Stretch of Whitehall brought to near standstill by 4,000-strong protest outside Downing Street, and smaller rallies held in other cities.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in 18 UK cities today (28 November) to demonstrate against plans to bomb Islamic State (Isis) targets inside Syria. The protests, organised by the Stop The War Coalition, are expecting at least 6,000 people to take to the streets of London, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Norwich and Swansea.
The Stop The War Coalition’s former chairman and Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has told Labour MPs that he cannot support air strikes in Syria causing a rift in the shadow cabinet. Currently, the UK is carrying out air strikes against IS targets in Iraq.
Parliament is expected to vote on the issue as early as next week after David Cameron urged MPs to back military action. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has said the government has failed to make a convincing case for airstrikes.
A stretch of Whitehall was brought to a near standstill by the protest outside Downing Street, which passed off peacefully. The actor Mark Rylance, musician Brian Eno and the shadow international development minister, Diane Abbott, were among the speakers at the event.
The Downing Street protest began at midday and a number of famous faces have signed a letter delivered to number 10. The names include actor Mark Rylance, musician Brian Eno Musician, Former UN Assistant Secretary-General Hans von Sponeck, comedian Frankie Boyle Comedian and writer Will Self.
The Stop The War Coalition, founded in 2001 to oppose the US’s “war on terror”, asks MPs to not ignore recent history and to “stop arming reactionary and aggressive regimes like Saudi Arabia and Qatar”. Protesters have been chanting “stop the war” and “hands off Syria”. A commons vote is expected on the matter in the coming days.
A quiet start to the demonstration in London gave way to loud chants of “Don’t bomb Syria” and “Not in my name”. Daniel Beall, 33, came from Croydon to take part and was carrying a homemade placard reading: “Who do you think you are kidding Mr Cameron?”
He said: “I came down today to voice my disagreement with the proposed war on Syria. Dropping bombs didn’t work in Iraq, it didn’t work in Afghanistan, and it’s not worked in Libya. We’ve stoked up more extremism, more anger and more discontent among the populations of these countries.”
Beall said he was “very pessimistic” about preventing the military action. “Sadly I think there will be strikes, I think David Cameron is determined to go in one way or another.”
The letter says: “The current rush to bomb Syria following the terrible events in Paris risks a dangerous escalation which will inflame the war there and increase bitterness against the West. The US has been bombing Isis for a year and admits that Isis is as strong as ever and has continued recruiting.
“The experience of the wars in Afghanistan Iraq and Libya shows that Western military interventions lead to large-scale casualties, devastating destruction and huge flows of refugees. Far from tackling terrorism the last fourteen years of war have seen massively increased Jihadi terrorist organisation around the world.”