Our peace vigil was just that – peaceful

Anti-war campaigner Sue Wheat comments on a peace vigil in Walthamstow that has garnered national media attention

Peace vigil

Post-it notes left on the office of Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy prior to the vote in the House of Commons, at which Stella voted ‘yes’ to UK plans for bombing Syria

On Tuesday 1st December local residents organised a vigil which myself and others helped to publicise quickly on social media.

The calm, well-intentioned meet-up was for anyone who wanted to come and show our MP Stella Creasy that we wanted her to vote ‘no’ to air strikes in Syria. We met at the mosque in Queen’s Road with candles and walked quietly to Stella’s constituency office in Orford Road where there were speeches by community leaders.

It was a wonderful community-led event of people trying to make their voices heard against the air strikes and trying to influence Stella, even though we knew she was in Westminster.

We took post-it notes and thought it would be great to leave her messages of peace and stick them on the office window. It looked beautiful and powerful.

Then we went to Orford Road. There were about 200 people including children. Various Christian and Muslim leaders, and other community leaders, spoke – it was very inspiring peace rally. The police were laid-back and friendly, there was no intrusive police presence.

The next day we realised someone had put up a message on Facebook with a picture of the start of the vigil which was outside the mosque. He managed to get some police in the photo which made it look like a demo, and it was dark and blurry.

But the picture was found by The Independent and used in an article about social media activity and lobbying Stella to vote no. It was picked up by other mass media and a misinformation story about constituents “bullying” Stella ensued. It was then picked up by LBC, London Evening Standard, Daily Mirror, Channel 4 News, the BBC’s Newsnight and many other media. Then I found out the person who posted the original picture was from Kent, nowhere near Walthamstow, and had immediately closed down his Facebook and Twitter accounts . It seems he decided to use this peaceful family vigil to defame the actions of our amazing community.

As the media frenzy perpetuating the misinformation has unfolded I and others who took part are devastated. There may of course be things we don’t know that happened separately in terms of any bullying of Stella Creasy. But all I know is that the vigil was peaceful and non-threatening and I was and still am proud to be part of this wonderful peaceful group of citizens in Walthamstow.

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