Socialist Worker

Vigils around Britain over death of 100th British soldier

Issue No. 1986

Former US serviceman Ron Senchak with local StWC convenor Nahella Ashraf in Manchester

Former US serviceman Ron Senchak with local StWC convenor Nahella Ashraf in Manchester's Peace Gardens (Pic: Richard Searle)


People took part in vigils and protests across Britain this week after the tragic death of the 100th British soldier in Iraq. The anti-war protesters demanded that British troops are withdrawn immediately from Iraq. In many places protesters read out the names of the British and Iraqi dead.

Over 150 people gathered outside parliament on Tuesday evening after the announcement of the death of the 100th British soldier. Tony Benn and Respect MP George Galloway read out the names of the dead. A number of students and school students joined the vigil.


Manchester

On Wednesday over 100 people gathered in Manchester's Peace Gardens. After the naming of the dead ceremony protesters walked the short route to the city's war cenotaph to lay a wreath of 100 white poppies and to hold a minute's silence.

This event and the death of the 100th British soldier in Iraq has been a big local news event. The local BBC radio sent journalists to the city centre during the day to do vox pop interviews with the public on the issue of Iraq. They admitted that they could find no one in support of continuing the British presence in Iraq.

Other vigils took place in Stockport, Bolton and Bury.

Richard Searle


Cardiff

Around 50 people attended a vigil in Queen Street, Cardiff on Wednesday.

Local Stop the War Coalition publicity officer Adam Johannes said, 'What we want to see is no more British troops dying in this illegal occupation. Tony Blair should take the advice of opinion polls and bring the troops home.'

Labour councillor Ray Davies, who served in the King's Own Regiment, in the 1940s, said, 'I'm totally against this war because we've got Saddam on trial for killing 1,500 Iraqi people, but we've already killed 100.000 Iraqi people. This occupation must stop.'

Des Mannay


Clapham Junction

About 20 people turned up for a vigil outside Clapham Junction station in south London on Wednesday.

At first we were handing out leaflets in silence, with little success.

But that changed when we started to use a megaphone for the naming the dead ceremony, alternating the names of UK soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

We got a good response from commuters, and after an hour we'd given out 1,000 leaflets.

Ben Windsor


Watford

Anti-war campaigners held a candlelit vigil in St Mary's Square in the centre of Watford. The vigil was attended by two local councillors, the Liberal Democrat Maria Green and Steve Rackett of the Green Party.

Jon Gamble


Broadstairs

People in Broadstairs, Kent, gathered at the War memorial on Wednesday.

Group member Christine Tongue said, 'The hundred dead British soldiers are a terrible loss, but of course this is on top of the dead soldiers from other countries and the many thousands of Iraqi dead.

'There are not even official figures for the numbers of Iraqis killed in the war.

'The forces of occupation are part of the problem not part of the solution. They should leave now.'


Southend

Some 20 protesters gathered outside Southend’s Victoria station for a candlelight vigil. Hundreds of leaflets were distributed to office workers and students.

We had a very positive response – many people were strongly in our favour. The deaths have obviously touched a nerve with a lot of people who are sick of the endless war and the inevitable casualties.

Tim Sneller


Plymouth

Students from Plymouth University Stop the War group held a peace vigil by the main entrance to the campus. Activists organised the making of 100 white crosses marked with the names of the dead soldiers. Many students signed petitions for the troops to be withdrawn, and for the student union to fund transport to the national demonstration in March.

A group of new students were moved enough to join the StWC members as we marched through the city with the 100 crosses, and plaques remembering the Iraqi dead, and placed them around the city’s war memorial.

It was clear that the message resonated strongly in a city with such close military connections, and the general sentiment expressed by the passers by was that the troops should be withdrawn, and this unnecessary war stopped.

Alison Smith


Kirkcaldy

Fife Stop the War Coalition held a one hour vigil in Kirkcaldy.

A group of 18 individuals gathered to remember the dead of the Iraq war.

One hundred candles were lit and members of the group read out the names of the 100 British soldiers as well as the names of 100 Iraqi civilians.

“We are all deeply saddened by the death of another young soldier in Iraq,” said Carlo Morelli of Fife Stop the War Coalition. “It was particularly poignant to hear each name read aloud and deeply saddening to realise that the Iraqi names only represented a small fraction of the civilians killed.”

Jan Benvie, treasurer of the group, spent six weeks last summer in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams.

“This war has ravaged an already fragile country.” said Jan “Iraq was once prosperous, but Saddam’s war against Iran, his invasion of Kuwait and years of sanctions have destroyed the infrastructure. Everyone I spoke to wanted the foreign troops to leave.

'Our continued presence only prolongs the suffering both of families in this country and of people in Iraq.”


Coventry

Some 60 people attended a vigil on the steps of Coventry Cathedral. Their grief and anger was visible as the names of 100 dead British soldiers and 100 dead Iraqis were read out.

The overall message from the many present who signed up for the national demo on 18 March was a continued determination to protest until the occupation is ended and the slaughter stopped.

Dave Goodfield


Liverpool

Around 100 people gathered in Liverpool on Wednesday. Liverpudlians marked more unnecessary bloodshed for oil and corporate profits.

“Brave soldiers should not die for Shell, Exxon Mobil and the Carlyle Group,” said Mark Holt, chairman of the Merseyside Stop The War Coalition. “It’s a joke that the Blair administration refuses to mark the 100th death fearing they’ll be doing ‘the terrorists dirty work’. The Bush/Blair war has created thousands of new terrorists. If Blair won’t remember the deaths then we will.”

Mark Henzel, Carly Neill, Martin Timpson, and Father Fitzgerald of St. Michael's church read out the names of the dead soldiers, as well as 100 names of killed Iraqis.

Local clergy, CND members, Iraqi citizens and working class Scousers all lit candles for the fallen troops. Bob Wareing, MP for Liverpool West Derby, sent his support.

Stuart Brown


Hackney

Over 50 people protested outside Hackney Town Hall in east London. A full council meeting was in session and the Stop the War vigil joined demonstrators already protesting against the New Labour council's privatisation and cuts plans.

Demonstrators had no difficulty relating the terrible cost of the occupation in lives and money to New Labour's endless cuts and sell offs in Britain.

Ken Olende


Cambridge

Around 70 peace activists gathered outside the guildhall in Cambridge to light candles and read out the names of British soldiers and Iraqis killed in the War and occupation of Iraq.

Dan Swain, of the Cambridge University student union executive said in a personal capacity, 'We want to send a very clear message to Tony Blair that the war was wrong and based on false information and so is the occupation. We don't want to see any more British soldiers die.'

Tom Woodcock


Norwich

Around 30 people attended the candle lit vigil outside the Forum in the centre of Norwich outside the offices of BBC radio Norfolk and Archant’s Eastern Daily Press. Two Stop the War Coalition members alternatively read names of British and Iraqi casualties punctuated by intervals of silence.

Earlier interviews and notification of the event had been broadcast on Radio Broadland and Radio Norfolk along with coverage in the local Evening News.


Southampton

Around 30 people braved the freezing cold on Wednesday night to join a lively protest outside Southampton Civic Centre. Protesters held a banner calling for 'Troops Out Now' and led anti-war chants demanding an end to the occupation.

Steve Squibbs


Nottingham

Up to 100 people, including school students, students and local workers, stretched a line of 100 coffin-shaped placards right across the steps of the fake imperial facade of Nottingham's council house.

Each placard, edged in black, showed the name of one of the British service personnel killed so far in Iraq. Speakers from the local Stop the War Coalition pointed out the names of Lance Corporal Thomas Keys and Fusilier Gordon Gentle, whose relatives have done so much for Military Families Against the War.

We emphasised that although we were marking the 100th British death, we were also there to remember the 100,000 Iraqi dead, and the 2,200 US dead. We wanted an end to the occupation and an end to the killing. The names of the 100 were read.

In less than an hour passers by in the Old Market Square took virtually every one of our 1,000 leaflets, which explained why we were there, why we wanted the troops out now, and urged them to join the national demonstration in London on 18 March.

We have decided to repeat the event this Saturday morning.

John Shemeld


Bristol

A hundred and sixty five protesters gathered in Bristol city centre on Wednesday. There were a wide range of impresive banners, with slogans including, 'Unelected state assassin', and 'Rich man's war, poor man's blood: How many lives per gallon?'.

The spirit of the demonstration was very much one of seeing the accumulated Iraqi dead and the dead British soldiers as common victims of Bush and Blair's law-breaking and gangsterism in the MIddle East - a war against the interests of ordinary people. Various people took part in the reading out of the names of alternate British and Iraqi dead through the megaphone.

This was interspersed by the singing of various rousing protest songs by the local Red Notes socialist choir.


Leeds

Despite the freezing weather almost 100 people attended the vigil in Leeds Town Centre on Wednesday. They included Greg Mulholland, the Leeds North West Lib Dem MP.

People walked in silence behind two banners – one with the names of the 100 dead British soldiers and the other with the statement, “100,000 Iraqis dead – stop the slaughter, end the occupation”. White flowers were laid on the cenotaph.

Greg Mulholland, Leeds Coalition Against the War, Respect, the Grand Mosque, the Labour Party and a representative from World Peace all spoke. People took leaflets away with a determination to make sure 18 March was as big as possible.

Sally Kincaid, Co-chair Leeds Coalition Against the War


Dundee

Some 40 council workers, students, representatives of Dundee Trades Council, the Scottish Socialist Party, World Development Movement and Dundee Stop the War Coalition attended the vigil in Dundee on Wednesday.

Reverend Eric Cram spoke in memory of the dead, and his words were followed by a minute’s silence.

Peter Allison


Glasgow

Three hundred people braved the bitter cold on Wednesday evening to fill Glasgow's Suspension Bridge, crossing the River Clyde, to show their solidarity with military families speaking out against the occupation of Iraq and solidarity with the Iraqi people.

The turnout showed once again our movement is alive and kicking, although the mood was a sombre one. Beginning with a minutes silence the protestors started what was a very powerful and moving event.

Rose Gentle and her daughter Pamela began the naming of the dead. They were joined by a local Labour councillor, a Glasgow actor and actress, a reverend from the Church of Scotland, Palestinian human rights activists, members of Glasgow Stop the War, and Glasgow University Stop the War, SCND, Islamic Relief, Campaign Against an Attack on Iran, G8 Alternatives, SSP, plus members of the EIS & NUJ trade unions.

Raymie Kiernan


Brighton

Around 50-60 peace protesters gathered in Brighton on Wednesday for a candlelit vigil.

It was a good mix of people, including newcomers who hadn't been to other protests. A group of 10 to 15 children from the left wing Woodcraft Folk movement attended with their group leaders.

The names of 100 Iraqi dead were read out by Omar Deghayes' brother while a peace activist read out the names of the 100 British soldiers.

Speakers included representatives from the Brighton and Hove Muslim Forum and the Save Omar Deghayes Campaign. They all spoke very movingly, making it clear that we mourn all the unnecessary deaths in this war and are determined to continue in our opposition to the illegal occupation of Iraq.

Cath Senker


Birmingham

Around 150 people came the vigil on Wednesday. Susan Smith, whose son Phillip Hewitt died in the war last July spoke of her anger at her son’s death, those of other soldiers, and all the mothers just like her in Iraq. Salma Yaqoob, chair of Birmingham Stop the War, also spoke.

The rally had a good contingent of students.

Helen Salmon


Portsmouth

Thirty people marched to thge war memorial in Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square on Wednesday afternoon. We read out statements from Rose Gentle, Reg Keys and Cindy Sheehan who have all lost sons in the war.

Ex-servicemen laid a wreath at the war memorial and we then picketed the army recruitment office.

John Molyneux

The vigil on the Suspension Bridge in Glasgow (Pic: Duncan Brown)

The vigil on the Suspension Bridge in Glasgow (Pic: Duncan Brown)


Protesters in Liverpool (Pic: Rob Bremner)

Protesters in Liverpool (Pic: Rob Bremner)



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Sat 4 Feb 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1986
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