Stop the War Coalition barred from Downing Street

Anti-war campaigners were refused access to Downing Street yesterday to deliver a letter calling for troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan.

About 100 noisy demonstrators crossed Whitehall to take up a position in front of the gates leading into the street, chanting and waving banners.

And a group of four protest organisers were told they would not be allowed access to hand the letter in to No 10.

MP Jeremy Corbyn and veteran peace campaigner Tony Benn were among the group hoping to take the letter to Downing Street.

But they were told it had “been decided” they would not be allowed in.

Mr Corbyn said: “It’s a shabby way of treating the majority of British people who are alarmed by the loss of life in Afghanistan.”

The rally was organised by the Stop the War Coalition to mark the death toll of British military personnel in Afghanistan, which has surpassed that of troops in Iraq.

Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German said: “They wouldn’t allow us in and when I asked why not the policeman at the gate said, it’s been decided’. By whom we don’t know.”

Demonstrators were asked to cross back over the road and position themselves behind the barriers.

But they continued to occupy the space in front of the Downing Street gates, chanting: “What do we want? Troops out. When do we want it? Now.”

The letter to be handed to Prime Minister Gordon Brown read: “The tragic deaths of 15 British soldiers in just over one week, including three who were barely 18 years old, has highlighted the need for British troops to be withdrawn from an unwinnable and unjustified war.

“The argument that British troops are in Afghanistan to bring stability, security and democracy is simply refuted by the facts.

“The lesson of history is clear. The Afghan people have always resisted any attempt to invade or occupy their country. All attempts to do so over the past 150 years have only brought horrific levels of death and destruction, both to the Afghan people and the invading armies.”

Mr Benn said it was an “unwinnable war”.