Freedom News

Armed Forces day to be opposed locally & nationally

Local and national organisations are uniting to show their opposition to Armed Forces Day, due to be held in Falmouth on 24th June. Groups involved include Campaign Against Arms Trade, the Peace Pledge Union, ForcesWatch, Demilitarise Education, Cornwall Resists and local and national Quaker organisations. All groups say that we should be giving peace a chance rather than glorifying the military. Events planned include talks, stalls, street theatre, banners, protests and more.

“BAE’s sponsorship of Armed Forces Day tells you everything you need to know about the event. This is an event that is about promoting conflict and attempting to sanitise the death and destruction caused by the arms trade. Between 2015 to 2022, BAE received £22.4 billion from arms sales to the Saudi regime for its use in its war with Yemen. War crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition include the bombings of hospitals, funerals and schools, causing one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. BAE always has, and always will, prioritise the wallets of shareholders over human lives.”

Emily Apple, Campaign Against Arms Trade

Campaigners reject the notion that Armed Forces Day is family entertainment, and are particularly concerned about the targeting of children during the event. The UK is one of only 17 countries, and the only one in Europe, which allows for the military recruitment of children. The United Nations Child Rights Committee recently called on the UK government to raise the age of recruitment to 18 and prohibit the targeting of children in military advertising. Since 2008, there has been a concerted push by the armed forces to engage with school children, especially those in deprived areas, with visits to 10,000 schools a year.

Groups are also highlighting the fact that BAE Systems, one of the world’s largest arms companies, is sponsoring the event. Arms companies profit from conflict and it is not in the interest of their shareholders to look for alternatives to increased militarism and global instability.

Armed Forces Day has cost Cornwall Council at least £300,000 during a cost of living crisis. Local groups are appalled that this money has been spent promoting militarism when local services have been cut to the bone. 

The day is also taking place at the same time the Bibby Stockholm refugee prison ship is likely to still be in Falmouth. It is currently in the dry docks to double its capacity to house 500 refugees and asylum seekers in accommodation the size of parking spaces. This ship is a wider manifestation of the border violence that is enacted on people seeking sanctuary, many of whom are fleeing conflicts either caused by the British military, or the devastation caused by bombs made by British arms companies such as BAE.

“The publicity and hype from the council and local media over Armed Forces day is utterly sickening. The event is happening at the same time, and in the same place, that the Bibby Stockholm refugee prison ship is being refitted, and we are being asked to celebrate the military and arms trade that’s caused so many people to flee and face racist border violence and this government’s hostile environment in the first place. We say no. We say Armed Forces Day does not represent us or Falmouth. Falmouth is a diverse and welcoming place. We will not be complicit in border violence or glorifying the colonial past or present of the British military.”

Cornwall Resists

Image: Alisdare Hickson / Two protesters locked themselves together to block access to Britain’s biggest arms fair – DSEI at Excel, 2017

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