Don rallies 'dormant' troops for war protest

February 28, 2003

An academic is planning a rolling programme of anti-war strikes if Britain follows the US into military action against Iraq, even though his protest could cost him his job.

Mark Levene, a reader in comparative history at Southampton University, has persuaded a handful of academics and students to join his weekly one-hour protests. He hopes others will follow suit.

Dr Levene, whose crusade is being backed by the Stop the War Coalition, plans to stage his protests outside Southampton's student union building or, when working from home, outside an army base at Kineton in Warwickshire.

His interpretation of a letter he has received from the university is that he has been threatened with the sack if he goes ahead. A Southampton University spokeswoman said: "As a good employer we believe we needed to explain the possible consequences of his actions under employment law."

But Dr Levene said: "If you are going to take action like this, then you have to be prepared to face the consequences. But if enough of us do it, I think it will be a different story.

"There are times when one simply has to make a stand. One of them is now.

We are not only being bounced into a war that is completely illogical, unjustifiable, not to say downright dangerous to world peace and stability, but the government also is treating the people of this country on whose behalf it claims to be acting with complete contempt.

"We need to hit them where it hurts by slowing the economy and undermining the revenues with which the exchequer can make war."

Dr Levene said he thought universities were a good place for such a protest to start.

"Academics have been rather dormant in recent years, and perhaps they are beginning to recognise that if they do not begin to respond to what is happening in the world around them, their work will begin to be seen as irrelevant or out of touch."

The Southampton spokeswoman added: "This is the most serious international crisis this country has faced in many years. We respect the wishes of our members of staff to take a position on the issues, which in some cases they may wish to express publicly."

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