Painting for peace

IssueApril 2012
News by Leonna O'Neill

During our weekly vigil at Faslane, a quiet discussion arose about doing an action at the army recruitment offices in Glasgow to highlight the dishonest propaganda used to persuade young people to to join the army. The offices are on a busy central bus route so we decided to act during the morning rush hour.

We made plans to spray paint the windows, hand out fliers and lock on to delay our arrest. Having never incurred a vandalism charge, I had reservations about what I was about to do. However, spending my evenings prior to the action researching the army recruitment website served to abate any doubts or concerns. The right thing to do was clear.

I travelled to our secret meeting place furtively, feeling nervous. I had worried throughout my entire train journey that the brightly-coloured pipe protruding from my backpack would be easily identified as a ‘lock on’. My imagination was running rampant!

My friends Mary Millington and Barbara Dowling awaited me as planned. As they waved me over with their usual jolly greetings, all smiles, my pre-action worries disappeared. We briefly went over our plans and got our equipment ready. My peace tool was to be a can of baby pink spray paint. We had a group hug and approached our destination.

I had never done anything like this so my nervous adrenaline wiped away all the witty and hitting slogans I’d been dreaming up. I went with the classic: ‘Guns, bombs, tanks? No thanks!’. Barbara sprayed: ‘Don’t join up. Don’t believe the lying adverts.’

Mary handed out fliers telling the story of a young man who signed up to the army to make his family proud and returned home mutilated, his silence being the price for the little support he was to receive from the army.

An angry staff sergeant aggressively informed us of his ‘four tours in Afghanistan’ and his disbelief that ‘women – WOMEN! – could do such a thing’.

Though he curbed his aggression, his eyes betrayed an anger suggesting we would have been treated differently if the rules of engagement with protesters in the UK weren’t so civilised. Then the door to the army recruitment office was locked. I’m not sure if this was for their protection or ours!

The police arrived soon and Barbara and I locked-on, while passers by continued to wave and make peace fingers.

It took the cutting team an hour to remove us. After arrest we were treated with dignity and released later after undertaking to appear in court on 23 March and to respect a ban on entering Glasgow city centre.

I feel that we succeeded in highlighting our cause to the rush hour commuters of Glasgow. Taking part in this action further removed my fear of the consequences of standing up for what I believe in.

A vandalism charge is a small price to pay for being seen and heard. If everyone did a little something about what they witness and know to be wrong, we would cease to be punished and enact real change.

Topics: Anti-militarism
See more of: Scotland