Thousands of people protested against UK airstrikes in Syria, but many more who hold the same view didn’t, and won’t. Here are some reasons why
Measuring public sentiment against airstrikes on Syria by counting how many people turn up to protest would be foolish. Of the thousands who took to the streets across the UK to oppose the airstrikes, there were thousands more who could not or did not want to attend.
A YouGov poll published on Wednesday showed declining public confidence in the case for airstrikes. Last week, 59% of Britons backed the action but now the figure has declined to 48% – this is 5 million voters. And those who voted Labour in the last general election have switched from backing military action by 52% to 26% a week ago, to opposing it by 42% to 35%.
Simon, 35, Hatfield, Hertfordshire: Protests make no difference. Debates make no difference. Expert opinion and select committees make no difference. All of the participants have made up their minds, probably long ago. I don’t know whether that’s because they’re influenced by factors we aren’t told much about – arms deals being the obvious one – or something less sinister. But does anyone expect the debate in parliament to change anyone’s minds? The last time there was a mass anti-war protest, it only resulted in a massive crackdown on protests.
Without other forms of intervention, it’s a vanity action, which we all know will make little positive difference to the political or social situation on the ground and is likely to entrench us in another impossible situation that becomes our fault, as well as probably making the UK less safe.
Dawny, 72, London: There must be more effective ways of protesting. I marched in London in support of the miners in the 1980s and I experienced the mockery of onlookers. And they were right to mock. Standing in the rain on a cold winter day waving a placard will do little except amuse those secure in a warm office observing the antics of the plebs.
Who, exactly, are the forces going to bomb? The extremists are likely to be indistinguishable from the innocent. Or are they considered acceptable collateral damage? I am against the proposed bombing campaign in Syria. There is little evidence that such action would reduce the chance of further attacks similar to that seen in Paris.
Darren, 35, London: I don’t doubt there is a huge number who feel passionately against these airstrikes, but also feel that protest is a pointless activity. Recent anti-war protest in this country has been ignored by Labour and Conservative governments alike.
We find ourselves in a cycle of government-sanctioned violence against organised terrorism. Strikes will mean this cycle continues, increasing anti-west sentiment and sowing hatred that will last for generations. As worrying to me is disenfranchisement regarding our reaction to the perceived threat of Isis – after Iraq and Afghanistan I hope that public weariness of ineffectual military action will influence a move against conflict.
Mysia, 39, Witney, Oxfordshire: I am a single, working mother of a child with special needs. I have used up all my annual leave days from work, and it’s nearly Christmas. I simply can’t drop everything to go and protest – this isn’t just the protests over the airstrikes, but also over all the other rubbish that this government is doing.
I am against airstrikes and I don’t see how they will achieve anything without ground support. And there are bound to be innocent civilian casualties.
Nicola, 27, London: I don’t feel that my presence will have any impact, and I also fear that protests tend to end up aggressive or violent, which I don’t want to be associated with. There should be a better way for me to share my views than standing outside for a bit with a placard.
I don’t believe that attacking a country is the correct solution to deal with Isis. I think bombing has the potential to push vulnerable people towards Isis or to extremism. These are people who are living in fear, in a war zone, fearing for their lives and their families’ lives. People who don’t want to live like this – virtually everyone – will want to flee. We will reject them, and they will have nowhere to turn to.
Richenda, 29, Cambridgeshire: I am more cautious about protesting these days because police brutality has gotten out of hand. I do what I can online instead. I also don’t have time as I’m juggling three jobs and full-time study.
I’ve only been on anti-austerity and funding cuts demonstrations, and counter marches against the BNP. They are usually friendly and fun. The only negative experience is being scared of the police suddenly doing something like charging at trapped protesters on horseback. Also, the frustration of having a completely peaceful event and then going home to find that the media have under-reported the number of people present and have found some isolated skirmish somewhere and used that to represent the full demonstration.
Jess, 17, Manchester: I am strongly against airstrikes because I believe that they will not weaken Isis but only make the civil war in Syria more complicated and possibly worse. And this could easily backfire for Europe.
I’ve not attended a protest because I am currently in my second year of A-levels and have a large amount of coursework to complete. My parents took me to my first protest – against the Iraq war – when I was five. I don’t really remember much apart from all my friends and their parents were also there.
Harvey, 17, Norwich: I had to make a choice between going on the climate change march on Sunday or the anti-war march on Saturday. I had other things to do on that weekend so I just attended the climate march. After all, climate change is life or death for the entire human race: billions of potential causalities as opposed to millions.
I am firmly against UK airstrikes in Syria. Bombing will not defeat Isis, it will strengthen it if anything. People will not forget which country killed their friends and family who were essentially collateral damage, and will be extremely easy to radicalise. Furthermore, what war against a guerrilla force has been won by bombing? None. America is already conducting more bombing runs then it needs to. Why send British pilots to their potential deaths, which only makes Britain a target and helps Isis?
Jeanne, 82, London: I’ve attended protests against the wars in Iraq, Korea and Vietnam. They were all good, well organised rallies with like-minded people joining from all over the country. I enjoyed the cameraderie and the speeches.
I do not think airstrikes will make us or any other western nation safer from attack on home soil. It is likely to alienate even more young Muslims and increase such attacks. More effort must be put into surveillance and into the Vienna talks.
Jon, 62, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk: My breathing isn’t up to protesting. But I am against the airstrikes. More noncombatants will die, more will become refugees. Syrian skies are too crowded for more planes.
Al-Monitor reports that the senior military leadership of Isis has already moved from Syria to Libya. Would it not make more sense to attack military targets in Libya before Isis gets too organised? Time to get a step ahead of the enemy.
Louis, 45, London: I am suffering from a condition making my mobility very limited and painful. During the first Gulf war, one of the protests I attended got violent when the police blocked our path. Since then I protested against practically all military interventions up to 2009.
Apart from the huge number of civilian casualties and destruction of infrastructure, whilst some terrorists may die, the potential recruits will increase, making the world more unstable and dangerous. Bombing by the west is a major reason why Isis exists; more bombing will make it worse. Continue reading...