Charlie Hore reports from the protest outside parliament on Wednesday night, as MPs voted to bomb Syria.
“Tonight, as I put my seven year old to sleep, somewhere in Aleppo or Homs there is a seven year old, waking up to the sound of airplanes.” That Facebook comment from an American friend echoes the sense of growing horror on the anti-war demonstration in London yesterday, as the realisation that Cameron would win his vote slowly sank home.
Several thousand people demonstrated outside Parliament for the second day running, and thousands more took part in local protests around the country – 800 in Manchester, 500 on a march through central Bristol, and many more in other places.
It was a young, diverse and angry crowd, if somewhat smaller than the previous day. Speaker after speaker hammered home at the key themes of the evening – that bombing Syria was immoral, that it wouldn’t defeat ISIS, and that Cameron’s description of his opponents as “terrorist sympathisers” was designed to silence dissent. John Rees was particularly eloquent on the accusations of terrorist sympathies, and on the hypocrisy of the Labour MPs arguing to “vote with their consciences”, demanding “not a penny of union money” for those who voted for war.
After an hour and a half of speeches, we occupied the road in front of Parliament. This was announced as a die-in, but it didn’t quite catch the mood, with only a minority taking part. MPs Diane Abbott and Mhairi Black came out to give us a sense of what was going on, and Mhairi’s saying that she could hear us as she walked from the chamber to her office brought one of the biggest cheers of the night.
If the demo was somewhat downbeat, reflecting the scale of the defeat that the vote represented, it was also determinedly defiant – the anti-war movement is not going away. Syed from London2Calais caught that defiance well when he brought the experience of the Calais refugee camp to the protest, and finished by saying “We’ve got France, Russia, Assad and the United States bombing civilians in Syria, and Britain wants to get involved in that as well. That will lead to more civilian deaths, more displacement of people around the world, and we need to bring an end to this right now!”
The next steps in that are the local protests and activities organised for this weekend and next week, and the national demonstration on 12 December.