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Census Day will see boycotts and protests over arms company role

Leaflets promoting the Census 2021

Census Day will see boycotts and protests over arms company role

There is growing anger over the role of the arms company Leidos in running the Census for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), Britain's leading pacifist campaign group, say they are hearing from increasing numbers of people planning to boycott or protest against the Census this weekend. Census Day is on Sunday 21 March (except in Scotland, where it has been postponed until next year).

The PPU described the involvement of a military company in the Census as an example of everyday militarism.

Some are planning civil disobedience by boycotting the Census altogether. Others have decided to complete the Census but will protest by adding comments about the arms trade to the Census form.

Some plan to complete the Census form accurately but do so in a way that makes it costlier for Leidos to process, for example by writing in answers upside down and stapling attachments. The magazine Peace News has produced advice on how this can be done.

The Peace Pledge Union emphasised that their members and supporters have conscientiously made different decisions about whether to boycott the census and/or to protest against Leidos' involvement in other ways. The PPU respects the right of its members to follow their consciences in this matter.

Leidos work mainly on IT systems for weapons and armed forces but were given the £65m contract for administering the Census by the UK government. Leidos was listed as the 19th biggest arms and military services company in the world in 2019, by academic researchers at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), with military sales of $5.3bn out of total sales of $11.1bn.

The PPU said that widespread outrage over Boris Johnson's plan for more nuclear warheads, announced on Tuesday, has made more people determined to resist militarism when they can.

Many PPU members and allies will be posting about the issue on social media with the hashtag #CountMeOut.

Hiring Leidos to run the census is an outrageous example of everyday militarism," said Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager for the Peace Pledge Union. "This is an issue of conscience for many of our members and allies. Some of us will boycott and some of us won't but we are all determined to oppose the arms dealers and military institutions that are gaining influence in more and more areas of civilian life. After Boris Johnson's plan for more nukes, it's no surprise that many people are keen to resist militarism.”

There were also protests 10 years ago, when the 2011 census for England and Wales was run by the arms company Lockheed Martin.