Originally planned by the ‘Stop The War Coalition’ as a protest, but now billed as a victory celebration, the march and rally attracted a couple of thousand people out into the late Summer blazing sunshine.
At midday, as I approached the start point of the march at Temple on the Embankment, the first thing I saw was a UKIP mobile banner vehicle stating that they didn’t support an attack on Syria. Next, were dozens of Socialist newspaper sellers, and finally a few hundred protesters.
The strong signals that British people don’t want military intervention are clearly so loud that, beginning with Ed Milliband and continuing with UKIP, the prospect of political mileage has been a draw towards the anti-war camp, normally the preserve of the Left.
And yet, despite the blessing of such strange bedfellows, the actual public turnout today was really quite low, considering that the US is still likely to attack Syria and could quite possibly draw the UK into a wider conflict later.
As the march set off at around 1pm, numbers had swelled to a more respectable couple of thousand, and as well as swathes of the identikit ‘Hands Off Syria’ STW banners, there was a pretty good showing of home-made slogans, one of my favourites being “no petrodollar warfare – read between the pipelines”.
Apart from the Turkish contingent stopping briefly, and a few people ducking under the police tape to shout at Downing Street, there was no re-run of Wednesday’s civil disobedience, and everyone filed into Trafalgar Square to listen to speeches, while the UKIP van kept circling.
After introductions from Stop The War Chair Jeremy Corbyn MP, speakers were: Lindsey German, Andrew Murray, Natalie Bennett (Green Party), Alex Kenny (NUT), Tariq Ali, a speaker from London Gezi Solidarity, Tony Benn, Aaron Kiely (NUS), Simon Renton (UCU), Michael Powell (anti-war poet), and Craig Murray.
Highlights for me were Lindsey German telling UKIP they weren’t welcome, Andrew Murray pointing out that the parliament has not voted down a war in over 200 years, and now they have, it’s clear there is absolutely no case for war – he also claimed that the STWc had stopped this war – really? Natalie Bennett concentrated on humanitarian issues, moving towards a ceasefire, closing down the DSEI arms fair, and stopping Trident. The Gezi spokesman (whose name I didn’t catch) talked about Erdogan’s human rights record against the hypocrisy of his cries for war against Syria for their alleged abuses. Erdogan also openly supports the terrorist Al-Nusrah Front despite Sarin being found in the home of one of their members in Turkey, further exposing the Western narrative.
Craig Murray talked about John Kerry’s “evidence” of communications intercepts, and speaking as an ex-Ambassador turned whistleblower, he told us the intercept could only have come from Mossad – this got a knowing cheer from many in the crowd.
Later on in the evening, the ‘PeaceStrike’ group held a silent vigil in Parliament Square.