Gloucestershire StWC Inaugural Meeting Report
Gloucestershire Stop the War reports on the their inaugral meeting
In late February, one of several newly formed local Stop the War Groups hosted their inaugural public meeting at Friends Meeting House in Cheltenham. The new group, Gloucestershire Stop the War, was founded towards the end of 2016, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the White House (making him, terrifyingly, the most powerful man on earth) and is symptomatic of the growing opposition to Trump and the increasing dismay at Britain and the West’s continually destructive foreign policy, particularly in the face of increasing austerity and the refugee crisis.
Despite an already strong presence across the country, Stop the War has seen an increase in support and interest in light of these developments, and it is easy to see why. Trump’s presidency promises to see not only a continuation of US and allied destructive, non-sensical wars in the Middle East, but also a renewal of the arms race, the normalisation of hate, notably the anti-Mexican policies being peddled by the Trump administration, in addition to its legitimisation of Islamophobia, as well as an increasingly hostile attitude towards China.
The inaugural meeting was centered around a talk delivered by writer and anti-war campaigner Daniel Jakopovich, which was entitled ‘A More Dangerous World? War and Foreign Policy under Donald Trump’. It encouraged a lively and constructive debate from those that attended. It was great seeing such a lively turn out, 27 in total including Daniel, especially during a time when people with views at the opposite end of the political spectrum are becoming increasingly emboldened and vocal. The dismay, but also the enthusiasm to actively oppose, which was expressed by those that came to the meeting, was a great cause for optimism and certainly bodes well for the establishment of Gloucestershire’s Stop the War group.
The practice of setting up a new group was relatively simple, though the prospect seemed rather more daunting. The question of whether or not there would be enough of an appetite for the group in Gloucestershire was always in the back of our minds, but it was the momentum created by the increasing number of activist groups in the area that gave us the faith that there would be enough interest. Our faith proved to be justified when our inaugural meeting proved to be a success, not just in terms of the discussions that took place, but also the number of people that attended. We had anticipated 12 or so, believing this to be a more than respectable number for our first meeting, and so to more than double that was very pleasing and we hope to build on the enthusiasm generated.
The speaker and the venue was booked only five weeks prior to the meeting, following an organising meeting with Daniel Jakopovich, Stop the War’s national organiser. As soon as it was it was set up, we started publicising the meeting. Publicity was, perhaps, the most important aspect of organising the event, in terms of ensuring the evening was a success, and this too was relatively simple. We approached publicising the event in two ways: firstly, by setting up the events page on our group’s Facebook page, inviting contacts who might be interested in attending andthen diligently posting it in a variety of relevant places online, on other local grouppages, under relevant articles etc. As well as the online activity, we printed leaflets and distributed them at various events, for instance at Momentum meetings and the last minute anti-Trump demo that was held in Cheltenham town center. Without either the online publicity or the leafleting this meeting would not have had the success it did. On the back of this positive first meeting we hope our second public meeting will swiftly follow, with plans already under way, in order to build on the momentum generated.
Every time Trump’s administration is embroiled in a new controversy, and with every single executive order that is signed, the resistance against Trump’s far right agenda grows stronger, so to does the continued opposition to Britain’s renewal of the ‘special relationship’ and the prospective trail of destruction that renewal seems to traditionally entail. With this in mind we hope the success of Gloucestershire Stop theWar’s first meeting will give confidence to those seeking to set up new local groups, as well as remobilise old ones, across the country.
Since this article was written, Gloucestershire Stop the War has announced that its next meeting will be held on April the 26th at Friends Meeting House in Cheltenham. The meeting will discuss Britain’s 7 Wars and further details can be found on the group's Facebook page.