A SMALL group of demonstrators took to the streets of York to call for support for the war and backing for British troops.

About a dozen students from York St John College marched through the city centre yesterday afternoon holding the Union flag and chanting "Saddam is a tyrant, support our troops" and "Back our boys".

They have promised to demonstrate again in the city next week.

One of the protesters, Jonny Pickard, 21, said he could not stay silent any longer. He said: "We are all of the same opinion that we are absolutely frustrated with opposition to the war.

"All the protests so far have been anti-war, there never seems to be a public voice that stands up for people.

"We are supporting our troops in coalition with the US. Our boys have got families back at home and it would be a lot more beneficial for their morale to see there's public support for the war."

Fellow protester Elroy Baldwin, 21, said the demonstrators did not have right-wing sympathies, but were simply supporting their troops in battle.

He said: "We realise that war is a bad thing, but at the end of the day it's got to be done."

Also protesting was Ben Moffatt, 21, who said: "We have had a lot of support, people have come up to us and offered to give us money for our campaign.

"My cousin's over there now and my father's in the RAF. It's time we got behind these people."

Onlooker Rita Drydale, 72, of Wetherby, said: "Saddam needs bringing down and I believe this is the only way. I know a lot of innocent people get killed, but that's what war is like."

Susan Johnson, 45, of York, said: "More people should do what they (the protesters) are doing. A lot of the silent majority are with them."

o The York Against The War campaign today described any suggestion that its stance was unpatriotic as "nave and pathetic." A spokesman said: "We believe the best way of supporting our troops is to not make them fight a war that should not be being fought." He claimed that the pro-war demo had involved about ten white men, while anti-war protests had been attended by thousands representing a "vibrant diversity of people."