Alex Falconer, a member of the Peace Network Kernow and graduate of Falmouth University, looks at the Syria Demonstrations.
Photography: © Alex Burstow
Wednesday 2nd December 2015 was a dark day, many of us watched on as the government decided to join the bombing campaign in Syria and continue a foreign policy which my generation has grown up with ‘The War on Terror’.
Anger, frustration and sadness filled many of us, but it also inspired many of us to turn up in force the following night. Organised by students at Falmouth University, a demonstration in Falmouth town was called, bringing together all those who held the emotions noted, to speak out against the atrocious decision to bomb Syria.
To begin with there was a lot of doubt as to whether the demonstration would go ahead, clashing with the Christmas Lights switch on, many in the local community felt it was an inappropriate time to stage such a demonstration, which lead to the involvement of police and the council due to the controversy surrounding it as well as the nature of all public demonstrations. What ended up happening was a fair compromise, protesters waited for the Christmas lights switch on to finish, by having anti-war acoustic performances and a silent gathering, something I found extremely poignant. After this demonstrators proceeded through town chanting ‘Dont Bomb Syria’ and ‘Not in My Name’, to locals and other students, many of whom were positive, although a few clearly weren’t happy.
The main argument against the demonstration, which came mainly from ‘keyboard warriors’, was that there was no point protesting in Falmouth, as nobody would take any notice and no changes would be made as a result. Like any single demonstration, in London or in Falmouth, nobody expects it to make a difference on its own, but what it does do is bring together likeminded people and catalyse a movement for change. As a result of the demonstration, the people of Falmouth know others feel as they do, they now know that there is a movement and people who support these ideas. We have seen the creation of the Peace Network Kernow (PNK), of which I am a member. The PNK is bringing together an entire community, with plans in place for further demonstration and action.
As we look beyond the first demonstration we can see that the PNK is part of a wider network of groups all over the country who oppose bombing Syria, so what should be the aims of the PNK locally? We have to affect our local decision makers first and foremost; persistent and consistent strategic action must be taken to change the opinions of MPs, for a free vote could see more Conservative MPs oppose the government line. What form should this action take? Well, people asked nicely in their millions in 2003, so simply asking will not be enough. Yes we have to petition, write to the local MPs and demonstrate, but if we will not be listened to we have to be prepared to put ourselves into confrontational situations. Occupying and blockading shouldn’t be tactics that are feared, but tactics that are embraced when diplomatic channels have been exhausted.
Please note that the views expressed within this article may not reflect the collective views of the Universities, nor their students as Alex Falconer writes as a graduate and a member of the Peace Network Kernow.