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:
The square was going to need at least two thousand handprints to fill it. We needed to make a banner 25 metres long to fit the length of the square. But we thought about the questions in terms of answers, not in terms of problems. Apathy was not an option - giving up was not an option. After talking to Brian, (who has been protesting at Parliament Square for years against the bombing of civilians), we were put in touch with MTV who interviewed us about our idea… The ball was beginning to roll.

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 the world:

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!

making the banner
Behind the 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 Blair.
As young people we know that we are to inherit a future shaped by our leaders.
We know that unless we stop this coming war, the blood that is spilled will be left on our hands.

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.

hands up workshopOne 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.

the finished banner
The finished banner

Word spread like inspectors in Iraq.
Decorated hands started pouring in from all over the UK.

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.

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