Socialist Worker

Big protests oppose airstrikes in Syria

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2600

Hundreds protested in London

Hundreds protested in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Hundreds of people protested outside parliament and across Britain this evening after Theresa May attempted to justify bombing Syria.

Several hundred people joined the protest called by the Stop the War coalition in parliament square, where speakers denounced Saturday’s airstrikes.

One protester, Ann, told Socialist Worker, “When I woke up on Saturday and saw Britain had bombed Syria I was speechless.

“I was really angry when I saw pictures on the news of Syrians in Douma being bombed by the regime. But these airstrikes are just pouring fuel on the fire”.

Protests took place in 11 other towns and cities, including a hundreds strong march in Bristol, and demonstrations in Leeds and Southampton. There were even protests planed in Orkney, off the northernmost tip of Scotland, and the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England.

It showed the widespread opposition to the possibility of Britain following the US into yet more war in the Middle East.

Speaking to the protest in London, Stop the War convenor Lindsey German said, “People in this country are absolutely fed up with war.

“They know these bombs are making things worse for the Syrian people”.

Justify

In a statement to MPs this afternoon, May tried to justify the decision to launch airstrikes on Saturday without a vote in parliament.

She said the airstrikes were about stopping Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from carrying out chemical attacks against civilians. And she said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to bombing would give Russia “veto” over British military action.

But as protesters outside said, the airstrikes were not about protecting ordinary Syrians—and opposing them doesn’t mean supporting Assad or Russia.

One protester, Maria, said, “I don’t support the Syrian regime or Russia. But this isn’t a solution. They’re not talking to Syrians about this.

“There are Syrian activists on the ground who have said again and again and again that bombing is not the solution. But May and Trump just ignore them”.

Corbyn responded to May by criticising her for not getting the support of parliament before launching the airstrikes.

His demand on May to let more Syrian refugee children into Britain showed up May’s false claim to care about Syrians.

Speaking to Socialist Worker, protester Olivia said, “The idea that these airstrikes were about humanitarian concerns just don’t add up. This government has shirked its responsibilities for refugees. It’s part of the problem”.

David, another protester, said, “This isn’t about being humanitarian. It’s about the US and Britain protecting their interests in the Middle East.

“It’s disgusting for politicians to try and use humanitarian concerns to try and justify their intervention”.

Slammed

Labour MP Chris Williamson slammed the Tories’ faked concern over chemical weapons and the lives of ordinary people in the Middle East as “hypocrisy”.

“We know how the west used white phosphorus in Iraq,” he said. “This government stinks of hypocrisy and we should call them out at every opportunity”.

Other Labour MPs, including Richard Burgon, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Emma Dent Coad also supported the protest.

Left wing Labour group Momentum also sent an email out on its national mailing list calling on them to join a protest near them. These are signs that the Labour left feel confident to oppose bombing after an YouGov opinion poll showed just 22 percent of people support the airstrikes.

Only a handful of right wing Labour MPs publicly supported the bombing, such as Mike Gapes who said Corbyn had “betrayed” Syrians for not backing intervention sooner.

The Labour Party today said the airstrikes were “legally questionable”, and published a legal opinion that said the legal justification for airstrikes was “significantly flawed”.

Yet legal or not, the airstrikes were an outrage. Even if MPs had approved the airstrikes, it would have been right to oppose them—just as Corbyn opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq despite its go-ahead from parliament.

One protester, Grace, told Socialist Worker, “It’s arrogant and self-righteous for Trump and May to believe they can bomb anywhere they want, without asking parliament or the United Nations or the Syrian people.

“But the bombing would still be wrong if May had got the backing of parliament. Tt would have been the same outcome, just with the backing of more ignorant, self-righteous politicians”.


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