OVER 10,000 people marched from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square in central London on Saturday demanding the withdrawal of the British Army from Afghanistan.
At the front of the march was British Army soldier L/Cpl Joe Glenton, from York, who faces a court martial in November for alleged desertion after going absent without leave in 2007.
Glenton, and others were holding the lead banner on the march, which stated ‘Afghanistan – Bring the Troops Home’.
Then followed a huge Palestine flag, along with banners saying: ‘End the Siege on Gaza!’
Other banners stated ‘Charge Bush and Blair with War Crimes’ and ‘No US Military Base in Colombia’.
There were Stop the War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign banners and flags, a ‘Goldsmiths Says Troops Out Now’ banner and a banner saying ‘Essex University Condemns All Forms of Political Oppression’.
Trade union banners included the PCS national union banner, Portsmouth City Unison, Bristol NUT – Education is a Right not a Privilege! and Cambridge Unison.
The Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists banner stated: ‘Troops out of Afghanistan! Bring this Government Down! – For a Workers Government and Socialism!’
A lively contingent of Young Socialists kept up constant chants along the route of the march of: ‘Smash Imperialism – Socialism Now! Victory to Palestine – Smash Zionism Now! End the War in Afghanistan – Troops Out Now!’
Lots of people told News Line why they were on the march.
Francis King, an interpreter from Wymondham in Norfolk, said: ‘The war is simply making the situation worse. The only people who can sort the situation out are those who live there.
‘It’s ideas from 100 years ago, that “we” can go and sort things out – the West, the whites, Christians, capitalists.
‘They’re so arrogant, they talk on the news about whether the Afghans are going to elect a government worthy of us fighting for them!’
Ben Field, a 25-year-old unemployed worker from Longhamborough in Oxfordshire, said: ‘I’m here because I’m interested in hearing alternative ways of how this country should be run.
‘I want to hear different voices about how to change things. I believe in a much fairer distribution of wealth and an end to British involvement in foreign wars.’
Kartik Thyagaraja, a 26-year-old Brunel University student, said: ‘I’m very much against the war.
‘Without in any way thinking that just one march can stop the war, I’m still keen to make my presence felt.’
James Haywood, a Goldsmiths College History student said: ‘I’m on the National Executive of the NUS (National Union of Students) and it’s disgusting that they adopt a non-political position over the war.
‘The NUS must have a policy opposing the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Palestine.
‘I also think there should be general strike action to support the postal workers and that students should organise to stop the scabs getting in.’
Jackie McWilliams, a Liverpool PCS member, said: ‘I’m here the same as I’ve been here every year since it started, to protest against British attacks on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq – and it looks like, before very long, the people of Iran as well.’
NUT member James Hewitt was carrying a banner stating: ‘City and Islington Sixth Form College – Unity is Strength – Equality, Justice, Education, Socialism.’
He said: ‘The British government must end the occupation and bring the troops home. They are not in any way helping, just making matters worse.
‘I fully support the postal workers strike and I think this is just the beginning and there will be more strikes.
‘In terms of the NUT, we’re in an ongoing dispute over pay. In the public sector there is simmering anger about the situation, and it’s about to boil over.’
Jean Roberts, Hammersmith and Fulham ATL Secretary, said: ‘The government agenda of privatisation of public services goes hand in hand with the billions being spent on this disgusting war.’
Dick North, Bristol NUT, said: ‘NUT members locally and nationally oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
‘There has been considerable debate in the NUT about the war and that’s reflected in the fact that there are a number of NUT banners on the march today.
‘The rest of the trade union movement should up its game.’
John Woods, Portsmouth City Unison, said: ‘The myth that it’s a just war backed by the UN is beginning to fade.
‘We need to get the troops out before more and more of them get killed.
‘In Portsmouth, there are a lot of military families who want to see their sons home.
‘The tide is beginning to turn.
‘I want to see the unions take industrial action to get the troops out.’
Martin Bainger, carrying the Cambridge Unison Health Branch banner, said: ‘This government is spending unlimited money on war at the same time as it’s cutting jobs, and sacking people.
‘We don’t want this, we want our jobs as they are. They are trying to make money out of the health service by making less staff do more work.’
Anna Catalina, carrying a banner demanding that there be no US military bases in Colombia, said: ‘The US is going to put seven military bases in Colombia.
‘Now almost all the South American countries have presidents from the left they want us to be like Israel, so they can spy on and threaten other countries.
‘All the multi-nationals are in my country taking out the recources.
‘Most of them have an alliance with paramilitaries to kill the union leaders and to threaten the Indians and make them sell them their lands.’
Anderson Johnson, a 19-year-old student, said: ‘We think there should be a general strike to get the troops out of Afghanistan.
‘Everyone should stop working till the troops get withdrawn.’
Among the speakers at the Trafalgar Square rally was former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Deghayes.
He told the crowd: ‘I lived in Afghanistan for a long time.
‘The Afghan people don’t want war.
‘We must get the the troops home and stop the massacre of civilians.
‘We also need legal rights for prisoners in the US’s Bagram camp, the evil twin of Guantanamo Bay.
‘Conditions there are worse than Guantanamo.
‘I call on the British government to bring Shaker Ammar back, the last British resident.
‘We need to take people back including the UK people who were complicit in torture and interrogation.
‘By the way, on 27th October, for the first time, they are planning to have secret evidence in civil courts.
‘That’s a very dangerous extension creeping in, taking away more civil liberties.
‘Stop the war, stop lying to people. Stop the deception.’