Defend Daniel Cooper! Defend the right to criticise war and militarism!

A statement from students' union officers and student activists – please add your name by emailing edward.maltby@gmail.com

University of London Union Vice President Daniel Cooper has been attacked for declining to lay a wreath at the University of London Remembrance ceremony, because he is critical of the official Remembrance campaign (see his statements here). We are writing to defend activists' and student union officers' right to take such a stance.

Daniel violated no ULU policy or mandate, since ULU does not have policy on the issue of Remembrance.

This is a political issue, to do with why wars take place, who benefits from and suffers in them, and how society is organised. It needs to be debated politically, not by hurling abuse. Whatever your view on these issues and on taking part in the official Remembrance campaign, it makes no sense to claim an anti-militarist stance like Daniel's "disrespects" the dead. There is a tradition of showing respect for the dead by criticising war and fighting against the social and political system which generates it.

Daniel is critical of Remembrance because he believes it is used to glorify and justify Britain's role in world politics, as well as the treatment of British soldiers by the military command and establishment, going back hundreds of years, from British violence in Ireland to the First World War to Afghanistan today. He believes that it does not commemorate the dead as such, but "our side".

It is perfectly legitimate to criticise these views, but it should be noted that there a lot of hypocrisy involved at the highest levels: witness David Cameron remembering the dead shortly after returning from a tour of the Middle East to sell weapons to repressive regimes, and the resignation of the head of the Royal British Legion, John Kiszely, after he boasted about his links to arms companies.

We believe the campaign against Daniel will in no way benefit London students or the broader movement. Instead we need a rational discussion about the political issues involved.

Initial signatories include:

Vicki Baars, National Union of Students Vice President Union Development - Kelley Temple, NUS National Women's Officer - Alex Peters Day, LSE SU General Secretary – Samson Osun, Goldsmiths SU President – Soren Goard, Goldsmiths Education Officer – Tama White, Goldsmiths Welfare and Diversity Officer - Kristian Bruun, SOAS SU Academic Affairs Officer – Kabir Joshi, SOAS SU Black Students' Officer – Maham Hashmi, SOAS SU, NCAFC Black Students' Officer – Jamie Woodcock, National Union of Students national executive council - Abdul-Ahad Akbari, UCLU Student Activities Officer – Sam Gaus,UCLU Democracy and Communications Officer – Edwin Clifford-Coupe, UCLU Education and Campaigns Officer – Georgie Robertson, SOAS SU Campaigns Officer – Aurora Adams, NUS Scotland International Students' Officer – Edward Bauer, NCAFC Secretariat Sean Farmelo, Birmingham Guild of Students – Mike Williamson, NUS national executive – Simon Furse, Birmingham Guild of Students VP Education – James McAsh, Edinburgh University Students' Association President – Naomi Beecroft, EUSA Students' Association Women's Liberation Officer – Max Crema, EUSA VP Services – Roshni Joshi, NUS national executive and South Downs College – Shakira Falestine, University of East London SU – Edmund Schluessel, NUS International Students' Campaign – Arianna Tassinari, NUS International Students' Campaign – Abdi Suleiman, Sheffield University Union President – Luke Durigan, ULU Trustee – Fathais Yanez, Birkbeck SU Anti-Racism Officer – Amarbeer Singh, Royal Holloway SU Societies Officer – Jamie Green, Royal Holloway SU VP Communications and Campaigns – Esther Townsend, NCAFC Women's Committee – Matthew Smith, Ruskin College – Jasmine Chohan, Courtauld SU – Chris Page, Cambridge University SU Welfare and Student Rights Officer - Tom Harris, Royal Holloway SU Academic Affairs Officer - Megan Wright, Royal Holloway SU - Johannes Svenson, SOAS SU - Alexandra Jones, Goldsmiths SU - Harry Wright, Cambridge University Students' Union - Ruth Nicholson, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts National Committee - Franck Magennis - Dan Whittal, Secondary Geography teacher and former Royal Holloway post-graduate student - Matt Chadkirk, Royal Holloway - Ben Towse, UCLU Postgraduate Association President - Natalya Fisher - Hannah Sketchley, UCL - Eleanor Clarke, NCAFC Women's Committee - Sidonie Bertrand-Shelton, Royal Holloway SU Equality & Liberation Officer - Rosie Huzzard, Bradford College - Cam Dugdale, Goldsmiths - Apsi Witana, Goldsmiths - Beth Redmond, Liverpool John Moores University - Hannah Awcock, Royal Holloway - Oli Rushby, Royal Holloway SU Trustee - Luke Frost, UCA Students' Union, Maidstone Campus Officer - Yasin Mudey, Royal Holloway - Asher Baker RHUL Alumni, Freelance Digital Marketing Executive - Beth Sutton, UCLU Women's Officer - Ren Aldridge, Goldsmiths SU Women's Officer - Nathaniel Gould, Royal Holloway - Charlie Gleadle, KCL - Anna Foldvari, Birkbeck LGBT Officer - Lizz White, Royal Holloway Trans* Welfare Representative - James Lewis, UCL - Father Vlad (Rev Dr Vladimir Nikiforov), former Chaplain at Royal Holloway and ULU alumnus - Matthew Brett - Lucius De Tracy Kelly, Uni London alumnus - Robyn Minogue, Education Officer University of the Arts London 2010-2011 - Nicole Zoylinos, Royal Holloway alumnus - Francis Myerscough, University of Bristol, RHUL alumnus - Omar Raii, UCLU NUS conference delegate - Susuana Antubam, Royal Holloway - Josie Brinkman, Royal Holloway - Jenny Thatcher, University of East London - Jeannie Hyslop Parsons, EUSA - Sam Vimes Charley Hasted, Lambeth College (L1 BSL Course Rep) - Elliot Dugdale, Royal Holloway - Rose Walker, Royal Holloway Campaigns Sub-Committee - Claire Locke, London Metropolitan University SU President, 2011-12 - Adnan Pavel, London Met SU Vice President Media and Campaigns - Syed Rumman, London Met SU VP Education - Victoria Butcher, Royal Holloway - Tali Janner-Klausner, UCL - Alfie Jones, University of Bristol - Kieran Miles, Royal Holloway alumnus - Andrew Dolan, Royal Holloway - Carl Welch, KCL - James Moulding, Westminster Students' Left - Lydia Marmorstein, Birkbeck Disabled Members Officer - Kieran Cudlip University of Wales, Newport - Kerry Johnson, Birkbeck - Rhiannon Lowton, Liverpool Hope Uni, LRC National Committee - Selina Clarke, NUS Black Students Campaign disabled representative - Huseyin Kishi, Lincoln Socialist Students - Rebecca Mallowan, Mental Health nursing student, Sheffield Hallam University, NCAFC Women's Committee, Eve Joy Wilson, SOAS alumnus, Kate Brook, RHUL alumnus

To sign the statement or for more information, email edward.maltby@gmail.com

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Statement from Royal Holloway history lecturers

The following is a joint statement from members of the History department, who teach and research, at Royal Holloway University respect to the national debate about my decision to decline the invitation to lay a wreath on Remembrance Day.

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We, the undersigned, are historians who research and teach history at Royal Holloway, University of London. We are writing to you in response to the debate over ULU Vice-President Daniel Cooper declining an invitation to lay a wreath at the University of London’s remembrance service.

We note that ULU has no policy on Remembrance Day events, and that Mr Cooper was under no formal or professional obligation to personally attend.

We are especially concerned that freedom of expression is undermined by insisting that all must engage in remembrance services as they are currently constituted in Britain. We believe that part of our democratic tradition is respect for acts of conscience and dissent. This includes the right to freedom of expression that is so highly valued by the majority of British people. The attacks being made on Mr Cooper are not in that tradition.

We do not engage in what has become a national media debate lightly and we ask others to exercise thought before using the war dead as justification for intolerance. The signatories to this letter hold a variety of political views, but we are united in our defence of Mr Cooper’s right to express his opinion and for him to follow his conscience.

Professor Humayun Ansari
Dr Sarah Ansari
Dr Akil N. Awan
Dr Bruce Baker
Dr Daniel Beer
Dr Evrim Binbas
Dr Clive Burgess
Professor Sandra Cavallo
Professor Greg Claeys
Dr Charalambos Dendrinos
Dr Marcus Daechsel
Dr Daniel Haines
Professor Jonathan Harris
Dr Jane Hamlett
Dr Zoe Laidlaw
Dr Chi-Kwan Mark
Dr Rudolf Muhs
Professor Francis Robinson
Dr Florian Schui
Dr Graham Smith
Professor Dan Stone
Dr Emmett Sullivan
Dr Weipin Tsai
Dr Anna Whitelock