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Lost City

Stop The War Nottingham Protest: Don't Bomb Syria

2 December 15 words: Bridie Squires

We went down to Speaker's Corner to hear the opinions of the people of Nottingham and to take some photos of the peaceful protest

Alongside nationwide protests against the bombing of Syria following the terrorist attacks on Paris, a Stop The War demonstration gathered in Nottingham on the night the world was due to find out UK Parliament’s final decision.

Hundreds of residents gathered to say that they are not convinced by Cameron’s potential impending move, with speakers and their megaphones iterating a strong message of peace, justice and truth throughout the hour-long meeting of minds.

One speaker claimed the bombs would be dropped in the name lies – that there are 70,000 troops on the ground in Syria, that we can stop ISIS with bombs, and that people who oppose bombing are terrorist sympathisers – and Cameron must take responsibility for these lies. “We need to cut off ISIS backers in the Middle East, the people we are buying oil from, and stop the Saudi Arabian government.” The speaker outlined that the Prime Minister might not lose the argument in Parliament, but he has on the streets, and those people won’t take morality lessons from someone who makes arms deals in the Middle East. He said that Cameron knows the bombs will do nothing, and that this is about prolonged intervention and destabilisation, and that everyone needs to put pressure on the government for a just and free world, including backbench Labour MPs.

Antonia Zenkevitch from the Nottingham Green Party spoke of the fact that we’ve been gathered at similar protests as a city and as a nation far too many times. She said that bombing can never help the situation, that it creates a breeding ground for radicalism, and is the exact reason we have terrorist attacks in the first place. Antonia said that we need to fight islamophobia in Westminster and beyond, and that there are 3million vulnerable people seeking refuge. “Perhaps it is not the migration of people we should be looking at, but the migration of arms,” she said, to applause. “We are the second biggest arms dealers in the world.” Antonia also said one of the most important things to action is looking at the causes of the issues, such as climate change, which caused the initial drought in Syria.

A young Labour party member, Sayed Umaar Kazmi, shamed the politicians voting for military intervention in the Middle East, asking why they have not learned their lessons yet. He said ISIS is the child of the Iraq war, and that he dreads to think what the child of this intervention will be. “These are the same lies Tony Blair told, and Cameron uses the same rhetoric of George Bush,” says Umaar. “We won’t stop being against you. Do not bomb Syria.”

Tom Vincent of the Revolutionary Communist Party and Stop the War Coalition Nottingham spoke of Britain’s role in the world as an imperialist force, pushing forward the message that this military intervention would not be about ISIS, but about continuing the tradition of sucking profits from every corner of the world. He said that the debate has divided many people, but that this is a time to unite in a strong, anti-war message.

After some words from Nadia Whitland – a student who organised a vigil after the recent Paris attacks – about the fact that the countries the UK have entered are not at peace, and the bombing will only cause more civilian deaths, playing into the hands of ISIS, the crowd marched past the council house, down Exchange Walk, up Wheeler Gate, and back to the Brian Clough Statue on Speaker’s Corner.

There were chants of “No justice, no peace, hands off the Middle East,” and “Don’t bomb Syria.”

Placards read:
“Support the Kurds”
“No air strikes”
“Give a hand to Kurdish people”
“Stop Turkey and Saudi supplies to ISIS”
“Who’s the terrorist now?”
“Violence can’t solve violence”

One woman in the crowd said: “I was getting off the bus, I saw the placards and joined the protest because I absolutely agree. Killing people is wrong. We need to gather together to make sure the government know that people don’t agree with them.”

William Sharland, a University of Nottingham student, said: “I’m not convinced bombing will have a positive effect on the region. The CIA estimate that ISIS are a group of around 30,000 people, and yet they control a land roughly the size of Britain. They don’t concentrate. They integrate into the cities. And much like Afghanistan, much like Iraq, resorting to violence will hurt the innocent civilians, who are actually the victims of IS. I think the government will go through with bombing tonight. In a way, this is a repeat of that exact thing that happened after 9/11. The atrocities in France gives governments leeway to impose this kind of action.”

Guy Williams of Refugee Action Nottingham said: “We’re supporting the refugees that are coming over. Thousands and thousands are coming in to Lesvos daily, something like 7,000 per day, in terrible conditions with nothing there, so we’re collecting sleeping bags, clothes, anything to keep people warm, to stop them from freezing to death.

Find us on Facebook, we’ve got a JustGiving page where we’re looking to raise £10,000 for five shipping containers full of stuff to send there, because that’s where the need is greatest at the moment. We’ve got drop-off points around the city – Alley Café is one, we’re talking to Broadway Cinema right now about having a collection point there, but you can find all the collection points on the website. People can help by donating, whether it’s sleeping bags, tents, shoes, coats, or anything, people are desperate.”

The decision of whether or not the UK will drop bombs on Syria will be made tonight.

The Stop the War protest took place on Wednesday 2 December 2015 at 5.30pm

Stop the War Coalition website

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