Armed Forces Day targets children for recruitment by allowing them to play with guns

Child handels machine gun at Armed Forces Day 23 June 2018
Mohamed Elmaazi

Children have been encouraged to play with military grade machine guns, by members of the armed forces, in violation of an agreement made with the Lord Mayor of Leicester, community members say.

Symon Hill from the Peace Pledge Union claimed that these events are focussed on recruitment and normalising war:

Armed Forces Day events work as recruitment on two levels. They encourage a small number of people towards joining the armed forces, and they recruit a much larger number of people to a pro-military and pro-war mindset.

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Kids with guns

Penny Walker, of Leicester Against War / Leicester For Peace, described what happened on 23 June, when Leicester held their Armed Forces Day celebrations:

Those of us concerned about these public displays and the militarisation of young people had received assurances from our City Mayor that children would not be allowed to handle guns at these events, and so a group of us spent two hours in the city centre at the display of weapons and big trucks and recruitment games.

Military displays in Leicester on 23 June ’18 for Armed Forces Day

CREDIT: Civic Leicester

Walker says she and others stood in silent vigil across from the military stands. A member of the group took pictures of what the soldiers were doing, “especially when they allowed children to handle guns” she said.

 

Peace vigil opposite of armed forces booths in Leicester 23 June '18
CREDIT: Civic Leicester

Someone call the police!

Military personnel called the police.

Walker explained:

An army officer told our photographer he did not like the photography and would ask the police to move him on. The police then came and told him the army were uncomfortable with photographs being taken and the photographer explained he was breaking no laws as this was a public event and he, and many others, were uncomfortable with the army allowing children to handle guns. Would they please pass this on?

Hill further commented on Armed Forces Day:

No other institution in Britain could get away with treating children like this. Armed Forces Day gives children the impression that war is exciting and uncomplicated. Young people have a right to make up their own minds about complex ethical issues as they grow up, not to be swamped with thinly veiled pro-war propaganda.

The Canary contacted both the Lord Mayor’s office and the military for comment. Neither replied by the time of publication.

Get them while they’re young

As The Canary previously reported, a 2018 report from Forces Watch describes Armed Forces Day as part of a “militarisation offensive”. This is aimed at curtailing dissent against UK foreign policy, expanding support for unpopular wars, and securing new recruits, particularly among children.

A short video, The Unseen March, produced in 2015, also warned about the militarisation of education targeting children in Britain.

In it, Ben Griffin of Veterans for Peace said:

We are told that military ethos is about teamwork and discipline. But actually military ethos is about obeying orders without question, removing that barrier to kill, and creating a sense of loyalty to an institution. Usually through the formation of a ‘gang’ mentality.

The former Special Air Service (SAS) soldier, finished with a stark warning:

The risk of allowing a military ethos to infect our schools is that we’ll a have a generation of children, growing up becoming members of society who do not question authority, and who do not question orders.

Resist now, or forever hold your peace

Britain is the only European country, and one of a handful of [pdf, p1] countries worldwide, that allows the military to enlist minors.

Events like Armed Forces Day have support from both major political parties as well as the corporate and establishment press.

If parents who oppose children being targeted for recruitment by the military don’t speak up now, they may one day find themselves in a society in which simply questioning the military, or its wars, will be labelled ‘treasonous’.

Get Involved!

Read the Canary’s review of Warrior Nation: War, militarism and British democracy.

Read “Challenging militarism” resource by ForcesWatch and British Quakers

– Also learn more about militarism and resistance to it in Britain via the Peace Pledge Union.

Visit Veterans for Peace UK to learn about their work educating young people on the true cost of war

Support independent journalism at The Canary.

Featured image via Civic Leicester

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