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Surge in demand for white poppies amidst ceasefire protests

white poppy stall

Surge in demand for white poppies amidst ceasefire protests

There has been a sharp rise in demand for white poppies ahead of Remembrance Day this year, following increased interest from groups and individuals calling for a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), who promote white poppies, has experienced an unprecedented rush of orders in the days leading up to 11th November. So far in November, white poppy orders are up over 60% compared to November last year.

PPU staff report that they have never seen so many people buying white poppies last-minute. There has been a rush of people buying white poppies to take on the ceasefire demonstrations this weekend.

Remembrance ceremonies involving white poppies are also happening in record numbers, with dozens planned for Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday, the highest number in at least five years.

White poppies have appeared at protests calling for a ceasefire across the UK over the last few weeks. PPU members and supporters have been selling white poppies at street stalls, often drawing attention to the victims of the war in Israel and Gaza at the same time.

One stall in Wimbledon, organised by CND supporters, happened alongside a vigil for the victims of the bombing of Gaza. Alex Forbes, who was on the stall, said, “We sold all the white poppies in the box in Wimbledon today by the time the Palestine vigil crowd peaked… The Gaza conflict seems to give the white poppy a new significance.”

The PPU will join the national demonstration in central London today, Remembrance Day, to support the call for a ceasefire and distribute thousands of white poppies.

Rishi Sunak has criticised the Remembrance Day demonstrations as “provocative and disrespectful”, leading to immediate calls from government officials and right-wing commentators to ban the march through London, and fuelling inaccurate claims that protests will target the Cenotaph.

White poppy wearers have dismissed the backlash, arguing that remembering all victims of war is entirely consistent with resisting war today. They have also pointed out that the London march route will go nowhere near the Cenotaph.

Interest in white poppies has also been spurred on by the hypocrisy of government rhetoric at a time of war. Sunak has defended the ‘sanctity of Armistice Day’, even as he provides steadfast military support and diplomatic support for Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

One new white poppy supporter told the PPU why she was wearing one for the first time: “All the rhetoric about how calling for a ceasefire this weekend is somehow 'disrespectful' has meant I've finally ordered myself a white poppy.”

Alex Armitage, a councillor from the Scottish Greens, said, "In Gaza, we witness the terrifying consequences of decades of failure to work for peace, with thousands of people killed. Despite this, political leaders are refusing to call for a ceasefire. For me, the message of the white poppy seems more urgent and relevant than ever."

In further signs of increased demand, white poppy wreath kits, available for the first time this year, sold out within three weeks on the PPU’s online shop, and the number of white poppy boxes ordered by shops, cafes, community spaces, local groups and other distributors has increased by a quarter.

Many schools and other educational settings have been using white poppies. A new set of remembrance activities, created jointly by the PPU and Woodcraft Folk, has been used by groups of young people across the UK, in Brighton, Leicester, Stirling, London and elsewhere.

Today, many white poppy wearers will stop at 11-o-clock to observe two minutes’ silence in remembrance of all victims of war.

On Remembrance Sunday, the National Alternative Remembrance Ceremony in London will include a message from the Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF), a joint Israeli-Palestinian organisation of over 600 families, all of whom have lost an immediate family member to the ongoing conflict, as well as speeches by Pax Christi and Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

White poppies have been worn since 1933. They stand for remembrance for all victims of war, both civilian and military, of all nationalities, as well as challenging militarism and a commitment to peace. They differ from red poppies, which commemorate only British and allied armed forces personnel and show “support for the armed forces,” according to the Royal British Legion which promotes them.

Following 7th October, the PPU joined other voices from the peace movement in condemning the horrific attacks on civilians by Hamas in Southern Israel, including the taking of hostages, as well as the the brutal military response of the Israeli government. The PPU stands with other groups and individuals calling for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages and political prisoners, the commencement of peace negotiations, and a permanent end to Israel’s apartheid regime and occupation of Palestine.