Rice Greeted by Protests During Visit to England

Protester greets Condoleezza Rice in Blackburn, England i i

A protester chants anti-war slogans outside Pleckgate High School in Blackburn, England on March 31, 2006, during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Reuters/Reuters hide caption

itoggle caption Reuters/Reuters
Protester greets Condoleezza Rice in Blackburn, England

A protester chants anti-war slogans outside Pleckgate High School in Blackburn, England on March 31, 2006, during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is greeted by protests during a visit to Blackburn, Lancashire, the hometown of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Muslims and anti-war activists protested outside a high school where Rice was speaking. Twenty percent of the Blackburn population is Muslim.

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Today Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conceded that the U.S. government had made many tactical errors in the war in Iraq, but Rice defended the strategic division to decision to invade. Rice spoke in the town of Blackburn in the northern English county of Lancashire. The District is represented in the British parliament by her counterpart, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. He invited her there in return for his visit to Rice's home state of Alabama last year.

As NPR's Rob Gifford reports from Liverpool, in addition to official duties, the U.S. Secretary of State did some sightseeing, including a trip down a musical memory lane.

ROB GIFFORD reporting:

Decades ago, the young black daughter of an Alabama preacher heard a song with mystifying lyrics by four boys from Liverpool.

(Soundbite of Beatles song, A Day in The Life)

Mr. JOHN LENNON (Singer, The Beatles): (Singing) I read the news today oh boy, four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire…

GIFFORD: Apparently, John Lennon had just read a newspaper story about the holes in the roads of Blackburn, Lancashire, and he put it in the Beatles' song. Now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last month that she planned to visit Blackburn, Lancashire, for the first time, but she had never understood that line.

Today she finally got a chance to inspect the roads of Blackburn in person. A trip to Jack Straw's home district contains plenty of sightseeing and culture, though she did first give one major policy speech today in Blackburn. Rice said the big picture of progress in Iraq justifies some of the problems the country is experiencing.

Secretary of State CONDOLEEZZA RICE: I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them, I'm sure. This could have gone that way, or that could have gone that way. But when you look back in history, what will be judged is, did you make the right strategic decisions? And if you spend all of your time trying to judge this tactical issue or that tactical issue, I think you miss, miss the larger, the larger sweep.

(Soundbite of protesters)

GIFFORD: Blackburn has a high proportion of Muslim residents, and even if they are a minority, today they were a very vocal one, calling Secretary Rice a terrorist as she arrived at a Blackburn school. Rafik Ismael(ph) is a religious leader within the Blackburn Muslim community.

Mr. RAFIK ISMAEL (Muslim Leader, Blackburn Community): Condoleezza Rice has been responsible for many lives that have been taken away, many innocent lives. She is responsible for the tortures in Guantanamo Bay. She's responsible for the tortures in Abu Ghraib. She's responsible for many things.

(Soundbite of protesters)

GIFFORD: In Liverpool, too, there were protests where Rice went to visit the Institute of Performing Arts, housed in the 19th century building where Paul McCartney attended school. The U.S. and the U.K. were again accused of terrorism by the demonstrators, this time with just a little Lennon and McCartney Liverpool twist.

(Soundbite of Street Protesters)

Street Rioters: (Singing and chanting) We all live in a terrorist regime, a terrorist regime, a terrorist regime. Condi, Condi, Condi, Condi, Condi, Condie.

GIFFORD: Secretary Rice was due to visit a mosque in Blackburn tomorrow, but the visit has been canceled because of large-scale opposition in the Muslim community and concern for security.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, Liverpool.

(Soundbite of Beatles' song, "A Day in The Life”)

Mr. LENNON: (Singing) And though the holes were rather small, they have to count them all. Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. I'd love to turn you…

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