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The Peace News log

If British peacemakers of the early twentieth century had been listened to, we could have avoided the rise of many destructive movements.

Each year, around Remembrance Day, people all over the UK uphold the memory of those who have died in war. Some people wear red poppies to remember allied soldiers. Others wear white poppies to remember civilians and soldiers killed in war and to express their hope for a culture of peace.

Frank J. Stevens, a Friends Ambulance Unit ambulance driver, with his vehicle in Wolfsburg, Germany, ?1945

This year, the St John Ambulance volunteer first aid group announced it would allow its members to wear the white poppy on their uniforms. This is consistent with the group's history, as St John Ambulance was one of the bodies under whose auspices the pacifist Friends Ambulance Unit risked their lives to tend the wounded in both world wars.

However, any hope that the national conversation about remembrance might be becoming more tolerant were quickly dashed. When the Peace Pledge Union’s coordinator Symon Hill was invited to ITV’s _Good Morning Britain_, he was barely allowed to speak by the show’s presenter. Piers Morgan took issue with the idea that anyone other than allied soldiers could be included in remembrance, shouting: 'WOULD YOU INCLUDE ISIS SOLDIERS?' 'WOULD YOU INCLUDE NAZIS?' After the encounter, Hill revealed that he’d had so many messages saying he should be killed that he stopped counting them.

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If Extinction Rebellion plans to gradually build capacity for its big demands by winning smaller-scale victories then why has it launched itself with (apparently) no indication as to what these smaller-scale wins are going to be?

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Melburnians at the March for Science on April 22, #Earthday2017. Image: Takver via Wikimedia Commons.

Lots of people seem to be very excited about Extinction Rebellion (XR)’s ‘declaration of rebellion’ and its plans to ‘bring large parts of London to a standstill [later this] month’ to push its three big demands on climate change.

The issue could hardly be more important, a lot of effort appears to be going into XR, and hundreds of people are apparently fired-up and committed to engaging in civil disobedience over climate change. This is both impressive and commendable.

And yet, I have to say – as someone who has been involved in organising and taking part in acts of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience for over 20 years – that I’m highly sceptical about this initiative.

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An important new book on anti-racism in the age of Trump and Brexit is coming soon.

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A new book, The Fire Now: Anti-Racist Scholarship in Times of Explicit Racial Violence, published by Zed Books is being launched on Saturday 10 November in London. Peace News contributor Marc Hudson conducted an email interview with one of the book's three editors, Remi Joseph-Salisbury, presidential fellow in sociology at the University of Manchester. The other authors are Azeezat Johnson, an ESRC postdoctoral fellow at Queen Mary's University of London and Beth Kamunge, who is studying at University of Sheffield.

1. What has spurred you to put together this book at this time? What's in the book?

The book is born out of frustration, anger and a sense of urgency to respond to the particular forms of racism and fascism that have surfaced in recent years. Its also born out of love and hope and recognition of the beauty of resistance. The book includes contributions from a group of truly amazing academics and activists who are committed to anti-racist scholarship and practice.

With authors writing from and about a number of different countries – including (but not limited to) Kenya, Canada, the United States, Britain, and Ghana – the book seeks to push us towards a more global perspective on contemporary anti-racist scholarship. The international connections are particularly manifest as Sam Tecle and Carl James ask whether a Donald Trump-like figure could rise in Canada, and Keguro Macharia asks the same of Kenya.

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This is the longer version of an obituary of the prominent US radical pacifist.

David McReynolds, who died in New York at the age of 88 on 17 August, played a leading role in the US and international peace movement. He was one of the main organisers of the anti-Vietnam war mobilisation in the US, which not only contributed to the ending of that war but had a profound impact on US politics and society. He was also prominent in the anti-nuclear campaign both in the US and internationally, and, though not a gay rights campaigner as such, he declared himself a homosexual at a time when this incurred social ostracism and the risk of arrest.

In the early 1950s as an outspoken student radical in the Political Science faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), David refused be drafted to fight in Korea but turned down the option of a student deferment on the grounds that this privileged mainly middle-class young people. David graduated in 1953 and was active in the left wing of the Socialist Party USA.

In 1956, he moved to New York and took on various part time jobs before becoming the executive secretary of the radical pacifist monthly magazine LiberationHe was a frequent contributor to that journal and to the Village Voice. (A collection of his essays was published in 1970 by Praeger with the title We have been Invaded by the 21st Century.)

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Esme Needham reviews Tessa Boase's new book Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather

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Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women's Fight for Change

Aurum Press, 2018; 336pp; £20

If you asked someone who had never read or heard anything about the origins of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) who they thought might have founded it, the chances are they would guess something along the lines of ‘some well-meaning elderly man who was opposed to the shooting of rare birds for sport’, or something like that. But it seems very unlikely that they would come anywhere near the real founders of the RSPB: a group of women who were passionately opposed to the shooting of rare birds for feathers.

They were led by a woman named Etta Lemon who was vocal in her opposition to the feather trade – a trade which caused the deaths of many birds from rare and beautiful species so that rich women could adorn their hats. She called it ‘murderous millinery’.

Lemon was a deeply Evangelistic woman and a talented public speaker, who had become passionate about animal rights after sharing a cross-Channel boat with a herd of terrified cattle. However, despite the rare compassion she harboured in that quarter, she was also greatly opposed to women's suffrage. This book casts her against a rather more famous figure, one whose views were exactly contrary to her own: the notable suffrage campaigner and devoted feather-wearer Emmeline Pankhurst.

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A food-centred gathering at Crabapple Community in Shropshire.

Radical Bakers 2018 wasn’t very radical, unless you count learning how to do things for yourself as radical… There were a range of practical skill based workshops. We had sourdough, baking, brewing, fermenting, infusions, ointments, cold remedies, textiles, woodworking, mushrooms, foraging, a team bake-off and loads more, full programme here.

The event was well-attended and made a small profit in the first year. The people who came were really relaxed and friendly and when we went to clear up, it took about half an hour. Stu, who recycles everything for us, said it was a pleasure to sort.

The workshops were well attended and engagement was high. We had a few people drop out at the last minute and their workshops were covered by volunteers who all did a great job. One of the things we encourage is shared learning with others rather than top-down teaching. There was a hands-on element to most of the workshops.

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A Trident Ploughshares Press Release

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Trident Ploughshares activists chained to houses of parliament in central London 20 June 2018

At 1.30pm on 20 June, while Britain's Westminster parliament was sitting inside, 60 activists from across the UK chained themselves to the railings outside the houses of parliament in central London. They are calling for the UK to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and disarm the Trident nuclear weapon system.

This action echoes similar actions by women’s suffrage campaigners 100 years ago.

The activists from the campaign group Trident Ploughshares chained themselves along 13 sections of wrought iron fence stretching from Big Ben to Parliament Square and hung banners that proclaim 'Denuclearize the World – Sign the Treaty' and 'Trident Terrorises'.

Nearly 50 years ago, the UK and other nuclear weapons states promised to negotiate to disarm their nuclear weapons. Their failure to keep that promise and their continued preparations to use these horrific weapons has led countries like North Korea to seek to acquire them. <--break- />

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At a London training day, women prepare themselves to lobby for nuclear disarmament.

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Paula Shaw, Dr Rebecca Johnson and Sheila Triggs (left-right) at a WILPF UK training day on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in London, 7 April 2018.

'We need to recognise that we can change the debate in this country and this treaty gives us the means to do so' said Rebecca Johnson on 7 April, at a WILPF UK training day on realising the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Dr Johnson is a member of the British branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF UK) and founding co-chair of the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

WILPF UK had invited members and non-members to an interactive training day on lobbying for the TPNW in the UK. The purpose of the day was to provide an opportunity to develop negotiation and lobbying skills. Participants received background information about the treaty and the UK context, as well as practical advice on campaigning. We were fortunate to have speakers who had been present in New York during the final negotiations leading up to the UN adoption of the treaty. Janet Fenton (of WILPF UK and Scottish CND) gave an account of the successful WILPF campaigning efforts in New York.

Taniel Yusef (WILPF UK) highlighted the core humanitarian values and aims of the treaty, followed by Dr Rebecca Johnson who provided insight into key issues in the UK context. 'This is a real treaty in the real world. When the UN bans something, it stays banned', she reminded us as an encouragement to use the very existence of the treaty as an argument in meetings with MPs.

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The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has been given permission to keep putting the British government's arms trade policies on trial – over the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

On 4 May, the British court of appeal granted permission for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) to appeal the legality of British arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

CAAT took its legal case to the court of appeal on 12 April for a one day hearing in an attempt to overturn a high court judgment which allows the UK government to continue to export arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.

On 4 May, two court of appeal judges, lord justice Irwin and lord justice Flaux, granted permission to appeal, and the case will be heard by the court of appeal in the months ahead.

For more than three years the government has refused to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia – despite overwhelming evidence that UK weapons are being used in violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen.

'Given the evidence we have heard and the volume of UK-manufactured arms exported to Saudi Arabia, it seems inevitable that any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK. This constitutes a breach of our own export licensing criteria.' – Parliament's International Development and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees, October 2016

Ignoring massive public pressure to stop the arms sales, the government has instead done everything it can to maintain its relationship with Saudi Arabia, the UK's biggest arms customer.

We can’t and won’t let this stand.

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A Metropolitan Police disciplinary board has found against one of its own, a former undercover police officer with the notorious Special Demonstration Squad who deceived three women activists into relationships.

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British undercover police officer Jim Boyling

Today, 3 May 2018, former undercover police officer Jim Boyling has been found guilty of gross misconduct for pursuing an unauthorised sexual relationship with 'Rosa' (a pseudonym) using his false identity, failing to inform his line management of the extent of his relationship, and disclosing confidential information to his target.

A disciplinary panel convened by the Metropolitan Police heard evidence from his former partner 'Rosa' / DIL, who was deceived into a relationship with Boyling in 1999 when he infiltrated 'Reclaim the Streets' and 'Earth First!' using the cover identity 'Jim Sutton'. Boyling also had prior relationships with two other women in 'Reclaim the Streets': 'Monica*' and 'Ruth'.

Less than two weeks before the disciplinary hearing, which was scheduled to last three weeks, Boyling opted not to attend the hearing or send a representative to challenge the evidence but made no formal admission to the allegations. His defence consisted only of written responses he gave in prepared statements. The panel nonetheless considered those responses along with other evidence, including video interviews with Rosa /DIL. Despite his failure to attend the hearing to challenge the evidence, Boyling made statements to the press in which he attempted to portray himself as the victim of unjustified police persecution who was too poor to attend the hearing. His statement asserted 'If you're going to pick on anybody, the family with the terminally ill children will probably be the weakest.'

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