By Judy Cox
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1837

Anti-war fever is sweeping Britain

This article is over 18 years, 11 months old
AROUND 50 TGWU shop stewards at a Vauxhall car plant on Merseyside heard a representative of the Stop the War Coalition at their union meeting last week. It is a sign of how the anti-war movement is reaching down into individual workplaces, estates, schools and colleges.
Issue 1837

AROUND 50 TGWU shop stewards at a Vauxhall car plant on Merseyside heard a representative of the Stop the War Coalition at their union meeting last week. It is a sign of how the anti-war movement is reaching down into individual workplaces, estates, schools and colleges.

There was a serious discussion among the Vauxhall car workers about what action to take if Bush and Blair launch their war. They agreed to donate £500 towards the train booked from Liverpool to the 15 February demonstration.

The train drivers’ Aslef union and the postal workers’ CWU have also made donations. Neil from Bury reports, ‘There have been donations for our transport of £50 from Bury NUT, £75 from a local Amicus-MSF branch and £100 from Salford Mental Health Unison.’

Unison members at the SOAS university in central London have passed a motion pledging to support members who take strike action in protest at the outbreak of war. Students at universities across Britain are building for the anti-war march. There are already 12 coaches each booked from Cambridge University and Manchester University.

One student at University College London held a meeting in his hall of residence and 15 students turned up. The anti-war mood is also sweeping through schools and sixth form colleges.

A London sixth form student reports, ‘Over 100 school students attended a debate between Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition and a representative from the US embassy at La Swap sixth form in Camden. By the end the US representative had to beat a retreat from questions he couldn’t answer.’

Some 65 students and staff attended a lunchtime anti-war meeting at one site of Southwark College on Tuesday of last week. Year 7 and Year 8 students from Ilfracombe College are making placards and a banner at lunchtimes to be taken on the demo.

School students from Sherwood at Bilborough College are organising their own coach. One Cirencester school student has bought 13 tickets, while another bought ten for friends at a school in Cheltenham.

Sean teaches at City and Islington College, north London. He has helped to turn the college enrichment programme into a ‘Peace Week’, with debates on the war and asylum seekers. Ms Dynamite is hoping to take part.

It only takes one or two to get the anti-war movement started in any estate. Dave from Torrington in Devon reports, ‘Last Saturday morning a local woman rang asking for my help in an anti-war protest she was holding at 10am. When I arrived the town hall was decorated with posters and a peace banner.’

Two activists in Somers Town, north London, organised a meeting on their estate and ten people turned up. Nine people came to a meeting in Clapton, east London, after just two streets were leafleted. Some 17 people came to a meeting in the Park Hill council estate in Sheffield last Sunday.

Rita leafleted a few streets round the council estate she lives on in Prestwich. Six people turned up to the anti-war meeting, all wanting to build the march. Colin from Chorlton in Manchester reports, ‘There are already seven coaches from our area to the demonstration, plus a local mosque is running two more.

‘Two sixth form students have recruited more than 20 from their college to come. ‘I’m a shamefaced Labour Party member,’ a local activist told us as he booked his family on the buses. ‘All the rest of my family has left the Labour Party. I don’t know how much more I can take’.’

Bea from Heeley in Sheffield described a 200-strong meeting with local MP Meg Munn, who supports the war. Bea said, ‘The MP was heckled by a man who came into the meeting supporting the war and changed his mind during the discussion.’

Two thirds of councillors in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets have signed a statement opposing war under any circumstances and calling on residents to join the march. Sheffield City Council has voted to oppose war on Iraq. There were around 80 councillors present and the anti-war argument triumphed.

Hound ministers

NEW LABOUR ministers cannot show their faces in public without anti-war campaigners having a go. Defence secretary Geoff Hoon cancelled a recent meeting in Brixton, south London, when over 200 people turned up to demonstrate against him.

Then Hoon faced 150 protesters at the Connah’s Quay Labour Club in North Wales on Thursday of last week. Richard from Chester reports, ‘Hoon was there to try to whip local Labour Party members into line.

‘Labour Party officials and MPs tried to ignore our attempts to make a citizen’s arrest on Hoon for conspiracy to conduct mass murder. All the questions put to him from the floor were antagonistic to Bush and Blair’s invasion plans. In this area Chester is now filling its third coach. Wrexham and Mold are sending their own coaches, and the small towns of Ruthin and Llangollen are sending two between them!’

Martin from Hull reports, ‘We confronted deputy prime minister John Prescott last Saturday and drove him from the central square of his own city. Prescott had just ordered food at a local chippy when anti-war activists asked him, ‘Why are you thinking of murdering innocent children?’ Outside Prescott was confronted again as an activist tried to put an anti-war sticker on his coat. A small crowd gathered but Prescott briskly walked away with his minder in tow.’

Hannah from north London reports, ‘Tessa Jowell was in for a nasty shock when she tried to hurry past protesters outside the new Talacre sports centre in Kentish Town last Sunday. Jowell was there to support the Labour candidate in a local by-election. The firefighter standing for the Socialist Alliance joined our protest.’

‘It’s like an electric shock’

THOUSANDS OF people again took to the streets across Britain last weekend to protest against the war.

  • ‘Swansea was brought to a standstill last Saturday as nearly 2,000 people marched against the war,’ said Martin Chapman. ‘It was led by striking firefighters. Over 80 coach tickets were sold. There are now 16 coaches set to travel to London.’
  • Up to 400 people marched through Hull on Sunday to an anti-war gig at a local club.
  • Some 400 people joined a rally and march to the dockyard in Portsmouth last Saturday. John said, ‘It was especially young and spirited, with several trade union banners. Over 50 tickets were sold to the London march.’
  • Around 250 protesters marched through Luton last Saturday. A coachload of tickets were sold on the protest.
  • Some 200 people joined the weekly vigil in Bristol city centre last Wednesday.
  • Students from Atlantic College in South Wales joined over 200 protesters marching to RAF St Athans last Saturday.
  • Around 270 people attended an anti-war meeting in Swindon on Thursday of last week. ‘The anti-war movement has been like an electric shock to the town,’ said Andy.
  • Some 130 people went to an anti-war meeting in Bathgate, West Lothian, last week.
  • Around 500 people attended an anti-war rally with George Galloway MP and Lindsey German in Birmingham last Saturday. Local anti-war groups held stalls selling coach tickets for the march.
  • Some 80 people attended the first Stop the War Coalition meeting in St Helens on Merseyside on Friday of last week.
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