The Hands Up for Peace Campaign started with a single question in our inner city London comprehensive school common room; 'If two middle aged men can start a world war how many young people would it take to stop it?'
What if thousands of kids joined together and raised their hands against what they believed was an unjust war in Iraq? What if we could fill an area that everyone could see with thousands of decorated handprints raised high, each representing the voice of one of those children?
What if people listened to that screaming silent message?
We took these questions
and energy to Parliament Square, central London. Here, we made a video with
the House of Commons on one side and Downing Street on the other. We began to
realise the scale of what we had to do:
Funded entirely by
young people in full time education we bought the 25-metre banner that was
needed. We bought the paint, bought the primer, bought the brushes. The whole
campaign will leave us short of at least £500 but we'll do it. Although the
banner was too big to unroll in full in our school hall we succeeded in
measuring it, pencilling in the design and painting our rainbow message to
Although thirty of us painted the banner in the hall with paintbrushes brought from home no teachers knew what we were doing behind the closed curtains of our school stage!
Most of us have had
coursework deadlines, GCSE and A-Level exams. The campaign has had to fit in
free periods, between lessons, in lunchtimes and at night. But it's not just
exams that will determine our future, it's the decisions made by Bush and
So while the banner was under construction, leaflets, badges and posters were being designed and made by other students, packs were being sent out to friends, friends of friends, emails were starting to spread to kids from primary to uni, from Clapham to Camden, Bradford to Belfast. We held a meeting for students at the Tricycle Theatre where students from all over London flocked to hear about the campaign and literally lend a hand.
One of our workshops
We held an assembly. We made a website. We created the declaration on the front of this web-site together by writing it, passing it round, redrafting, improving and approving it. We asked questions about the war, sought information and strengthened our arguments. We started a Hotmail account which we can all access, reply to questions from all over the world. We got interest from TV companies, newspapers, photographers, teachers. We received messages of solidarity from students everywhere and members of youth organisations such as Woodcraft and Children's Express.
Word spread like
inspectors in Iraq.
We all wear our Hands Up for Peace badges because we're all part of something. But we don't have a leader, we don't have a boss. We are just a group of young people of every age, race, and religion coming together without help or instruction from any adult to do something we believe in. Time might be running out for Saddam Hussein but patience is running out for Bush and Blair. We're not going to stop until we're listened to, until our hands are raised in Parliament Square one night in March.
Until our hands are counted.