Over 10,000 workers and youth on Saturday marched through central London against the Afghan war, calling for the troops to be brought out now.
Organised by the Stop the War Coalition and CND, it was led by some of the Military Families Against the War, including ex-soldier Joe Glenton who was jailed for nine months for refusing to continue to serve in Afghanistan and publicly speaking out against the war.
Banners on the march were from Stop the War groups from across the country, CND, college students and RMT European Passengers branch.
As the demonstration assembled, News Line spoke to some of the marchers.
Sam Toogood, a student from Kingston, Surrey, said: ‘I’m protesting against the injustices of spending £5bn a year on a war without cause, while the government cuts ruthlessly into welfare.
‘The troops should be pulled out as soon as possible.
‘All people have to take up peaceful protest to force the issue.
‘It’s a capitalist war not a “war against terror”.
‘In fact, the war increases the likelihood of terrorism in the UK.’
Unemployed former health worker, Carole Vincent told News Line: ‘I think it’s a disgrace that we are occupying a country and indiscriminately killing people who have nothing to do with us and are incapable of defending themselves.
‘We have not met any of the strategic aims of going into Afghanistan.
‘On the whole, soldiers do not want to be there and the Afghans don’t want them there.
‘I spoke to a woman yesterday whose husband is serving in Afghanistan and she had to send him £500 last month for new kit.
‘The government is spending nearly £5bn a year in Afghanistan, and yet they tell us there is no money for health nor for education.
‘They say there is no money for housing or a decent pension, no money for saving and creating jobs.’
She added: ‘We need to withdraw British troops and allow the Afghans to sort out their own situation as they have done for thousands of years.
‘The unions, along with today and the cuts, should be looking forward to a general strike, ultimately to bring the government down, demanding that the troops are brought out of Afghanistan and the money put back into public services.
‘I’ve been approached by lots of people supporting the action of Joe Glenton who returned his medal to Downing Street.
‘I wish there were more principled troops willing to put down their arms, refuse to fight in Afghanistan and hand back their medals.
‘I’d like to see Blair brought to justice as a war criminal.’
Kamram Iqbal, a Kingsbury, northwest London, school student, said: ‘It seems wrong that there are troops in Afghanistan.
‘They are just messing with Afghans’ lives.
‘It seems inhumane to send troops in and start a war in someone else’s country.
‘Britain shouldn’t get into something that it can’t handle.’
Kamram’s friend, Shoaib Mohammed added: ‘I’m here to give my opinion and take part for what is right for the world.
‘I believe that America and Britain have blinded the world with lies.
‘They say they are doing something good in Afghanistan but they are making it worse.
‘NATO are making things worse.
‘A friend of mine was living in Afghanistan and he says it was better under the Taleban.
‘Obama is sending troops into Afghanistan saying he is saving America from terror.
‘But he hasn’t helped his own country. He still hasn’t sorted out the destruction from hurricane Katrina, the cities have not been rebuilt.
‘I believe there will be a revolution against the US and UK governments.
‘I think socialism is the best idea with working people running things.’
Unite member Andrew Smith, a computer programmer from Southampton, told News Line: ‘The war was wrong from the start and it’s still wrong ten years later.
‘It’s important we keep the pressure up to indicate people won’t put up with this sort of stuff.
‘With the current round of cuts, the Tory government and Lord Young’s remarks that we’ve “never had it so good”, the class lines are drawn more sharply now than they have been for a long time.
‘There has to be a general strike.
‘There should have been a general strike when the war started.
‘If that had happened the war would have been over in days.
‘We need a general strike to defend our living standards, end the war and protect the vulnerable – the mentally ill, disabled people and the elderly.
‘If the unions aren’t going to fight, who will fight for the people that can’t fight for themselves.
‘I’m all for bringing the government down and going forwards to a workers state and socialism.’
Tracey Thorndike, an estate agent worker from Peterborough, added: ‘I’m here to show my support for the withdrawal of troops, also, to meet like-minded people for the exposure of why we fund these wars.
‘There seems to be a parallel decision-making ethos, when it comes to the economy.
‘They throw money into so-called defence and yet we can’t maintain the basic systems that look after our own infrastructure.
‘In terms of unions, they have to get stronger and not be discouraged by private enterprises and the government, who have a general contempt for people, anyway.
‘It’s the age-old divide and rule. They want to break the power of the unions.
‘The unions should use their strength to oppose and stop being blackmailed.’
Liam Marchant, a Kingston, Surrey, school student, said: ‘I’m a Labour Party member but in the Blair years they got the foreign policy wrong.
‘The money spent on foreign wars could have been spent on public services.
‘I’m against the war in Afghanistan and nuclear weapons.
‘I can’t stand this government. The Liberal Democrats sold out and the cuts the coalition are making are totally ideological.
‘We have to campaign to cut Trident and get the troops out.’
Liam’s friend Rob Hayes added: ‘Under Blair the foreign policy was totally wrong.
‘There was no backing for the Iraq and Afghan wars.
‘If they thought going to war on another country would defeat terrorism, it’s a completely wrong way of going about it.
‘War isn’t a solution, it’s creating enmity towards British foreign policy.
‘They haven’t wiped out al-Qaeda by going into Afghanistan. All that has happened is it’s gone to other countries.
‘We need to cut back massively on the military, which is an outdated system, and put the money into public services.’