|Thousands gathered in Trafalgar Square on Tuesday night to protest as NATO leaders assembled in London to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the nuclear-armed military alliance. Placards and banners opposing NATO’s nuclear weapons were in evidence, alongside those opposing President Trump’s nuclear arms race.
No to Trump - No to NATO
Donald Trump was present for the summit and this brought many campaigners out on the streets to join us. There was a large contingent of NHS workers and supporters, concerned about what a Trump-Johnson trade deal could mean for the future of public health care in Britain. Other protestors included those campaigning in support of Palestinian rights, for Kurdistan and against Trump’s racism and far-right agenda.
Despite the reported arguments amongst NATO leaders and the claim that the future of the military bloc is threatened, we know that the reality on the ground is increased military spending and expansion and intervention into new areas like Latin America and Africa.
Activists from across Europe and the United States addressed the Trafalgar Square rally, making clear that if we are to rid the world of nuclear weapons and bring an end to permanent war, we must dismantle the apparatus of war. That has to mean disbanding NATO and developing a foreign policy that upholds common security based on peace, justice and respect for all nations.
The good news is that opposition to NATO is growing. In 2017, polls showed that 27% were ambivalent or opposed to the bloc. By 2019, that number has risen to 41%. Those who strongly support NATO has fallen from 42% to 25%.
But there is much more work to be done. One of the frustrating aspects of the NATO summit was the complete absence of discussion and debate about the bloc in the media. It is still assumed by many - including by the main political parties - that NATO is a good thing.
Our movement must therefore continue to make clear the relationship between nuclear weapons, war, the growing instability in the world, and NATO. To this end, together with our partners from the European peace movement, we held a well-attended ‘counter-summit’ in London last Saturday, to discuss and plan the kind of alternative foreign and security policies we would like to see.
Making a stand for peace
After Tuesday's rally, protesters marched to Buckingham Palace where leaders were gathering for a reception with the Queen. Unfortunately, we were prevented by the police from travelling down the agreed route along The Mall for almost an hour. But better late than never. We eventually marched toward the palace and then made our demands for peace and disarmament very clear when we arrived. None of the leaders can have been in any doubt about the opposition to NATO, war and nuclear weapons that exist in our society.