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2017 Second highest year for white poppy sales

PPU supporter packing white poppies

2017 Second highest year for white poppy sales

As 2017 draws to a close, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) has confirmed that the number of white poppies distributed this year was the second highest in any year since white poppies were founded in 1933.

101,00 white poppies were sold by the PPU in 2017 despite a torrent of abusive messages and threats directed at white poppy wearers.

White poppies, worn in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday, represent remembrance for all victims of war of all nationalities, a rejection of militarism and a commitment to peace.

They are produced by the PPU, a pacifist organisation, although not all white poppy wearers are necessarily pacifists.

The number of shops selling white poppies increased, with outlets ranging from a fish and chip shop in Lincoln to an antiques shop in Fishguard.

Around thirty schools ordered the new White Poppies in Schools pack, produced jointly by the PPU and Forces Watch and piloted this year. Other schools made white poppies available without ordering the whole pack.

The PPU said that the rise in the number of people wearing white poppies is a sign that more and more people are rejecting forms of Remembrance that exclude civilians and people of other nationalities.

The PPU heard from many people wearing white poppies for the first time after being put off by the increasingly nationalistic and pro-military tone in which the Royal British Legion promotes red poppies.

The British Legion say that red poppies represent remembrance only for members of UK and allied armed forces, and that they also show “support for the armed forces”. The Legion’s websites includes a history of recent armed conflicts written from a pro-war perspective.

The highest year for white poppy sales was 2015, when 110,00 white poppies were sold. White poppies were founded by the Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1933.

This year, a number of people posted on social media that they were wearing a white poppy for the first time after seeing the PPU's two-minute online film about the meaning of white poppies.

The increase in discussion of white poppies on social media was sadly matched by a rise in the abuse directed at white poppy wearers. Messages posted on Facebook and Twitter in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday included encouragement to punch or kill people wearing or selling white poppies.

One woman who wrote a polite message on her town’s Facebook page, saying she had white poppies available for local people who were interested, received a stream of abusive messages in response.

Although a number of commentators attacked the new White Poppies in Schools project in the media, the coverage triggered enquiries from interested schools and is likely to have increased, rather than reduced, the number of schools providing white poppies as well as red ones.

It was inaccurately stated in the Daily Mail that children would be given white poppies instead of red ones. In fact, the PPU asked schools to make white poppies available alongside red ones, helping young people to explore the issues and make up their own minds.

The PPU said that those who misuse Remembrance Sunday to shut down discussion are not remembering the past, but forgetting it. To really remember the past, we must learn from the past, explore painful and difficult questions about the reality of war and ask what we can do to resist war in the present and the future.