Anti-war protestors determined in face of ban

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LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) Anti-war protesters plan to press ahead with a march today to urge the government to withdraw troops from Iraq, despite moves to use almost 170-year-old legislation to stop them.

The Stop the War Coalition has vowed to march from Trafalgar Square to Parliament despite there being no agreement with police to let them go ahead.

The Metropolitan Police Act of 1839 allows Parliament to renew a sessional order annually that instructs the police to prevent any obstruction to MPs or Lords.

The little-known law dates from the time of the Chartist protest movement, a period when the British ruling class believed they were on the brink of social revolution.

That impression was confirmed by the 1848 revolutions that toppled thrones in Europe and gave birth to the Marxist movement.

Today's march has been organised to coincide with the first day of parliament after the long Summer recess.

Celebrities, veteran peace campaigners and MPs are expected to join thousands of anti-war campaigners as they gather in Trafalgar Square from 1 p m local time and make their way down Whitehall at 2 p m local time.

A Met spokeswoman said police remained in talks with the Stop the War Coalition to reach an agreement to ''facilitate their right to demonstrate'' legally.

But the group said it was determined to march to parliament regardless of the outcome.

Convener Lindsey German told BBC Radio Four: ''We've never had this restriction before and we don't accept it.

''We think, in a democracy, we should be allowed to go to our parliament.

She also questioned the timing of the move.

''We have to ask: why is it (the Act) being raised at this time? I guess that (Prime Minister) Gordon Brown would like to draw a line under the war in Iraq and demonstrations on the first day that parliament comes back are probably an embarrassment to the government.'' Politician Tony Benn, musician Brian Eno, comedian Mark Thomas and former Starsky and Hutch TV actor David Soul are expected to join the march.

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, said: ''The attempt to ban this demonstration is an unacceptable assault on our civil liberties.'' REUTERS PD KN1625

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