Socialist Worker

Movement reaches every part of Britain

by Judy Cox
Issue No. 1835

OPPOSITION TO war is growing in every part of Britain. From local areas in big towns to small towns and even villages people are getting organised to build for a monster-sized demonstration in London on 15 February.

Organisers were taken aback by the size and strength of feeling on a series of demonstrations and protests which were held last weekend in solidarity with the anti-war demos in the US. In Bradford around 3,000 people demonstrated-three times more than organisers expected.

A group of women marching with a 'Baildon Peace Group' banner told Socialist Worker that they had donated their banner to the Bradford Peace Museum after campaigning against cruise missiles in the 1980s. They had to ask for it back! Heather, Claire and Amy, 14 year old school students from Halifax, said many of their friends were against war.

'Our history teacher is really cool. He says if war breaks out he will sit in the road, and we will join him,' they said. 'In Liverpool pensioners, rail workers, teachers, firefighters, health workers and students were out in force to show their opposition to this bloody war,' reports Daniel Swaine.

Around 2,000 people marched on the demo called by Liverpool Trades Council, Friends of Palestine and the Stop the War Coalition. 'The march was extremely multiracial, and was attended by a huge range of people from the city,' says Daniel.

'There were union banners from the FBU, NUT and Aslef, and others including Unison and the GPMU.' 'It was the biggest march we have had in years.' So says Theresa about the 1,500-strong stop the war march in Cardiff last Saturday. 'It was mixed, noisy, happy and lots of people joined in as we marched along,' says Theresa.

'The headline in the Wales on Sunday newspaper the next day was 'Wales Says No To War, Tony', with a massive picture of the demo.'

Around 250 anti-war activists blocked the road at the US military base at Northwood, west London, last Sunday. A group of protesters brought a five-foot wide pair of purple Y-fronts decorated with the slogan 'War is pants'. But it's not just the big demos.

As the examples on this page show, everyone can do something to make 15 February an incredible show of protest against the war.

Factories offices colleges

THOUSANDS OF trade unionists are mobilising against the war and lots of workplace groups are being established. In central London these include a group at the Guardian newspaper, tube workers, health workers, IT workers, media workers and lecturers.

Richard is a council worker in Norton Radstock in the West Country. He told Socialist Worker, 'Last time we had to get a coach from Bath. This time we hope to have a coach from Midsomer Norton. 'Lots of people in my workplace are now wearing stop the war badges. There is a new spirit of determination.'

Campaigners are finding it easy to get a hearing inside big workplaces. Anti-war campaigners in Liverpool have been invited to address shop stewards at the ACDelco engineering factory. They have also spoken to meetings of 50 stewards at Ford Halewood and over 40 at Vauxhall.

An Architects Against the War group has been set up. Signatures to their launch statement include architectural historian and designer Charles Jencks, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects Paul Hyett, and Lord Richard Rogers. There is also huge potential to build the anti-war movement in schools and colleges.

Just two days into the new term over 100 students attended an anti-war meeting at the London School of Economics on Monday last week. Paul from Leeds Metropolitan University reports, 'Professor Haleh Afshar made a rousing speech to 50 students and staff last Wednesday, a good number as it was a week before exams.'

A representative from the Stop the War Coalition in Preston has been invited to address all classes at the Cardinal Newman Catholic sixth form college in Preston. At Coburn High School in Leeds the Not in My Name video was shown to staff and an anti-war campaigner has been invited to address a school assembly.

'Biggest meeting since the poll tax'

CITY CENTRE rallies against the war continue to attract hundreds of people. Now campaigners are using them as a springboard to launch the movement in their workplaces, schools and colleges, and local areas. A stop the war meeting at Plymouth Guildhall, with George Galloway MP speaking, attracted some 600 people.

Sandra from the Plymouth Stop the War Coalition said, 'The inspirational meeting has led to the formation of neighbourhood anti-war groups in Plymouth, plus groups in Liskeard, Saltash, Newton Abbot, Teignmouth and Dawlish. 'Last September we sent 200 people to the demo-we hope to more than double that in February.'

On Monday of last week 250 people packed into a hall in Haringey to hear George Galloway, Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui from the Muslim Parliament, Gulf War veteran Tony Flint, and Lindsey German for the Stop the War Coalition. 'The rally was the largest anti-war meeting Haringey has seen,' the chair of the local Stop the War Coalition, Sean Wallis, reported. 'At the end of the meeting people planned local activities to get the maximum number from every community out on the streets on 15 February. As a result of the meeting we now have groups in Wood Green, Haringey, Green Lanes, Crouch End, Stroud Green, Muswell Hill and Tottenham.'

In Scunthorpe nearly 80 people attended the debate about Iraq on Friday of last week. Local Labour MP Elliot Morley attempted to defend the government position, but the vast majority agreed with the Stop the War Coalition that the war was about US power and oil.

Campaigners have now organised public meetings in the small neighbouring towns of Goole and Snaith. In Bristol successful central rallies have been followed up with meetings in local areas. Louise Clarke helped to organise a meeting in the Easton area of Bristol that attracted 18 people. 'It was a fantastic meeting,' Louise told Socialist Worker.

'We drew up a rota for the Saturday stall, organised three teams of flyposting, and a member of the TGWU union said he would contact workers at the local bus garage. Everyone wanted to do more than go on the national demo-they wanted to help make sure the demo is massive.'

A stop the war meeting in Blackpool was the biggest political meeting in the town since the campaign against the poll tax. Martin from Derby reports, 'An anti-war meeting in the Pakistani Community Centre in Derby attracted 250 people on Thursday of last week. 'A whole coach for the 15 February demo was filled just in that one evening.'

On a street near you

EVERYONE can organise something where they live to campaign against the war. Sue Jones organised a local meeting based on just a couple of streets in Dalston, east London. She explained, 'It was ever so easy. I made a leaflet, leafleted my own street and one other, and left some leaflets in the local bookshop and cinema. Twelve people turned up. Everyone was really up for doing things. We went out flyposting straight afterwards, and are doing a stall every Saturday until the demo. One woman said she knew performers who can come down and do street theatre.'

Angela from Sheffield told Socialist Worker, 'We recently set up a Sharrow Against the War group. We held a meeting this week to organise the meeting on 21 January, and 11 people came along including five new people! We will be sending at least one coach from Sharrow on 15 February. Already five parents from Lowfield School, which the Labour council are trying to close, have booked seats on the coach, and some of the older children want to come too.'

From Buxton to Bridgwater-we're everywhere

THE MOVEMENT is reaching to small towns and even villages. In the picturesque town of Buxton, Derbyshire, an anti-war group was set up by one woman who was fed up because she missed last September's demonstration in London.

She started petitioning and held a vigil of 60 people in the town. The group is now putting on a coach for the national demo. Two coaches from Leamington Spa are booked for the national demonstration and two have also been organised by the Hereford Stop the War Coalition.

Joss from Hereford told Socialist Worker, 'Graffiti has appeared around the town saying 'No war' and 'Demonstrate against war'.' A coach has been organised for 15 February from the rural town of Knighton on the Welsh Borders, a town more famous for the Offa's Dyke visitor centre than political activism.

Campaigners in the Somerset town of Bridgwater take a 'wheel of peace' to the town centre every Saturday. It was launched in response to one they saw at the European Social Forum in Florence.

Brian Smedley told Socialist Worker, 'We recently held a 'Food not bombs' gig. It was packed out and as a result we got an extra 30 young people to turn up to the next peace group meeting two days later'. 'The first coach for 15 February is already full.'

Anti-war campaigners in Barnsley have helped to set up a group in the town of Penniston, where ten people came to the first organising meeting. The Stop the War Coalition in Swansea told Socialist Worker, 'We are expecting to run more coaches than we did for 28 September.

'We also are working with nearby towns and believe there is a good chance of transport leaving from Tenby, Carmarthen, Llanelli, Pontardawe, Ammanford and Neath.'

Andy from the Swindon Stop the War Coalition says,'So far we have two coaches booked. We are confident of at least four, including one from Chippenham.' 'On Wednesday of last week we showed a film about the effect of sanctions on Iraq, and 37 came. On 30 January we have a meeting with George Galloway MP. We have got the trades council to mail all trade union branches, and Swindon Church of England are sending a mailing for all church people. Marlborough Peace Group have a vigil every week and are putting on their own coach-Marlborough is tiny!'

Scottish success

SOME 300 campaigners turned out for a Scottish Coalition for Justice not War activists' conference last Saturday. They came from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, Inverness and the Highlands and Islands to discuss building the biggest possible anti-war protest at the Labour Party conference due to be held in Glasgow on 15 February.

In Stirling last Thursday 100 or so anti-war protesters made a splash when Tony Blair visited the town, even though they only had an hour's notice of the visit.

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Article information

Sat 25 Jan 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1835
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