Both the Army Romors Service website and a local paper in Kent are today reporting that a public 'apology' has been issued by the person who subvertised one of the Afghan Generation poppy appeal posters at Gillingham train station. According to the report on Kent News, the same billboard has been subvertised again, this time with the new message "SORRY. NEVER AGAIN...?"
While it is unclear exactly how the billboards new wording is meant to be interpreted, the 'open letter' makes things much clearer. The rise of fascism in this country and sorry state of our own democracy are among the issues raised with the author speaking of the frustration felt protesting alongside millions with no effect, plus feeling despair and disillusionment at this countries corrupt political system and media.
The letter, addressed to the wife and mother of the dead soldier depicted on the poster, as well as the Royal British Legion, is copied below -
As the person responsible for modifying the poppy appeal poster next to Gillingham station (and another not far away), I'd like to apologise for any offence caused. There was no intent to dishonour anyone (Blair excluded) and I meant no disrespect to either the Royal British Legion and its supporters, nor to the family of Damian Wright.
I was really shocked to hear about the upset this has apparently caused. I'd never dreamt my efforts would lead to the national media probing mother and widow about their feelings on 'vandalism'. Personally I don't consider rewording the poster to be an act of vandalism (or 'a bit of fun') and I don't for a moment think that it will have adversely impacted on the fund raising efforts of the poppy appeal.
Despite the outage from some quarters, I am certain that the sentiments expressed by myself (and other subvertisers) are ones supported by the majority of people in this country - including large numbers of current and ex-service men and women. In fact, if recent polls are to be believed, more people would like the troops home now, than ever voted for the government that sent them to war.
Some people, while agreeing with the message, have suggested that instead of subverting the poppy appeal posters, I should have paid for my own. But free speech isn't free and in this Orwellian era of eroding civil liberties and political policing, I wouldn't fancy my chances. Others suggested that I should have lobbied my MP and/or lawfully protested outside Downing Street, but I have - as have million of others.
Like most people in this country, I have lost all faith in the political system. I'm disillusioned by the collusion and vested interests of the media and despair at the injustice all around. Public services get cut or privatised and working people lose their jobs, pensions or their homes while the government bails out the bankers and sends yet more working class kids to die for their geopolitical ambitions. It makes me sick!
Ordinary people don't have the same freedoms and privileges enjoyed by the ruling classes, who seem immune to being held accountable for their greed and corruption. Instead, they always seem to find a way to 'reward' themselves - at our expense. Those who dissent find themselves labeled as 'domestic extremists' and threatened with police violence and terror laws.
Yes, I've been guilty of thought crime! Like many, I was appalled when Tony Blair became peace envoy to the middle east and horrified at suggestions he could now become EU president. So when I saw people had started subverting the Afghan posters with the new message, “For Their Sake, Bring 'Em Home”, I was inspired to do my own to remind people of Blair's war record.
I understand that the Royal British Legion values its reputation as being apolitical and I am sorry if anyone felt misled into thinking the Legion was taking a position on the rights or wrongs of current military incursions. That was not my intent, although obviously I did aim to get passers-by thinking about these issues themselves. I support the work of the Legion, although I think it's tragic that veterans and their families have to rely on charity, rather than receive the support they deserve from the government so quick to spend money sending our troops to war.
The adage 'never forget' is one normally associated with remembrance day and a plea which I hoped to enhance through my action. This time of remembrance is vital, especial now with fascism stirring again throughout Europe. We must remember, not just those who gave (and give) their lives but also the reasons we went to war (both then and now).
I was pleased that the RBL, and influential voices within the armed forces, recently spoke out against the dark irony of the BNP attempting to co-opt imagery of this nations honourable fight against fascism. It is sad but true - patriotism is routinely co-opted by those who seek power to further their own selfish agendas. I try to have faith that the sickening neo-nazi legacy will never take root on our shores but with our democracy in such a shambles, it is seemingly never more open to abuse.
I am forever grateful to all those who have risked their lives resisting fascism (be it fighting the Nazis, Mosley's blackshirts at Cable Street, the National Front at Lewisham, or the BNP at the BBC). I'm also humbled by the likes of Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who have shown the courage to put their necks on the line to speak out against the unjust resource wars of our corrupt leaders.
Some commentators have said I should be ashamed of what I did - but I am only ashamed I do not have the courage to identify myself. Those who should really be ashamed are those who make a mockery of our democracy, abuse our nation's history, and betray the positions of power entrusted to them.
So, I am truly sorry for any upset caused to the family and friends of those who appear on the posters, or to those who have served this country, but I stand by my message. Lets prosecute our corrupt politicians and bring the troops home before Christmas!