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Millions protest deployment

Metta Spencer — November 1983

On October 22, over 2 million people gathered in the streets of North America and Europe in support of the United Nations’ disarmament campaign. The marchers in Europe were protesting against the imminent deployment of cruise and Pershing II nuclear missiles on their continent.

Canadian demonstrators, who numbered more than 50,000 in all, were also expressing their opposition to the testing of the air-launched cruise missile. More than 40 communities held some sort of public observance on that day.

The largest Canadian demonstration was in Toronto, where an estimated 24,000 spirited citizens walked, on a bright autumn day, to Queen’s Park for a rally.

Nevertheless, the marchers in Toronto, like those elsewhere, realised that their mass demonstrations had not achieved the major goal —prevention of the next phase of the arms race. Governments of several NATO countries again announced their intentions of deploying the new missiles, regardless of what might go on in the streets.

On the day following the demonstrations, The Peace Calendar’s staff, making our monthly phone calls across Canada, discovered a consensus to be emerging — a sense that the peace movement needs to shift its emphasis from demonstrations to face-to-face persuasion. Several spokespersons reported that their communities are rethinking their approach and generally favour door-to-door canvassing, along the lines proposed by the Peace Petition Caravan. A riding-by-riding campaign will require consistent work by peace activists, but is seen as the most promising way to influence the government.