Thousands of demonstrators took over the streets of Brighton before storming the town hall to vent their anger against war on Iraq.

Almost 5,000 people brought the centre of Brighton to a standstill, staging a rally calling for peace as bombs rained down on Baghdad last night.

About a dozen protesters stormed Brighton Town Hall by kicking down the front door.

One climbed on to a second-floor balcony. Covering his face with a neckerchief, he took a swig from a can of lager and began to roll himself a cigarette to huge public acclaim.

Officers wearing riot gear appeared at the doors of the building while the crowds chanted: "Our town hall."

Inspector Mark Powles, of Sussex Police, said: "There have been a number of arrests this evening for minor offences but no more than about half a dozen.

"A dozen or so people stormed the town hall while it was locked and closed. We've got most of them out."

Crowds of protesters made their way through the city streets to the sound of beating drums.

Flanked by hundreds of police, they held a sit-down protest before scores more swelled their ranks with people arriving throughout the evening to join one of the biggest rallies ever held in the city.

People on their way home from work were held up in the mayhem as buses were diverted away from the city centre and traffic ground to a halt.

The protest began at 5.30pm when a marching band led the massed ranks dancing up Queens Road, stopping traffic in its tracks.

A few stranded motorists were caught in the middle of the march but some were beeping their horns to show their support.

A young boy sat on his father's shoulders and banged a tambourine while a group of schoolgirls led the crowds in a peace chant.

Among the placards were some stating "Not In My Name" and "Sham Democracy Leads To State Terrorism".

Outside the station protesters climbed on bus shelters and youngsters stood side by side with senior citizens.

Lucette Forrest, 71, said: "I came along so I could look my grandsons in the eye when they are old enough to talk about this. Israel has ignored more resolutions than Iraq has and I am wearing a Palestinian flag even though I have been pro-Israeli."

Steve "Chicken" Martin, 18, of Peacehaven, said: "The people here believe it's not our war. I have friends in the armed forces who are going off and I don't want anything to happen to them.

"I'm of an age where I could be called up and I don't think I would be doing the right thing."

Scores of police officers stood in line, trying to keep the protest as restrained as possible.

A number of demonstrators lay down in the middle of Queen's Road.

Others climbed on traffic lights and on the base of the clock tower to get a better view.

Not everyone was supportive of the protest. One Mercedes driver gave marchers a V-sign and others silently simmered inside their vehicles.

Later, police were called to isolated incidents on the seafront.

Peace campaigners in Worthing made a deafening noise in the town centre.

About 120 people of all ages assembled near the clock tower in South Place.

They blew whistles, sounded klaxons, beat pots and pans, waved a black flag and unfurled banners with slogans such as "War Is Wicked" and "Not In My Name".

Campaign group Worthing Against War said people should not support British servicemen fighting in the Gulf but they were branded "totally wrong" by retired Army major Tom Wye, president of Worthing Combined Ex-Services Association.

About 300 children stopped traffic by staging an anti-war march in Haywards Heath.

David Roberts, a member of the Mid Sussex Global Peace Campaign, said people would also be joining demonstrators in London on Saturday.

Dozens of schoolchildren walked out from lessons at Willingdon Community School in Broad Road, Willingdon, Eastbourne, during the day of county-wide pro-tests.

Churches across Eastbourne tolled their bells at precisely 6pm in protest at the outbreak of the bombing.

Iraq in depth from USA Today: