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28 October 2014

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Birmingham Stop the War Coalition
Birmingham Stop the War Coalition

The Power of Protest

By Adam Yosef, site user
Adam Yosef joined Birmingham's Stop the War Coalition for a peaceful protest in London and he looks at the power of the anti-war movement to bring together communities and people of all beliefs and backgrounds.

It’s funny how you can feel all bleary-eyed at 6.30 in the morning, grab a banana for breakfast, run frantically across the city whilst being pulled down by an overloaded satchel only to barely catch your ride to London and yet still manage to feel absolutely fantastic only a few hours later.

Trafalgar Square peace camp
Trafalgar Square peace camp

Whenever I attend a national anti-war demonstration, I nearly always have a panic attack the night before.  Prancing around from place to place, getting on and off buses, missing meetings, trying to gather things and always forgetting the essentials, complaining about never having enough time and all while pretending that I didn't leave things until the last minute - which I always do.

March 19th had been billed as a big day for quite some time now.  The Stop the War Coalition really pushed us all for a big turnout and 200,000 isn't bad.  We might not ever get 2 million again but we can try to top the 350,000 we had during the mid-week Stop Bush event.  Even if the police do try to swindle your figure down to a derisory 45,000, shame on them.  Some in the press camp cited 150,000 which is still pretty remarkable considering public attention is being diverted towards budgets, elections and royal weddings.

White dove in us all

Nonetheless, it still astounds me every time I board a coach from Birmingham headed for a political affair.  Since 2001 and the start of the nation’s revived peace spirit, I would say that as a city we have done extraordinary well in reflecting the ‘white-dove’ in us all.  We could be departing from a church, a mosque or from the heart of the city and yet a rainbow of faces and smiles always occupy coach seats.  People with a passion for peace, working together and taking pride in their relationship with each other – always trying to bridge out and make new contacts and forging new links.

Ordinary people can be so amazing

Jinny and Adam
Jinny and Adam

People who go out of their way to spend one of their free weekend days being uncomfortably transported by a driver called Yasser to central London in a stuffy Aziz Coach on the hottest day in the year so far.  Not that the coach or the driver weren't good, they were fantastic but it’s never going to be like sitting at home on the couch watching telly – and that’s why you cannot but admire the commitment of the young and old who attended the march.  Surely, it can't be easy for the elderly to pace through busy London for over four hours and I know that the teenagers would rather spend Saturday playing football or going out.  Ordinary people can be so amazing.

Take Jinny Nagra, for example.  A very busy full-time hard working girl who only learnt about the demonstration the night before it took place.  She decided there and then that she wanted to come along even though, like me, she was at that point in the month where money only exists on other people’s planets.  She must have got home quite late, yet she was up at 5am making sandwiches for the trip, got ready and rushed to New Street Station from her home in Wolverhampton. 


Running somewhat late, she and I rushed towards the Birmingham Central Mosque where I had managed to reserve her a last-minute seat on a fully occupied coach.  She was the only Sikh on a largely Muslim coach yet she made friends instantly.  Throughout the day, she dragged her bags, jacket and things through the hot and polluted streets of London.  In the hurry, she had worn the wrong shoes and as a result the walking and running caused her feet to ache.  With all that and her video camera whirring away, she found the energy and time to carry placards, speak to people and take in the atmosphere.  She even told me that she felt a sudden ‘burst of energy’ being surrounded by all of the protesters.

I really admire Jinny in that sense.  Not completely knowing what to expect of the day at such short notice, she really got stuck in and her open enthusiasm for absolutely every aspect of the demonstration just dwarfs my panic-stricken staggering I bring along every time.

Peace protesters
Peace protesters

It was a great day not only in that a political message was being propagated to the public, to the media, to the nation and government but it’s always an opportunity for people to come together and realise that their united efforts for a global concern are helping to bring around change.

Salma Yaqoob spoke to the crowds about the casualties of the war, Tony Benn reflected on the confusing politics of the Prime Minister, Rose Gentle and Reg Keys of Military Families Against the War spoke about the soldier sons that they lost in the illegitimate Iraq war, George Galloway MP declared the movements unity with those oppressed across the world while Maxi Jazz and Dave Randall of band Faithless sang about the atrocity of war and war crimes.  In the crowds, people cheered and chanted slogans and even the likes of Peter Tatchell and his Outrage group marched with the protesters.

Peace will bring people together

For many it may just be another demo, ‘here today, gone tomorrow’, but the truth is that the campaigning, activism and opposition to the war-mongering politicians is still here and is going to remain alive for as long as injustice and wars continue to destroy lives and ravage lands.   War and terror may drive people apart but the peace movement will continue to bring them all together. 

Those who question the purpose of demonstrations and their potency in preventing war shouldn’t expect campaigners to part seas and literally move mountains but amongst the hugely influential consequences of the anti-war movement, one of the grandest has been the power to bring together communities and people of all beliefs and backgrounds and that legacy is one that no politician in the country could ever single-handedly realise. 

Long live the white doves from Birmingham, oh…and Wolverhampton too.


Written by site user Adam Yosef.

last updated: 24/03/05
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