Veterans ‘threatened with arrest’ on Armed Forces Day for handing out leaflets

Security through out VfP from Blackpool Council Armed Forces Day event
Mohamed Elmaazi

A group of military veterans was escorted off the promenade in Blackpool during Armed Forces Day celebrations.

The incident occurred on Saturday 30 June 2018, as families across the UK were encouraged to pay homage to the various branches of the British military. 12 “Army and Navy Veterans”, who were wearing ‘Veterans for Peace’ T-shirts, were on the promenade handing out leaflets and speaking to passers by.

A peaceful day in the sun

Phillip Clarke is a member of Veterans for Peace (VFP). He was among the 12 in Blackpool, and he told The Canary that the environment was relaxed and subdued. People were happy to speak to them, Clarke explained, especially the girls and boys dressed in cadet uniforms.

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But Clarke says that some people seemed less than pleased:

We had been on the promenade for about two hours when, we understand, a military person on one of the stands complained about our activities to a Blackpool Council representative.

We don’t like your kind ’round these parts

Clarke continued:

They warned that if we persisted in our discussions, handing out leaflets, and wearing our T-shirts on the promenade, they would ask the police to arrest us.

Jenny Bollington, media manager for Blackpool Council, disputed this, telling The Canary:

No-one at any point was threatened with arrest.

She also said:

In response to many complaints from people at the event, including veterans, members of the public, cadets and staff, the council representative asked the VFP to stop handing out leaflets. This was because the content of the leaflet was not deemed appropriate for the event or the audience at the event. Furthermore, the distributers of said material did not have a leafleting licence as needed to distribute printed material.

All speech is free, but some is more free than others

Bollington said:

The event organiser advised that if they wanted to leaflet at another time how they could obtain a licence. Similarly it was stated that the group could stay if they stopped engaging with the public in the manner that they had been previously.

Bollington also linked The Canary to the council rules on leaflet distribution.

But as Clarke pointed out, the rules state:

Rules on distributing leaflets in Blackpool
Clarke commented:

So maybe we didn’t need permission, as one could construe our leaflets were distributed for political reasons.

Leaflet/Card 1 – Photo by VFP UK

Leaflet/Card 2 – Photo by VFP UK

Ultimately, the VFP members “had a brief discussion” and “decided to have one last group photo and then withdrew”.

Clarke told The Canary:

Research shows that the outcomes for our child soldiers is poor with post service joblessness, homelessness, and mental health conditions such as PTSD.

But more importantly, veterans in VFP are in principle against children being recruited into the military.

VFP tweeted:


Clarke also pointed out that similar things “occurred in Llandudno and Leicester“, so “this incident should not be seen in isolation”.

Peace pledge in wales threatened by cops

It would appear that there’s an ever-shrinking space for people to voice dissent – even in a peaceful and calm manner. This was on display most clearly when 12 military veterans were asked to leave an Armed Forces Day event, for the ‘crime’ of calling for peace.

The Canary contacted the UK armed forces, which declined to issue a statement on this matter.

Get Involved!

Read about how the military uses Armed Forces Day to target children for recruitment.

Also read The Canary’s review of the report Warrior Nation: War, militarism and British democracy.

Learn about Veterans for Peace UK and its work educating young people on the true cost of war.

Support independent journalism at The Canary.

Featured image via VFP Photo

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