Monday, December 04, 2006

RAF Brize Norton demo report

Around 800 marched on Saturday.

Overall it was an excellent demo, and did receive press coverage, including the news on Classic FM, an Arabic language Iranian TV channel, and the mass circulation Sunday People.

The turn out was just enough, but is revealing of the current state of organisation of the anti-war movement. I carefully say a problem of“organisation” rather than politics - because while there does need to be a strategic debate about the direction of the anti-war movement, in my opinion the real weaknesses are to do with lack of grass roots confidence and in some areas the peace movement is insufficiently inclusive (so for example we have the ludicrous situation of their being two separate Stop the War groups in Oxford)

Anyway, those towns and groups who did organise for Brize did well, while some other towns didn’t mobilise at all. For example there was a coach from Coventry but not Birmingham, and as many people came from Bristol as from London, which are the same distance. Indeed, nearly as many people came from Reading University as from the whole of London!

I have absolutely no criticisms of the national CND or Stop the war organisations, both of whom worked really well to support the demo. But there does seem to be a weakness generally of the London left who don’t realise that there are 40 million English people outside the M25!

Local activist Brian Shakespeare reads the names of the dead at the base, along with Iraqi, Hayder Sayed. With them are Felicity Arbuthnot and gulf war vet Tony Flint

For me the three highlights of the event were:

i) The deeply moving ceremony at the gates where flowers were laid, the names of the British dead were read by local activist, Brian Shakespeare, and a sample of Iraqi names were read by a Swindon resident Iraqi refugee, Hayder Sayed. The march spontaneously fell silent to hear the names.

ii) The two minutes of silence in the barracks town of Carterton. What was brilliant was that this united the demonstrators and town’s people in a common observance of respect for the dead. All the shoppers in Somerfield’s supermarket, and in the cafĂ©’s and shops observed the silence as well as us.

iii) The inspirational speech by Colin Fox of the Scottish Socialist party. We have an audio recording of this, which I will add a link to later.

The speakers were Lindsay German (Stop the War Coalition), Tony Flint (gulf war veteran and DU victim), Kate Hudson (CND), Felicity Arbuthnot (researcher and journalist), Gwyn from At Ease (independent advice line for service people) , Andrew Murray (Stop the War), Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour), Colin Fox (Scottish Socialist party) and Caroline Lucas MEP (Green).

I also spoke at the beginning on behalf of the local groups who organised the demo. I was very pleased by the way that all the speakers were interesting, and didn’t cover the same ground. Kate Hudson in particular encouraged everyone to throw themselves into the campaign against the obscenity of a Trident replacement.

1 comment:

Louisefeminista said...

Shame, I wish I could have made it though with a knackered knee (hark! I hear the violins in the background..)it would have been very painful for me hobbling along.The demo was flagged up at the Iraq Occupation Focus the other week.

Good that attention was made to Trident replacement as well.