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Year 2001 No. 159, September 24, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Peace Vigils and Anti-War Protests

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Peace Vigils and Anti-War Protests

Plan for Anti-War Blockades

Peace Protesters Gather At Air Base

Plaid Cymru Conference Hears Plea for Peaceful Solution

Viasystems announces further closure:
"How We Are Going to Make Ourselves Special in the Future"

Government Announces Funding to Strengthen Links between Universities and Industry

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Peace Vigils and Anti-War Protests

LONDON

Anti-war protesters have taken to the streets of London, Glasgow and other cities to voice their opposition to any move for the British and US governments to launch military retaliation in the "war against terrorism".

An impressive crowd of more than 4,000 gathered outside Downing Street in London at 2pm on Saturday, September 22. The crowd stood between four and five deep. CND had produced 1000 A4 posters: "Stand shoulder to shoulder for peace & justice. No more violence." Some held them up alongside white flowers. Most of the crowd were wearing black. The wording "shoulder to shoulder" mocked Tony Blair’s description of Britain’s political and military relationship with the US administration

The protest came a day after Tony Blair finished his tour of Europe and North America to drum up support for the "war against terrorism" coalition.

People shared their posters near 3 pm so that everyone could sign the backs of them, and they were then collected by CND officials and delivered to Downing Street by the Chair of CND, along with Bruce Kent, Tony Benn, and a delegation of children.

Pilgrim Tucker, a post-graduate student from London, said that she and her daughter, Poppy, were there to show their opposition to military strikes. "At the moment, they are just not justified," she said. "On the present evidence, a jury could not convict Osama bin Laden. It would be thrown out of court. It is the public who suffered in New York. They will suffer in the Middle East."

CND chair Carol Naughton said the organisation opposed any military strike, and warned Tony Blair and US President George W Bush that they risked being seen as terrorists themselves if they used any violent action.

"Any military strike is going to kill yet more civilians who don’t deserve to die, in the same way as the Americans didn’t deserve to die," she said. "It will only create a spiral of violence and it will create a huge uprising against the US and, possibly, Britain. I would not condone any act of terrorism, but any action should be done through the proper channels."

Carol Naughton said even a very targeted strike by special forces would risk incurring civilian casualties. "There can’t be any kind of military strike. We’ve seen precision go wrong before, killing bunkers of women and children. All it will do is create terrorists out of Bush and Blair."

There is a huge rally called to take place in Hyde Park on October 13.

GLASGOW

In Glasgow, around 1,000 anti-war demonstrators took part in a rally organised by the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. They held placards that read: "The world needs Justice not Vengeance", "No more Innocent Victims" and "Scatter Bread not Bombs on Afghanistan".

Although called at very short notice the event was one of the largest rallies of its kind for several years in Glasgow. Plans are being made to hold another rally in a week’s time.

The event in Glasgow’s George Square began with a minute’s silence in memory of the thousands of people who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks.

Speakers at the demonstration, held under the banner of "no more innocent victims" and "justice not vengeance", included Tommy Sheridan, leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, anti-racism campaigner Aamer Anwar, and representatives of the Scottish Green Party, trade unions and Strathclyde firefighters.

Strong speeches made links between the Britain’s treatment of refugees, the recent racist murder in Glasgow, and the opening of a detention centre for asylum seekers in Lanark with the plight of ordinary Afghans now that the borders have been closed and food aid cut off. The message came over loud and clear that retaliatory military action by the US and Britain for the terrible attacks would be just as immoral.

Tommy Sheridan told the crowd to "take strength" from the force of their numbers and build a coalition of opposition to the "war on terrorism". He called on people to gather again in George Square if military strikes were launched against Afghanistan, to show their opposition. He said: "I appeal to everyone to become involved in a broad-based anti-war movement, a broad-based movement for peace and for equality throughout the world."

Mohamed Asif, an Afghan refugee, urged politicians to think before enforcing any further suffering on the people of his native country. He told the rally that whoever perpetrated the attacks on the US should be brought to justice. But he said that this must not be at the expense of innocent people in Afghanistan.

Mohamed Asif said that after 23 years of conflict there is nothing left to be bombed or destroyed in Afghanistan. He said that he thought that innocent people are going to die in Afghanistan and we will see another New York or Washington in Afghanistan very soon. "We hope that this will not happen," he said.

Brian Quail, joint secretary of Scottish CND, said sympathy for those who died in the atrocity should not be used as an excuse for acts of retaliation against innocent victims. He said: "We demand that those responsible for the dreadful deeds in New York and Washington be brought to justice, but we will not uphold the calls for retaliation on more innocent victims, because the killing of innocent people cannot be justified as compensation for the loss of other victims. It is an elementary and immutable principle that two wrongs don’t make a right."

Buses at the rally then took a sizeable proportion of the crowd to join a protest at the detention centre starting later in the day.

Scottish CND plan to hold a meeting to form a coalition between human rights, peace, church, trade union and environmental organisations later this week.

An email / phone tree is being organised and people in Scotland are being asked to go to George Square or The Mound in Edinburgh from 5pm onwards in the event of the US taking military action or to organise their own vigil in their own towns.

Contact Scottish CND: 0141 423 1222 for more details.

BIRMINGHAM

On Saturday, September 22, over 100 people took part in a vigil in Birmingham to raise concerns about the US imperialist war machinations in the aftermath of the New York disaster.

The gathering was organised by West Midlands Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (WMCND) and assembled in Chamberlain Square. Taking part were students, religious people of different denominations including a large contingent of Muslims, councillors, workers and trades unionists, and a large number of women. There were representatives of a variety of political parties and organisations.

A large number of people signed the CND petition, which urges the British government to seek justice through international law and not by military means, not to take part in any military retaliation, and to refuse the US the use of any base in the UK for military retaliation.

The peace movement is in the process of stepping up its activity in Birmingham against war preparations and is calling for unity in action of all forces interested in its aims.

MANCHESTER

More than 300 attended an event in Manchester, demanding that there should be no military strikes. Protesters marched from the Peace Gardens to Fountain Street before congregating in Royal Exchange Square, where there was a short speech.

NOTTINGHAM

Concerned individuals gathered in Nottingham’s market square on Saturday to protest against the possible war. Between 200 - 300 people turned out to stand shoulder to shoulder for peace and justice.

The response from most of the public was good with lots of people wanting to sign the petitions that were going around. Lots of people had candles and some had placards saying "Justice Not Blind Vengeance" and "Stand Shoulder To Shoulder For Peace And Justice". The turnout was big in view of the fact that the demonstration had been organised with only a day’s notice.

NEWCASTLE

There was a Vigil for Peace and Justice on Saturday, September 22, at 3 pm at the War Memorial by St Thomas’ Church, Haymarket, Newcastle.

BELGIUM

Anti-war protesters also took to the streets of the Belgian city of Liege under an anti-war banner on Saturday, where European Union finance ministers were meeting to discuss how to respond to the World Trade Centre attacks. Around 1,000 demonstrators marched on the barricaded conference centre where the summit was being held.

Article Index



Plan for Anti-War Blockades

Peace protesters will blockade military facilities across the country in an attempt to paralyse the British war machine if a campaign of retaliative strikes begins.

A new coalition of peace protesters, anti-globalisation campaigners and some Muslim community leaders have considered an array of tactics including sit-down protests at the gates of major military facilities. The coalition firmly opposes any military retaliation.

"The British role in these strikes is essential," said Mike Marqusee, leading some of the protests. "Blockades will almost certainly happen. Britain, in the eyes of the world, is the same as the United States. As this conflict drags on, there will be acts of civil disobedience across the country. But all this will be non-violent."

It is understood that protesters consider Menwith Hill – the British home of US surveillance equipment near Harrogate – to be a target. Staff at RAF Menwith Hill are warning local residents not to be alarmed if they hear warning sirens from the base over the next couple of days. Security drills and exercises will be practised by base staff over the coming weeks, together with an increase of patrols by Ministry of Defence and North Yorkshire police. RAF Station Commander Squadron Leader Humphrey Vincent said he hoped neighbouring communities would not be over-alarmed at the measures. "The base, in keeping with other US-affiliated bases worldwide is operating a high-security posture," he said. "We regret any traffic congestion some of our security measures may cause on the roads immediately adjacent to the base."

At a meeting on Friday evening at Friends House in London, over 300 people were forced to stand outside in the street as the building was filled with trade union delegates, anti-globalisation protesters and Muslim community leaders.

Guy Taylor, a spokesman for Globalise Resistance, said they did not believe special forces attacks against terrorist targets would work, and that the "war on terrorism" was infeasible. "It seems a bit strange to declare war on a tactic," he said. He added that the group had ruled out direct action, such as laying siege to military facilities, for the time being. "But we will have to wait and see," he added. "We already have a huge peace movement and no bombs have dropped yet."

Article Index



Peace Protesters Gather At Air Base

British and American peace protesters have stood shoulder to shoulder outside a United States Air Force base to oppose any military reprisals following the terror attacks on New York and Washington.

About 30 people joined the peaceful protest at the weekend, organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at the base at Lakenheath, Suffolk, the biggest USAF installation in Europe.

The protesters included Buddhist Craig Hickman-Havorson, who has dual American and British nationality, and whose father Melvin was a US Air Force master sergeant based at nearby Mildenhall.

"I have relatives in America and I have every sympathy with the relatives of people who have suffered in these atrocities – as does everyone here," said Craig Hickman-Havorson. "I just don’t think that a military strike is the answer. That will just make matters worse, and more people will suffer."

He added: "My father is dead now. I don’t really know what he would think of my point of view, but I think maybe he would respect it and understand my feelings."

Article Index



Plaid Cymru Conference Hears Plea for Peaceful Solution

Monica Mahoney, a New Yorker whose friend was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, has called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

She told Plaid Cymru’s conference in Cardiff that world leaders must stop President George W Bush from responding with further barbarism. Monica Mahoney thanked the people of Wales for their empathy, tenderness and support.

She added: "When I hear President Bush speak, I fear that America runs the risk of becoming a lone ranger. This is not the wild west, this is not the time to get your rifle and form a posse. I urge Tony Blair and the rest of the world’s leaders to act as good counsel to him. We cannot, in the name of civilisation, exercise our own aggression and barbarism – that is true hypocrisy."

Monica Mahoney, who moved to Wales in 1993 and stood for Plaid Cymru at the General Election, lost a high school friend in the atrocity. She said the rescuers were of all faiths, making it clear the terrorists were not acting on behalf of Islam. She said New York’s firefighters, hailed around the world for their heroism, had been covered in ash – not just from the buildings, but the ash of "their friends, family and neighbours". She added: "They were covered in the sediment of hate."

Article Index



Viasystems announces further closure:

"How We Are Going to Make Ourselves Special in the Future"

In another shock announcement last Thursday, large US electronics multinational Viasystems announced that in addition to the closure of its plant in Longbenton, North Tyneside and redundancies in South Shields it was closing the South Shields factory which employs 1,100. The company closed the Longbenton factory after the shutdown and is to make the 550 workers redundant and was also making 325 redundant at the remaining South Shields plant. Now this announcement means that the South Shields plant, which is the largest manufacturing employer in South Tyneside, will close also.

David Milliband, MP for South Shields, responded by writing in the South Shields Gazette: "We’ll fight back". What this "fight back" amounts to is a joint approach to the receiver "to ensure the community’s needs are clearly put on the table". Secondly, support from government agencies with "help with jobs applications, help with retraining, help with transport". And thirdly a "new business plan or South Tyneside" which will "exploit our advantages like the foreshore, support existing business and build new ones". He said that we need to "decide how we are going to make ourselves special in the future, and then demand backing for our vision".

Such a stand reveals the main role of that the government plays in supporting interests of the global monopolies whether their investment is "inward" or "outward". Their only interest is to ameliorate the devastation which is being caused by these global monopolies and the "communities needs" are only those that relate to "job applications", "retraining", and "transport" so that they can work if they are lucky for some new inward investor. At the same time, a "new business plan" where even more money is handed over to these companies is where the real support is given by government so that these companies can make maximum profits before they move on somewhere else. All the workers can do is "make ourselves special in the future" so that some new investor will be attracted and this is all presented as a "vision" for the future by New Labour.

The issue for the workers "to make ourselves special in the future" is to impose their own vision for society by taking up politics in a serious way and by breaking the ties and arrangements that shackle and block the workers’ movement. If society has "modern values", which Tony Blair is so fond of saying when he is trying to impose on the world, even by means of war, the same economic devastation which he is trying to impose at home, then our modern values start with the right of all to a livelihood. They start with a society that meets those. The only way out of this crisis of inward and outward investment and this vision being imposed at home and abroad is to start to take up the task of building the Workers' Opposition. Such a task has the perspective of putting an end to the block that is being placed on building a balanced and independent economy and in which the rights and interests of the producers are paramount. The global monopolies should be stopped from taking more out of the economy than is put in and the economy developed to meet the needs of the people and society as a whole.

From North East Workers and Politics, Vol. 1 No. 6, September 24

Article Index



Government Announces Funding to Strengthen Links between Universities and Industry

At a time when there is growing concern over the under-funding of Higher Education, the government has announced plans to spend over £1m over the next four years to strengthen ties between universities and industry in order to "boost business success".

The government will provide funds worth up to £25,000 per year to allow eleven academics or "Business Fellows" at universities and higher education colleges to spend part of their time advising companies on "technical and research problems". According to the government, the academics will be "helping to stimulate wider ranging Higher Education-business networks", and the so-called Business Fellowship Initiative will "help enhance teaching and research programmes for the benefit of students, employers and the economy".

Commenting on the Business Fellowship initiative, which was first announced in a White Paper last year, Lord Sainsbury, the Science and Innovation Minister, claimed that "the transfer of knowledge and expertise from universities to business helps in the development of new products and ways of working, and in identifying new services and markets". He concluded that "this initiative will forge stronger links between higher education and industry and promote innovation".

The government’s Business Fellowship initiative is yet a further example of its "Third Way" approach to higher education and the education system in general. Higher education is increasingly becoming "market-led", administered as any other commercial enterprise and geared to the needs of business. There is a growing emphasis on the provision of vocational training and skills – business studies and IT – and the pressure that research should be carried out which is useful to business or which can attract commercial funding. Rather than viewing the provision of education as an investment in the future of society and necessary to prepare all citizens to play their full role in society it is being reduced to whatever serves the needs of big business.

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