Anti-war rally held in Canterbury after Soleimani killing

Image courtesy of: Sam Wren

In light of the recent assassination orchestrated by Donald Trump on high-profile Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, a protest rally took place in Canterbury on Saturday 18 January.

Organised by the East Kent Stop the War group, the protest aimed at highlighting to the British government that some of the public does not want to be “dragged into another war”.

The protest was organised on Facebook by Mary Sullivan under the title ‘Stop the War Rally’. A meeting spot was arranged at Dane John Gardens at 2pm.

Entertainment at the meeting spot was provided by local Canterbury singers who sang remixes of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’.

The original lyrics were exchanged for demeaning condemnations made towards the prime minister, Boris Johnson, exclaiming that “Boris will lead us to war”.

The march was made up of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and ages.

From International Baccalaureate students from Mexico to older citizens who “simply wanted to get involved in the idea of making a change”, as one of them told us, the participants of the rally looked forward to taking a stand on this pressing issue.

Naomi, a mother who also brought her 11-year-old daughter to the march, saw this rally as a “group of people gathering together to highlight the errors of the government”. For Naomi, this rally was “more about peace than violence”.

At 2:30pm the protestors gathered to start the march from Dane John Gardens through to the High Street and then finally stopping at the Friends Meeting House. Various chants were sung along the way, such as, “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Trump and wars have got to go!” and, “They say warfare, we say welfare!” Upon arrival at the Friends Meeting House, the group sat to further discuss the effects of British involvement with the US-Iran tension.

'Raising the voice against the force.'

The lead protestor stated it was necessary for the public to “start the process of building and mobilising and taking back to the streets and raising the voice against the force”. It was stated that the reason the group had gathered here today was to ensure “that the warmongers are kept in their cages”. A panel of speakers was invited to share their experiences and understanding of the situation. Dr Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, Labour candidate for South Thanet in the recent General Election, began her speech by stressing her Iranian heritage and the lack of peace between US and Iran after Soleimani’s killing. She highlighted the community’s responsibility to “collectively condemn the breaking of international law in the assassination”. University of Kent alumni, Shabbir Lakkah, who now works for the coalition, also came to shine light upon the situation.

Lakkah stated that the “danger of war is not over” and proceeded to provide ways in which the British government should reduce British involvement with the unrest between US and Iran, first and foremost, by removing British troops from Iran.

Councillor Aram Rawf followed this speech with his take on the US-Iran relations. He mentioned remembering how, in 2003, a gathering took place in the very same room, discussing the war on Iraq.

He concluded, with agreement from the audience, that “war is never the answer”.