Malcolm leads the walk into Colchester (D. Viesnik)
The walk set off from the Ministry of Defence, off Whitehall, central London on Sunday, 27th June, on the weekend of Armed Forces Day / Unarmed Forces Day. It included overnight stops at Wanstead, Brentwood, Chelmsford and Maldon, at which modestly attended public meetings took place most evenings with the (very tired) walkers. These included talks from Chris Cole about drones, from Maya Evans and myself about detention and torture of Afghans and foreign nationals captured in Afghanistan, film clips, and a discussion on what the peace / anti-war movement can do to hasten the end of the war.
Every day we experienced hot, dry weather, with daily temperatures reaching 29 degrees C. Along the way, we held dignified ceremonies at war memorials, during which Afghans and British soldiers who have died as a result of the war were named. In Brentwood, we were joined at our ceremony by Rev Thomas McMahon, the Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, who gave a pertinent speech and prayer, and by Pat Gaffney, co-ordinator of Pax Christi; whilst at Chelmsford we had the company of Bruce Kent, of CND, Movement for the Abolition of War and Pax Christi.
We are truly indebted to all those who kindly hosted, fed and watered us along the way, to the walk organisers, our amazing support crew and, indeed, to all of the walkers for their solid determination. But the star of the show was surely 80-year-old Malcolm Pittock, who walked every step of the 80-odd miles from the Ministry of Defence in London to the military prison in Colchester. On the fourth day, from Chelmsford to Tolleshunt Knights, Malcolm set off at 8am to cover the 21-mile distance along canals and across ploughed fields in unrelenting heat, finally arriving with his support walkers at his destination at 9.45pm, just as darkness was falling.
Upon arrival in Colchester, we were met in the town centre by a collection of peace and anti-war activists. A name-reading ceremony was followed by a rally, with speakers including Milan Rai from Justice Not Vengeance and co-editor of Peace News, who was one of the organisers and participants of the walk, Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Joan Humphries from Military Families Against the War, who travelled all the way from Scotland, and John Tipple, Joe Glenton’s legal case worker.
The walk then continued into late evening to its final destination, the military prison where Joe Glenton is being “corrected”. More speeches were made, another naming the dead ceremony was held, and we finished off with some raucous chanting of such slogans as “Hooray for Joe Glenton!”, “Hooray for war resisters!”, “End the Afghan war” and “Bring the troops home”.
Those in power on both sides of the Atlantic seem determined to press ahead with this unjust, unnecessary and bloody war and occupation come what may. I hope this walk and other acts of solidarity and resistance will at least go some way to reminding them that they do not act in our name.