After many weeks of planning, the Leeds Coalition Against the War group turned out on Saturday 20th of February to protest the bombings in Syria under the banner slogan Rage Against War. Accompanied by many members of the public keen to fight the cause a stall was set up outside Leeds City Art Gallery, selling badges, raffle tickets etc to raise funds for PAFRAS [Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers] where all the money raised that day was to end up. The mood was a rather buoyant one, everyone lifted by the presence of so many others whilst simultaneously keen to go and express our rage at the war in Syria. Our speakers arrived, and despite the lack of a proper sound system they did go ahead with a megaphone. We had a speaker from Yorkshire CND, Mike McGrath, who spoke about the solidarity between groups such as ourselves and them. We also had Sally Kincaid from Wakefield NUT who had travelled down to the Calais “jungle” with We Are Wakefield giving an awfully moving speech, bringing members of the crowd to tears as we began to understand the reality of the conditions these people were living in. Ben Curry from the local Labour Party spoke, asking us all to help support the motion they had passed in their local ward, Hyde Park and Woodhouse, to call for the resignation of shadow cabinet ministers who voted for the war. We also had a man from Syria who spoke about how the conflict actually is for people in there, and on how western powers have no right to intervene if all they are going to do is push their own agendas, turning what should be a political revolution of sorts for the Syrian people into a proxy war.
As the speakers were talking, the Yorkshire CND ‘Trident missile’ arrived from Bradford, plastered in slogans pushing the cause for more welfare and less warfare. The marching band Bassa Bassa were all prepared by this point, so with the missile leading the way, Bassa Bassa shortly thereafter and our crowd behind them we were off. Although the 100 or so people we had there wasn’t the largest of turnouts we certainly caught the eyes of everyone in town that day, most passers-by stopping to take pictures, some even joining in with our music and chanting. There was no way that anybody around us could ignore our message, we were really rather impressive and caused a scene. We walked for about 30 minutes, eventually coming back round to the Art Gallery and awarding ourselves a big pat on the back for our success.
Once we’d packed up and arranged for our missile to be taken away we made our way to the Fenton for the music. Despite some worries as to what Declan had been doing in preparation, he came through in fantastic fashion, with the afternoon spent watching some moving acoustic acts and poetry including Catherine Warr, Matt Abbott and Toria Garbutt. The bands for the music upstairs came fashionably late – a whole two hours late – however this did not take an effect on the mood as the acoustic acts were happy to continue until finally everything was ready upstairs.
The first band to play were We Built a Mountain, managing to start after the crowd stopped with the chants of “Eric Lock,” a band member clearly known by many there. The crowd all enjoyed some stirring performances, some dancing taking place, with a good sense of unity among all there. Bands and DJ’s included the likes of Fisting for Glory, DJ SlickWillyDee, The Psycho Strangers and plenty more. Again a full list is available on the event facebook page here. The raffle took place at around 8PM with much anticipation surrounding it, and Remi – one of the organisers – winning a prize causing some controversy, perhaps an investigation of sorts needs to take place there! Speakers from Leeds Coalition Against the War were getting up in between acts to remind people that the event was a fundraiser and there was a bucket for people to donate in. This went on until late into the night when eventually it wound down, with people leaving largely out of sheer exhaustion towards the end. Overall the day had been a huge success both in bringing people together and being plenty of fun for everyone involved and in raising money for refugees – in the end we raised £723.59 for PAFRAS. It certainly seemed to be a good sign for more events to come!
For more photos of the event see the gallery here