“Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!”
So went the cry on the streets of London last Saturday as over 10,000 people turned out to protest against the bloody and illegal conflict in Afghanistan.
The mood was defiant, as soldiers and their families, including serving soldier Joe Glenton—who was breaking orders by being on the march—led the demonstration.
Long-standing campaigners and first time demonstrators gathered in Hyde Park to begin the march.
Support for the war in Afghanistan is wearing thin.
A Channel 4/YouGov poll at the weekend showed that
62 percent of people in Britain want the troops home from Afghanistan within a year.
An overwhelming 84 percent of people think British troops are losing the war.
Rozina Ashraf and her daughter Haseena are from Shirley, Solihull. They came to the protest on the Birmingham Stop the War coach.
“We have to make a stand against this pointless war,” Rozina told Socialist Worker.
“It’s good to know that some soldiers are now speaking out—they are realising that the problem is not Muslims but the British government.
“These wars in the Middle East are all about oil.”
Haseena said that it was her first ever demonstration. “If I had one message for the government, it would be to stop following the US into these wars,” she said.
There were over 65 banners on the demonstration, many of them from local Stop the War and peace groups from across the country.
Some had travelled many miles. Kate Rutherford came overnight on a coach from Glasgow. She said, “Our leaders are drunk with power. It breaks my heart to see so many men, women and children killed in Afghanistan.
“Those who led us into this war should be brought to book. They are war criminals. It makes me ashamed to be British.
“I left school at the age of 15, but I know the difference between right and wrong.”
The presence of military families boosted people’s confidence.
Jayme from Brighton said, “People say that the anti-war movement is demoralising the troops, but today shows that that is a load of rubbish.
“We don’t want any more deaths from these wars.
“The more soldiers speak out, the more we see how let down and manipulated they are by the army.”
For many, the anti-war protest was the latest of several days of activity.
Lewie Morris and Alistair Holmes were part of a group of Sheffield students who had been at anti-fascist protests at the BBC on Thursday and post, bus and fire picket lines on the Friday.
They then came to London on the Saturday.
Lewie told Socialist Worker, “As time goes on, this war becomes more untenable.
“The idea that it was for liberation was always false.
“Now they are saying it could be going on another five years and that the government could send thousands more troops.”
Alistair added, “The idea that Western troops can bring liberation is patronising and racist. The only way is for people to liberate themselves.”