UK: Peace Women Banned from Taking Part in Armed Forces Day

Friday, February 26, 2010
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Two women peace campaigners have expressed their shock at being refused a stand at a flagship Wiltshire British Armed Forces and Veterans Celebration in Trowbridge this summer.

The organisers of the family event, being held in Trowbridge Park on June 27, told them their presence could be inflammatory.

Retired teacher Peggy Thomas, 67, and retired social worker Catherine Willis, 64, both of Sanders Road in Trowbridge, wanted to hand out leaflets from groups that work for peace.

They are both members of the Trowbridge Ad Hoc Peace Group and used to hold peace vigils in Fore Street from 2001 to 2003.

Ms Thomas said: “Clearly the presence of two women in their sixties displaying leaflets with inflammatory messages such as ‘seek peace and pursue it' is more threatening than we realised. We found it bizarre.

“It's not as if we're doing something completely new. There has always been conflict about people going to war and not going to war.

“They phoned to say the committee were very much against it. We just found it totally bizarre.”

The two contacted Trowbridge Town Council last year to book a stand at the event and paid a £30 deposit, but they were then told the organising committee had turned down their application.

They were told that because of the recent plan by a Muslim extremist group to march through Wootton Bassett, everyone was very nervous about causing friction.

Trowbridge Town Council's community services manager Steve Nash said: “The committee felt it was not appropriate because this is a celebration of the services and peace protesters were contrary to the celebrations.

“Peggy and Catherine are very nice people and we've known them for years but other people might attach themselves to them and disrupt things.

“We want a family orientated day where everybody goes to enjoy themselves and no hassle.

“There is always a case to be made for peace but it's down to the appropriateness of when that is.”

He said Wiltshire Police had raised concerns and advised the committee to err on the side of caution.

Inspector Dave Cullop, of Trowbridge Police, said it was a matter for the organising committee who is invited to their event. He said they notified police of their concerns but said details of the peace campaigners were not disclosed.

Steve Williams, who is chair of the committee but was off sick when the decision was made, said: “Clearly they decided that on this occasion they didn't feel it was appropriate.

“I would suspect that all members of the Armed Forces hope and pray for peace at all times but they always have the expectation that they may be called upon to protect the nation.

“Our view is that we don't want anything to detract from the Armed Forces and Veterans Day and there is always the risk that it just might.”

Held on Armed Forces Day on June 27, the Wiltshire British Armed Forces and Veterans Celebrations is a flagship event in Trowbridge town park which last year 6,000 people attended.