Top photo is of a blue banner reading Give Peace a Chance. Below is a banner for Armed Forces day that has been graffitied with peace symbols and the word "Peace"

Resisting Armed Forces Day in Cornwall

Armed Forces Day took place in Falmouth, Cornwall on 24th June 2023. CAAT, alongside national and local groups, including the Peace Pledge Union, Forces Watch, Demilitarise Education, Cornwall Resists and local and national Quakers, were on the streets to show that people were not prepared to stand by and let the military take over the streets of Falmouth.

A large part of the event was focussed on recruiting children, with a whole day devoted to schools with every school in Cornwall invited to attend. Primary aged children were invited to handle guns and climb on tanks. The UK is the only country in Europe that recruits children to the military, and it specifically targets deprived areas, such as Cornwall, one of the most deprived regions in Europe.

A protester at Armed Forces Day with a sign reading Stop Recruiting Child Soldiers alongside a Police Liaison Officer

The event was also sponsored by BAE Systems. As one of the world’s largest arms companies, BAE obviously has no interest in reducing conflict as its shareholders profit from war and instability across the world. Another event sponsor was A&P – the company who are currently responsible for refitting the Bibby Stockholm refugee prison ship to double its size to accommodate 500 asylum seekers.

Cornwall Council, meanwhile, spent over £600,000 on the event. As local campaigners pointed out, this colossal waste of money took place at a time when local services have been cut to the bone. And despite promises that thousands of people would visit, the view from the ground was that nowhere near the numbers predicted attended. Locals reported that the Sea Shanty festival the weekend before was much busier and well attended.

On the day, Quakers held a powerful silent vigil as the parade started forming, and then joined with local people to march behind the parade and present an alternative to war and militarism. Despite some boos and hostility from the crowd, many people were able to have productive conversations, and present both the facts about military life and the lies that were being told about the day. Amazing banners were displayed in the middle of town through most of the day, ensuring everyone who walked past knew there was an alternative.

Banner with the Cornish flag with Teach Peace written in the cross

Other actions included graffiti on posters and signs, and it was particularly heartening to see the number of Solidarity with Yemen stickers that appeared around town.

Armed Forces Day military village sign with a solidarity with Yemen sticker on it

Congratulations to all who were involved in organising and attending the protests. While it was horrible for the people of Cornwall, and particularly Falmouth, to have to deal with this horrific display on their doorstep, many new connections were made, and we were left knowing that not only did Armed Forces Day not represent Cornwall, but with hope about what we can achieve through working together in the future.

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