Changing it up

IssueJune - July 2019
News by David Polden

Here are three notable peace movement street actions that took place recently.

On 18 May, the Gareloch Hortis Women’s Peace Group took to the streets of Newcastle to make the links between their anti-nuclear campaigning and other concerns held by members of the group.

Their colourful banners attracted curious passers-by who wanted to discuss climate justice, an end to austerity and poverty, and ATOS assessments and their effect on people with disabilities. The banners had recognisable symbols like the Pink Pussy Hat above ‘Abolish Patriarchy’; CND symbols; and the Extinction Rebellion symbol – which was an opener for many people.

The passing of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by the UN in July 2017 was news to some folk. People’s responses ranged from ‘you have made my day: I am just so happy that you are making the links’ to disbelief that the UK has nuclear weapons.

Mayor to the rescue?

East London Against the Arms Fair (ELAAF) musical protests have been going on outside the ExCeL centre in East London for over 10 years.

On 2 March, ELAAF discovered the security pen (which is usually in the covered walkway approach to the entrance) had been put up away from crowds making for the ExCeL centre.

A long-standing agreement has been that one ELAAFer is allowed to leaflet by the entrance to the centre. This time, guards did not allow any leafleting outside the pen.

Rokhsana Fiaz, the mayor of Newham, was part of the picket (numbers had been swelled by Newham Momentum). She asked demonstrators not to resist, saying she would take up the issue.

While things were no better on 16 March, on 6 April, the restrictions were lifted. Many of us were allowed to leaflet the crowds entering the centre. The mayor had been as good as her word and had negotiated a new agreement.

When the Wind Blows

My affinity group, the Mad Hatters, have produced a street theatre version of When the Wind Blows (a 1982 graphic novel by Raymond Briggs that was turned into an animated film), publicising the nuclear dangers posed by Trump having this year unilaterally torn up the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

So far, we’ve performed six times, outside Highbury & Islington and Archway tube stations. The shows, which last 20 minutes, use banners, posters, a megaphone with siren, a microphone, a pasting table (representing a fallout shelter) and a copy of the government’s 1980 pamphlet Protest and Survive.