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Putting troops on the streets would undermine British democracy

An armed solider and an armed police officer on an urban street

Putting troops on the streets would undermine British democracy

British pacifists have pledged to resist any plan to deploy armed forces personnel on British streets to carry out police functions.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) described the plan as a threat to civilian democracy in the UK.

The PPU pointed out that troops have no authority to arrest civilians under UK law. They said that no-one has any obligation to co-operate with the armed forces or obey instructions from them.

Their comments follow the news that the Ministry of Defence has offered soldiers to support armed police officers in the Metropolitan Police after a number of police officers withdraw from firearms roles.

The PPU described the proposal to deploy troops as a particularly alarming example of everyday militarism. They added that the last 20 years have seen a rise in military involvement in civilian life, through initiatives such as the introduction of Armed Forces Day, military covenants and sharply increased funding for cadet units while other youth services have been cut.

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), said:

Most British people do not want Britain to be the sort of country in which soldiers stand around on street corners brandishing guns. Deploying troops to carry out police functions is a threat to Britain’s traditions of democracy and civil liberty.

No-one should feel obliged to obey instructions given by troops on the streets. We have our rights because our ancestors campaigned for them. We must not give up our freedoms by allowing ourselves to be subjected to military authority.

The armed forces and their leaders are rarely held to account – even less so than the police. Certain police officers’ fears of accountability must not be used as an excuse for the armed forces to grab more power over civilian life.”


The Peace Pledge Union is a group of people who have pledged to reject war and to tackle its causes. We are the British section of War Resisters' International. Join us!