Damon Meredith, 13, of Mullimbimby, prepares peace flags with german tourist Andrea Wilmsen.
Damon Meredith, 13, of Mullimbimby, prepares peace flags with german tourist Andrea Wilmsen.

Byron peace rally chants for change

By Adam Hicks

Two years on, and they're still not happy John.

Byron Bay joined a world-wide protest yesterday to mark the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

About 300 people turned out wearing white for a day of action which included a march around the town centre.

Rally organiser Liz Elliot said it was the people of Byron Bay sending a message to Prime Minister John Howard to withdraw Australian troops and help end the suffering of the Iraqi people.

She said it was a call for peace.

"It's been two years since the invasion by the Coalition of the Killing turned the Middle East into a bog, a swamp of pain and destruction," Mrs Elliot said.

"We have been led into war at the expense of peace, not for it.

"We are here today as a step to creating an ongoing culture of peace.

"There is no one specific action that will turn the tide of events.

"It will take the majority constantly chanting 'we don't want war' to bring change."

A chant they started yesterday.

Thousands of protesters echoed a similar message at rallies at centres across Australia and the western world.

However, in typical Byron style, protest had a distinct flavour with local music, chanting, a fire ceremony and talks from a range of experts.

Talking to reporters in Sydney, Mr Howard remained unrepentant.

"The rallies recognise the fact that not everybody agreed with our position but I remain steadfast in the view that it was the right decision," Mr Howard said.

"I believe in the long-run, the Middle East will be a more democratic, a more stable place and people will be given the opportunity to live their lives in freedom.

"And I don't believe that would have happened if the coalition had not taken the action that it did."

He used the image of ink-stains on the fingers of Iraqi people, used to identify those who had already voted, during the country's first democratic elections in January, as an example of the "inspiring" results already achieved in Iraq.

But he said there was a lot to be done.

"It's hard, there's still a lot of murder going on, there's a lot of terrorist behaviour but eventually I believe Iraq will emerge as a viable democracy," Mr Howard said.

"I'm very proud of the fact that Australia has played a part in bringing that about."

'Consider your fire plan': residents told to be prepared

'Consider your fire plan': residents told to be prepared

A total of 79 bush and grass fires burn across the state

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