Emily Mackay finds out why peace protesters camping near a York landmark plan to carry on opposing the situation in Iraq

In the wake of the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime in Baghdad, the mood at the Millennium Bridge Rainbow Peace Camp, in York, now 13 tents strong and almost three weeks old, is subdued, but not downhearted.

The camp is set to break up in the next couple of weeks, and Gareth Spiderz, of York Artists Against The War assured locals that when they did, they would be "leaving flowers, not rubbish".

Mr Spiderz praised local people for their support, saying they had been "fantastic", and reaction to the camp had been positive, bar a few "rogue opinions".

People from the surrounding area have visited the camp to see the environmentally-friendly sculptures that the artists have put up, including a giant "multi-cultural dove", signed with blessings in different languages, and a prayer tree, to which are tied messages about the war, some obviously from children. The camp has seen two fire festivals and a crafts day and has attracted visits from radio, press and cable TV reporters.

Mr Spiderz, of Scott Way, Acomb, said he still felt that the camp had "achieved something positive on behalf of the peaceful people of York", and the work of peace organisations like York Artists Against The War was not over.

They would carry on their "continuing mission" elsewhere. The protesters plan to meet York MP Hugh Bayley soon, to discuss their concerns.

These include fears for the future of the Middle East following the war. Mr Spiderz described the triumphant scenes in Baghdad as the "calm before the storm", and feared both the future of American foreign policy, and retaliation in the Middle East from extremist Islamic groups.

He also said that though the protesters were anti-war, they "supported all the troops" and just wanted to "bring them back home".

The protesters were torn about the "liberation" of the Iraqi people. They welcomed the toppling of Saddam, but wondered if Iraqi trust in the coalition was justified.

Ken Curran, of Burdyke Avenue, Clifton, said that while he was "happy Saddam is dead", he did not think that cheering crowds justified the war, and urged people to look at the bigger picture.

Updated: 09:43 Saturday, April 12, 2003