Newcastle sees protests over Syria air strikes

Protest signs at Grey’s Monument, Newcastle.

A Syrian protest took place at Grey’s Monument on Monday night, as a response to Trump’s air strikes against Syria, and the UK government’s subsequent expression of support for the military action.

The site has drawn much attention in recent months, as multiple demonstrations and protests have been held in the area, and the vast majority of them have been focused upon Trump’s actions as president.

Yet, the Syrian protest was notably quieter than those of recent times. While hundreds turned out to protest Trump’s proposed visit to the UK, several dozen were at the event drawing attention to the military strikes against Syria.

Mark Johns from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! felt that the public had grown used to the idea of military action by the UK’s actions in recent years.

“Britain and the US are constantly at war and this is normalised. The Tory government support Syrian strikes but Labour provided no alternative… Corbyn is anti-war but makes compromises.”

Johns emphasised that this was a running theme for the Labour leader, saying “there was potential for him but he and Labour said councils had to accept cuts.”

Without clear direction or alternatives, protests are unlikely to sustain their momentum. Trump unified people through their opposition to his presence. Furthermore, Trump as relevant to the UK public by his proposed visit. A lone US action that the UK government has taken no part in is unlikely to stir as much attention.

However, Tony Dowling, steering committee member for Stop the War, remarked that the different rates of turnout were to be expected.

“Turnout at such tends to better the more immediate it is to the events being protested. We were several days after the attack and, of course, the bombing had actually happened — which is different to protesting in order to stop something that hasn’t happened yet.”

Dowling also pointed to the fact that opposition to Trump on this particular issue was not as steadfast.

“It is the case, however, that, some who opposed Trump have fallen behind supporting war,” he said.

Following the strikes, there was a clear split between the media between those who agreed that Assad had crossed “the red line” Obama had set and therefore deserved retribution, to those who urged for calm in an already deeply unstable situation.

Dowling reiterated that those who oppose such strikes should look to writing to their MP. While protests are not the only method available for those opposed to Trump, they are the most visible and with escalating tensions on the global stage, Newcastle will likely remain as a hub for political action in the North East.