Socialist Worker

Military families peace camp goes ahead

by Esme Choonara
Issue No. 2019

Rose Gentle and Lynda Holmes (Pic: Dave Swanson)

Rose Gentle and Lynda Holmes (Pic: Dave Swanson)

Military families campaigning against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are delighted to have won the right to set up a peace camp In Manchester's Peace Gardens, an area in the city centre that borders Albert Square, the assembly point for tomorrow's demonstration. The council had originally refused the families permission to hold a protest camp, but backed down at the last minute.

The families, who will spend two or three nights camping out, can see the luxury hotel where Tony Blair will stay from their tents. They are determined that both Blair and whoever is going to replace him will have to hear their protests.

Lynda Holmes told Socialist Worker that her son has recently returned from Iraq. 'I am here to bring all the troops home,' she said. 'My son was in Basra working for a minimum wage in scorching temperatures with very little sleep. I don't see why he should be risking his life for an illegal war. We hope that tomorrow Tony Blair will take notice of us, and that whoever takes over from Blair will also take notice of us, because our campaign is not going away.'

Pauline Hickey's son was killed in Iraq. She told Socialist Worker why she had come to Manchester. 'My son was killed in Iraq last year. I have been liaising with Blair but I haven't had any satisfactory answers.

'I believe that this war is illegal and I want Blair to be accountable for what he has done. When my son was killed, I started to look into the question of the war. I couldn't believe that someone would lie about something so big. The war was an ego trip and a war for power. The Iraqis are asking our troops to go, but Blair's government is not listening - how can they say that is about democracy?'

The camp is in a busy part of the city centre behind the Town Hall. Janet Lowrie, whose son has recently returned from Iraq, said that they had received a lot of support from people walking past the camp. She said that she had traveled from Glasgow to join the camp, 'to try to get the troops out of Iraq and to get more people to protest with us.'

The camp has also been supported by local people who have brought food down. A restaurant in North Manchester that has been involved in the Stop the War Coalition for some time brought curries for the families on Thursday night to welcome them to Manchester. Someone else donated breakfast.

The mother of a serving soldier came from Chester to support the camp after reading about it in the newspaper. 'My son is serving in Basra at the moment. When I heard about the camp and felt that I should come and support it. The government don't care at all. They don't care about the impact on the families. I am annoyed about the lack of equipment. My son had a foot complaint - he couldn't get any medication.'

Many of the families feel that they will have to keep campaigning whoever replaces Blair. George Solomou, who quit the Territorial Army because he opposed the Iraq war, said, 'We are going from strength to strength. It is a sign of our growing influence that we can set up a camp outside Blair's hotel. The majority of the public are with us and now we need to tip the politicians into stopping this barbaric war. Brown will be no different to Blair. He helped to write Blair's policies.'

Margaret Middleton appealed to people to make stand and join the demonstration. She said, 'I am here to support the military families - my nephew is just back from Iraq. It is time for everyone to stand up, not just to talk about it, but to make a stand. Our message is not just to Tony Blair, it is to all of the government. This has to stop.'

For full coverage of the demonstration go to Reports and video of Manchester Time to Go demonstration

George Solomou

George Solomou

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