Archive for May, 2008


Opposing military recruitment in schools

As a result of the unpopular occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the armed forces are struggling to recruit, so they have stepped up their efforts, on billboards and TV and in our schools and city centres. All this week, the armed forces are running snazzy recruitment stalls in Nottingham’s Broadmarsh shopping centre, and in June the Veterans’ celebration in Wollaton Park will be used as “a showcase for the modern armed forces” with military vehicles, displays and games to attract potential recruits. It’s all about making a career in the forces look like an exciting, all-terrain humanitarian peacekeeping adventure instead of deadly grunt-work occupying other peoples’ lands to secure energy supplies for the declining US empire.

Perhaps most concerning is the marketing of military careers to school children. A recent report claims that children as young as seven are now being groomed for army recruitment. The report also claims that “Key messages are tailored to children’s interests and values: military roles are promoted as glamorous and exciting and warfare is portrayed as game-like and enjoyable. Children are introduced to the potential benefits of a forces career but not to its risks.”

An army recruiter shows a schoolchild how to aim a gun

Disregarding these concerns, the UK Government is proposing a law to promote military cadet forces in schools, and to teach “understanding of the armed forces” as part of the National Curriculum. However, the MoD faces significant grassroots opposition. At this year’s NUT conference, teachers voted to oppose military recruitment in schools. Delegate Paul McGarr spoke out against misleading army propaganda in schools, proposing that truthful recruitment material should say:

Join the Army and we will send you to carry out the imperialist occupation of other people’s countries. Join the Army and we will send you to bomb, shoot and possibly torture fellow human beings in other countries. Join the Army and we will send you probably poorly equipped into situations where people will try to shoot or kill you because you are occupying other people’s countries. Join the Army, and if you survive and come home, possibly injured or mentally damaged, you and your family will be shabbily treated.

Delegate Stefan Simms added that young troops are being used as “cannon fodder for the profits of oil companies”. The MoD has denied recruiting in schools, despite the fact that the forces visit around 1000 schools a year and give schools free pro-army teaching materials.

A leaflet to counteract armed forces recruitment in schools has been produced by the Nottingham Stop The War Coalition and handed out to students at the gates of schools around the city. It seeks to persuade students who might be tempted by the recruiters’ talk of sport and travel not to join up.

The leaflet has been handed out at about 10 schools so far. It has generally had a good reception from students, but at a couple of schools, the management has tried to stop the leafleting and called the police. However, as the leafleters were not doing anything wrong, the police did not stop them.


Demo launches campaign against Heckler & Koch

Protesters with placards at demo against Heckler & KochOn Tuesday May 6th around 70 people staged a demonstration against arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch‘s Nottingham-based sales HQ. The aim of this demonstration was threefold – to expose the company’s location, to publicise the unethical nature of its business, and to launch a campaign to shut it down.

Protesters of all ages gathered in the sunshine with a variety of colourful banners and placards, some dressed as casualties of war – a reminder of the 1.5 million people who have been killed by Heckler & Koch’s deadly products. From busy Abbey Bridge, the protesters marched along Lenton Lane to the small industrial park that contains H&K’s unmarked warehouse. Around 40 police were waiting, to prevent entry into the industrial park. Around the corner, mounted police were on standby.

A speaker at a demonstration against Heckler & KochThe demonstrators gathered on either side of the gate and listened to speeches about the devastating effect of Heckler & Koch’s weapons in countries around the world. Hundreds of leaflets explaining the purpose of the demonstration were handed out to passers by, some of whom honked their horns in approval. There was a speech about the inspirational Smash EDO campaign, which has been very effective in targeting an arms company in Brighton. A portable sound system played reggae in the sunshine.

Efforts to garner media coverage revealed a famliar pattern: Having received a press release about the demonstration, reporters contacted Heckler & Koch for a statement. To make this unwanted media attention go away, H&K then called Notts police, whose press office called the media outlets, telling their editors that it would be irresponsible for them to cover the story as it could lead to criminals trying to break in to steal weapons stored at Heckler & Koch’s premises.

STOP GUNS placard at demo against Heckler & KochIt doesn’t take a genius to see that this reason is bogus: The fact is that the location of the company is already in the public domain. It is available to anyone with an internet connection, and not just on various campaign websites, but from Companies House and the British Defence Equipment Catalogue and various other sources. If the building can be discovered by peace campaigners, then it can be discovered by criminal gangs.

If the security policy of H&K and Notts police relies on no-one finding out the company’s location, then clearly it is they who are irresponsible, not the campaign or the media. A large warehouse stocked with high-power assault rifles and submachine guns with inadequate security to prevent a robbery is clearly a significant danger to the public, and such a danger is very much in the public interest.

STOP GUNS placard at demo against Heckler & KochDespite this, some media outlets acquiesced to the police request, choosing to accept self-censorship rather than challenge the police. Fortunately ITV Central News was not scared off, and broadcast a report on the 10 o’clock news.

Despite the lawful nature of the protest, police surveillance was oppressive. Evidence Gatherers from the local force were supplemented by the officers of a Forward Intelligence Team in systematically photographing and filming protesters throughout the demonstration. Two protesters were threatened with arrest for blocking a FIT cameraman’s view of the demonstration, and another two were followed by police after the demonstration.

However, spirits remained high throughout the 90-minute picket – in the words of one protester, “a very dehydrating demonstration of big love!” The demo was judged to be a great success by those who attended. It was a fantastic turn-out, and a good start to the campaign. (Pictures courtesy of Tash. For more see Notts Indymedia.)


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