PEACE campaigners and white poppy wearers have rejected Rishi Sunak’s criticism of demonstrations planned for 11 November, saying his comments are, “a threat to peaceful protest and against the true spirit of Remembrance Day”.
Mr. Sunak has said the protests calling for a ceasefire in Gaza are “provocative and disrespectful”, adding that the “right to remember, in peace and dignity, those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for those freedoms must be protected.”
The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the UK’s leading pacifist organisation, has defended the right to protest on Remembrance Day, saying that peaceful demonstrations against war are entirely consistent with remembering the victims of war.
The PPU has pointed out that the ceasefire protests are not intended to disrespect anyone or disrupt Remembrance Day commemorations. The main organisers of the London march have confirmed they have no plans to go near the Cenotaph, and understand the sensitivity of the date. Many white poppy wearers will be marking the two-minute silence at 11 o’clock that day.
“The best way to respect the victims of wars, past and present, is to work towards a peaceful future”, said Geoff Tibbs, the PPU’s Remembrance Project Manager. “These protests don’t disrespect the spirit of Remembrance Day – on the contrary, remembering the terrible human cost of war reminds us of its futility and injustice, and encourages us to resist it.”
The PPU have condemned the hypocrisy of the UK government, which defends the ‘sanctity of Armistice Day’ and the ‘right to remember’, even as it provides military support and diplomatic cover for Israeli war crimes in Gaza.
The PPU will be distributing white poppies on the march in London. White poppies represent remembrance for all victims of war, both civilians and members of the armed forces, and a commitment to peace.
Geoff Tibbs added: “The white poppy has been worn for ninety years to hold on to the key message of Remembrance Day: ‘never again’. Tragically this message needs repeating year on year – including right now, when the UK government is backing war crimes in Gaza. That is why we will be marching, wearing our white poppies, on Remembrance Day.”
The PPU has challenged inaccurate reports about the recent ceasefire protests, which have characterised them as violent, anti-semitic, or supportive of Hamas. The protests across the UK have been overwhelmingly peaceful and have embraced a wide range of peace groups, including many Jewish organisations, calling for a just and lasting solution to the conflict.
Many white poppy remembrance ceremonies will be happening across the UK on Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday. The National Alternative Remembrance Ceremony in London on 12 November will include a message from the Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF), a joint Israeli-Palestinian organisation of over 600 families, all of whom have lost an immediate family member to the ongoing conflict.
White poppies have been worn since 1933. They differ from red poppies, which commemorate only British and allied armed forces personnel and to show “support for the armed forces” – according to the Royal British Legion, who produce them.
The white poppy campaign was launched last week with the statement: “Remembrance Day should be a time to commit to the ongoing struggle for peace. It should give real meaning to the words ‘never again’. It should include all victims of all wars, past and present – in Israel and Palestine, Ukraine, the South Caucasus, Yemen and elsewhere.”
* Read the full launch statement for the white poppy campaign here.
* Source: Peace Pledge Union