Friends join Armed Forces Day protests

Friends joined protests against events marking Armed Forces Day on 30 June

Friends in Bury St Edmunds protesting. | Photo: Courtesy of Metford Robson.

Friends throughout the United Kingdom joined protests against events held to mark Armed Forces Day on Saturday 30 June.

There were vigils and demonstrations in Glasgow, Southampton and Blackpool, as well as in smaller towns, such as Folkestone and Guildford, and elsewhere in the UK.

A major protest was held at the national event in Llandudno, North Wales. Partipants included Donald Saunders, aged ninety-three, who was a conscientious objector in the second world war.

Bury St Edmunds Friends took part in a vigil in the Peace Garden, Abbey Gardens. They said: ‘We, Bury Quakers, are deeply troubled by this event, which we see as being in large part a recruitment exercise.’

Human rights groups also voiced alarm that the armed forces are increasingly inviting children to handle weapons at such events, with very few regulations over what is allowed.

A soldier lets a child ‘play’ with a weapon. | Photo: ForcesWatch.

A statement from the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) said: ‘Armed Forces Day gives children the impression that war is exciting and uncomplicated. Young people have a right to make up their own minds about complex ethical issues as they grow up, not to be swamped with thinly veiled pro-war propaganda.’

According to the PPU, much of the publicity for Armed Forces Day is aimed at children and families. This includes a poster produced by West Lothian Council, for example, that promotes Armed Forces Day as ‘a fun-packed free event for all the family’ with a picture of a small child playing while troops appear in the background.

At St Peter’s Square in Manchester, children were invited to ‘sit in the cockpit of a real RAF jet’ and ‘wear real military kit’. Seaford is hosting a ‘children’s funfair’ alongside a military parade.

Abbey Thornton, a young adult Quaker graphic designer, has created a poster, ‘Everyday Militarism’, to show how militarism ‘pops up’ in daily life. A Quaker Peace & Social Witness newsletter highlights that on Armed Forces Day ‘it can become harder than usual to discuss alternatives to violence’.

Friends in Derby protesting. | Photo courtesy of Derby Meeting.

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