SPEAK Peacemeal pavement protest communication

SPEAK: ‘Peacemeal on the Pavement’ Peace Protest

As usual, the streets of London were teeming with traffic and pedestrians as our long column of protest – made up of well over 100 people – snaked its way from Westminster Cathedral Hall, quietly (but very visibly, with our banners and everyone dressed in black), towards one of the city’s busiest streets in Victoria.

Our destination was a nondescript towering office block, called ‘Kingsgate House’. Featureless it might have appeared, but insignificant it most certainly was not.

This was Monday 1st March 2010. This was the ‘SPEAK Day of Action’ outside the Defense and Security Organization (DSO) offices. The DSO is a government department that actively helps British arms manufacturers promote and sell their products worldwide: unquestionably aiding repression, harming development and fueling conflict across the globe. All of this is funded by the UK taxpayer. This simply cannot go unchallenged.

SPEAK is the international student and young adults’ network campaigning for global peace and justice. It has some 3,000 members across the UK, the rest of Europe, Kenya, Nigeria, Hong Kong and in Brazil. Our theme that day was ‘Time for Transformation’: a call to end government support of the arms trade, with our slogan: “Defend Peace: Disarm Tax”.

SPEAK Peacemeal pavement peace protest communication

We formed a deep semi-circle on the wide pavement facing the main door to ‘Kingsgate House’. At the center was placed a large cardboard replica of a tank. To one side a small group of musicians played gentle tunes with a sea-shanty feel to them. Our mood was serious but relaxed.

The centrepiece of our protest was celebrating a ‘Peacemeal on the Pavement’, a communion liturgy right there on the street. Everyone in black, we began with an act of penitence naming the impact of our arms sales on the people of the earth: different voices speaking out from various places in the crowd using load-hailers. Quite an impact.

SPEAK 14We then picked up the theme of repentance. We shouted “Shalom!” at the building; we pulled out coloured clothes from our bags and put them on, then covered the cardboard tank with beautiful flowers.

All this quite naturally led to celebration. Sharing huge chunks of bread between ourselves and with passers by, followed by cups of wine, as the music gathered pace and volume and everyone began to dance!

 

Rob Telford, another participant on the day, reflects:

“We were highlighting the injustice of our government’s complicity in suffering caused by its arms sales around the globe, and our mustard-seed-scale demonstration in front of their offices was laden with symbolism, a glimpse of the kingdom. The bread-body of Jesus’ weakness became our strength; the wine-blood of Jesus’ despair became our joy. I remember feeling liberated from my English repression by three times shouting “Shalom!” at the towering office block. The flowers – a symbol of peace and justice – prophesied over the seeds and deeds sown within that building”.

We handed in a letter of protest to the DSO offices, then made our way to the Houses of Parliament to ask our MP’s to support the case for ending the UK’s global arms sales. The frequently used phrase, “Bread not Bombs” was beautifully exampled in our Peacemeal that day.

For more information about the SPEAK network, visit the SPEAK website.

Thanks to Gina Cox and Jo Frew for helping with background research. Photographs courtesy of Matt Walker (loudactions@yahoo.co.uk)

You can find the liturgy used by SPEAK in their ‘Peacemeal on the Pavement’ on our Liturgies page.

 

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