Socialist Worker

Thousands join peace vigils

Issue No. 1987

The vigil in Tower Hamlets (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The vigil in Tower Hamlets (Pic: Guy Smallman)

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The anti-war protesters demanded that British troops are withdrawn immediately from Iraq.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 in London 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.

Three hundred people braved the bitter cold 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.

Rose Gentle and her daughter Pamela began the naming of the dead.

Around 150 people came the vigil in Birmingham 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.

Over 100 people gathered in Manchester’s peace garden. 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.

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

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.”

Students from Plymouth University Stop the War group held a peace vigil. Activists organised the making of 100 white crosses marked with the names of the dead soldiers.

In Watford anti-war campaigners held a candlelit vigil in St Mary’s Square in the town centre.

People in Broadstairs, Kent, gathered at the war memorial. Group member Christine Tongue said, “The 100 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.

“The forces of occupation are part of the problem, not part of the solution. They should leave now.”

Some 150 people gathered in Parliament Square in Edinburgh.

Forty people attended a vigil at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle last Tuesday evening. A further vigil took place on Saturday of last week.

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

“Brave soldiers should not die for Shell, Exxon Mobil and the Carlyle Group,” said Mark Holt, chair 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 war has created thousands of new terrorists. If Blair won’t remember the deaths then we will.”

At 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.

In Nottingham up to 100 people carried placards edged in black, each one showing the name of one of the British service personnel killed so far in Iraq.

Despite the freezing weather almost 100 people attended the vigil in Leeds town centre on Wednesday. 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.

Vigils also took place in Brighton, Clapham Junction, Coventry, Preston, Stockport, Southend, Bolton, Chesterfield, Hackney, Harlow, Cambridge, Kirkcaldy Bury and Portsmouth.

For full reports of all vigils go to Vigils around Britain over death of 100th British soldier

Thanks to Helen Salmon, Richard Searle, Steve Wilcock, Alison Smith, Jon Gamble, Raymie Kiernan, Pat Smith, John Shemeld, Steve Squibbs, Tony Dowling and Sally Kincaid for reports.

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Sat 11 Feb 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1987
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