Final preparations are underway ahead of today’s anti-war demonstration, co-organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Thousands are expected, with coaches bringing campaigners from over 30 towns and cities nationwide. Polls consistently show over 70 percent of the public support the immediate withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan.
The march from Hyde Park (assembling at noon and departing at 1pm) will be followed by a rally in Trafalgar Square from 2:15. Speakers will include Joe Glenton – who, after serving six months in military jail for refusing to return to Afghanistan, yesterday handed back his medal to 10 Downing Street.
The demonstration is timed to coincide with the NATO summit in Portugal where David Cameron, Barack Obama and the leaders of other NATO member states will debate the quagmire of Afghanistan as well as seek to agree a new ‘Strategic Concept’ for the alliance. One of the major flashpoints is expected to be the presence of Cold War-era nuclear weapons still deployed in Europe. Several of the host countries, led by Germany, are calling for their withdrawal whereas other – non-host states – are fighting for the 200 or so free fall nuclear bombs to be kept.
Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said “Yesterday saw the 100th British combat death in Afghanistan this year, yet the Government wants us to stay there until 2015. That is five years too long. How many more will die by then? Why should countless lives and billions of pounds be poured into an effort which is clearly part of the problems of Afghanistan, not part of their solution. All forces in Afghan society need to come to an accommodation. NATO tactics, with frequent targeting errors causing mass civilian casualties, only serve to deepen the insurgency. Polls show over 70 percent of Britons want the troops brought home, yet none of the major parties seem to be listening. We need to end this bloody war and bring the troops home now!”
Commenting on the NATO summit she continued, “NATO talks about a post-Cold War policy, but two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall it seems likely proposals to withdraw US nuclear weapons from Europe will be blocked. The countries that host these bombs want them gone, but NATO looks set to keep these weapons of mass destruction there, against their will”.
In a statement to be read at the demonstration, Ken Livingstone said “We must end this war that adds to a vicious circle in which Muslims are seen as the enemy without and within which in turn acts as a breeding ground for racism and fascism. The war in Afghanistan now seems like a war without end. Nearly ten years since it started there is no real clear sense of when this conflict will be brought to a halt. It is not surprising that there is so much opposition to the war in working class communities. People can see that their loved ones are being sent to fight in a war that seems to have no clear military objectives. This is the month we commemorate those who have been killed and wounded in war. Yet at the same time we are sending more young people into battle. We should honour those who lost their lives in past wars by stopping present and future wars.”
Demonstration and rally name: ‘Afghanistan: Time to Go’
Organisers: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Stop the War Coalition and British Muslim Initiative
Demonstration assembles North Carriage Drive, Speakers Corner, Hyde Park at 12 noon
March begins at 1PM
Route: North Carriage Drive out of Hyde Park, along Park Lane, Piccadilly, Regent Street, Pall Mall to Trafalgar Square
Speeches in Trafalgar Square from around 2.15
Expected end time 4PM