Protesters confront the militarism of the Liverpool arms fair with a clear message of peace, reports Tayo Aluko
“Merchants of death are not welcome here / No, not in Liverpool” we sang at the gates of Princes Park at the start of the rally against the electronic arms fair on Saturday. Prominent among the organisers were the Liverpool Green Party and the Merseyside Pensioners Association, and they could hardly have been more pleased with the numbers of people of all generations and ethnicities gathered.
Speeches were made by scousers with roots in many current or recent theatres of conflict – Yemen, Syria, Palestine and Kurdistan included, many of them from the very constituency in which the fair was being held and represented by the City’s Mayor, Joanne Anderson, who claims to be powerless to stop it.
From there, we marched to the piazza of the Roman Catholic Cathedral on Hope Street, where several hundred others were already gathered, and speeches were made from the top of a fire engine provided by the Fire Brigades Union. Speakers there included MPs Dan Carden and John McDonnell, former Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, and actress Maxine Peake.
On from there through the busy shopping streets of downtown Liverpool, where the impact of the march was keenly felt, to the final rally position at the top of William Brown Street. The fire engine again provided the stage, first for a Spiritual, with lyrics “Death has taken my city’s name,” followed by a new set of speakers, including Lindsey German, who referred to the biggest anti-war demonstration in history, when an estimated 2,000,000 assembled in London, and millions more worldwide, in February 2003, and the tragedy of the deafness of world leaders.
Jeremy Corbyn, in his speech, made a call for Liverpool’s leadership to listen now, learn the lessons of history and cancel the fair, and enjoin humanity to divert resources and talents to peaceful and sustainable causes.
A heavy police presence notwithstanding, the messages of peace and hope were clear; delivered with a combination of righteous anger from local youth to the optimism of the veteran campaigners that wisdom would eventually prevail.
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