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4th December 2015

Students protest airstrikes on Syria

Students in Manchester and across the country took to the streets while to protest while MPs debated whether to start military action against the IS in Syria

With the decision to bomb Syria being rushed through Parliament, urgent protests were organised across the country to show the people’s opposition to military action.

Members of Parliament came together Wednesday the 2nd of December to vote on whether Britain should take military action against so-called IS (Daesh) in Syria. The debate came after the devastating terrorist attacks in Paris on the 13th of November. The French President François Hollande in response asked the European nations to do more and join them in the fight against the terrorist group; France’s warplanes have been executing military action in Syria for some time.

David Cameron led the support for the bill, his main point being: “Do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat and do we go after these terrorists in their heartlands from where they are plotting to kill British people, or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us?”

Jeremy Corbyn was the figurehead of the opposition against military intervention in Syria. In an article for the The Guardian, Corbyn stated: “The Prime Minister has avoided spelling out to the British people the warnings he has surely been given about the likely impact of British airstrikes in Syria on the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK.”

In Manchester, the organisation Greater Manchester Stop the War Coalition used Facebook to spread the word out on a protest that they were hosting in Picadilly Gardens, five hours before the result of the vote was due to be released. According to the events page, over a 1,000 people pledged to attend and show their solidarity with the group.

The march started in the centre of Picadilly Gardens and looped around the centre of town, through Oxford Street and Deansgate.

The chants on the march included “welfare not warfare” and “David Cameron shame on you. Open borders, let them through.”

Chloe Heard, a University of Manchester student and one of the protestors in the march had said that she “went to the march because I believe bombing Syria would make our lives in Manchester and around Europe more vulnerable—let alone those innocent lives in Syria that will be affected. We have learnt from the past that bombing does not work, it is a lazy reaction to a more complex problem.”

Another University of Manchester student, Rob Paterson, who attended the protest said: “Trying to fight terrorism with a bombing campaign is like setting a house on fire to kill a mouse that’s hiding under the floorboards. It won’t work and Cameron’s assertions that it’ll make Britain safer and that casualties will be minimal outrage me. Many innocent people will die and if anything this will make us more of a target of terrorism.”

One of the key speakers at the end of the march was 89-year-old Malcolm, a lifelong pacifist who had been imprisoned for refusing conscription in his youth. Speaking on the IS attacks in France, Malcolm explained these actions and stated: “If they are bombed from the skies, how can they retaliate? If they are shot with missiles from the water, how can they retaliate? By killing citizens.”

Students attended protests across the country. Two Bristol correspondents Roisin Sterne and Ginny Fursse spoke to protestors there, one of whom said that “bombing is not going to do anything,” and that the government’s actions should be to “stop our relationship with Saudi Arabia, they’re the people who fund ISIS.” Another student added that there “was a case for having some kind of intervention” but that it needed to be more “transparent, not just a yes or no dichotomy between bombs and nothing”.

Despite the outpour of British opposition to the bombing of Syria, with 82 per cent of people voting against the strikes in a poll carried out by The Independent with 10,642 participants, the result of the MPs’ vote was in support of military intervention against Syria.

The Greater Manchester Stop the War Coalition, along with others similar across the country, announced further action in response to this decision, and have organised another march on Saturday the 5th of December, at 1pm in Picadilly Gardens.

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