Syrian capital of Damascus have begun evacuating military headquarters and command posts in preparation.

MPs were recalled early from their summer break and are scheduled to debate an assault in parliament on Thursday. IBTimes UK will be reporting live from the Commons.

War would be illegal

Labour MPs including Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn were also among the protesters. Abbott said that she would vote against an assault on Syria and urged backbenchers to do the same.

"I'm here to put beyond doubt I'll vote against waste war in Syria," she said. "Such a war will not be legal, it will not resolve anything. There's a risk of being embroiled in Syria's civil war."

Abbott said that the idea that an attack by the West would cause Assad to stop the atrocities against his own people was delusional. "If the answer is America military intervention you asked the wrong question," she said.

She had also threatened to quit Labour's frontbench if Miliband supportED military action.

Corbyn said: "We are here because we want peace not another military intervention. We are a coalition of the peaceful, not a coalition of the willing."

A small counter-demonstration took place 30 metres from the Stop the War one. Twenty people chanted "Out out, dictatorship" and "Out out, Hezbollah" and raised Syrian rebel flags and pictures of gassing victims.

Belal Jobour, 32, from Idlib, said that his cousin and his cousin's wife and two children were killed in a rocket attack by Assad forces. He only found out via YouTube.

"Intervention is not the best choice but we need something to happen. If we keep it like this people die every day. Babies, women, are killed every day," he told IBTimes UK.

He said of the anti-interventionists: "If they come to Syria and see what we've seen and feel and what we've felt, they will want the US and the UK to come."


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Counter-demo in Downing Street (Umberto Bacchi)