Full report from the vigil for Michael Lyons – 6 August

Solidarity with Afghanistan War Refusenik Michael Lyons

Colchester Military Prison – Saturday 6 August

Michael Lyons is serving 7 months military detention after applying for conscientious objector status and refusing to take up arms in rifle training. Lyons’ view of the war in Afghanistan was informed by the WikiLeaks disclosures Bradley Manning is accused of leaking.

Above: Video report from the vigil outside Colchester Military Prison. Speakers included Ciaron O’Reilly (Giuseppe Conlon House/ Catholic Worker), Naomi Colvin (UK Friends of Bradley Manning), Katrina recites a poem, Ben Griffin (Afghanistan/Iraq combat veteran and Veterans for Peace), Jill Harris (Michael Lyons’ mother), Fr. Martin Newell (Giuseppe Conlon House), Giorgio Riva (Payday).

How can you help?

  1. Solidarity letters/postcards can be sent to Michael Lyons at this address: 236 Michael Lyons, D Company, MCTC, Berechurch Hall Rd, Colchester CO2 9MU (England).
  2. It is a 700 mile round trip for Michael’s wife Lillian to visit him in Colchester. If you would like to make a donation to alleviate travel expenses for her, make a cheque out to “London Catholic Worker”, write “Lyons” on the back of the cheque and send it to “Michael Lyons Support” c/o Giuseppe Conlon House, 49 Mattison Rd, Harringay, London N4 1BG.
  3. There will be another vigil for Michael Lyons outside the military prison in Colchester on Saturday 3 September from 3pm – 5pm. Address as above. The vigil will be at the junction with Stoneacre Road at the entrance to the military detention facility.
    For more info, call Ciaron on 079 392 90576.

Report by Ben Griffin of Veterans for Peace

SOLIDARITY VISIT INSIDE COLCHESTER MILITARY PRISON

On Saturday 6 August I visited Michael Lyons in Colchester Military Prison. He is currently serving a seven month sentence for refusing to carry out weapons training in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. Michael had already applied for conscientious objector status. With me were Martin Newell from London Catholic Worker, Stephan Gillies a local activist and Jill, Michael’s mum.

The visit lasted two hours and Michael was found to be in good spirits. He is being held with soldiers being discharged from the Army so that he can’t “infect the others that are staying in the Army”.

His main concern is the well-being of his wife Lillian who is based in Plymouth. Michael is not being paid by the Navy whilst he is serving his sentence so his wife is struggling to meet the bills whilst working in a low paid job. She is also finding it difficult to make the long journey from Plymouth to Colchester to see Michael. (See details how to support Michael and Lilian above).

Michael is keen to become involved with the Peace Movement in the future. He has shown other servicemen with objections to the war in Afghanistan that they presently have a choice. Six months in Afghanistan taking part in the further destruction of that country or six months in prison with a clear conscience. As a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I know which option I would take.

Michael has a great sense of humour and is spending a lot of his time in prison in the library. When not in the library there is a lot of pointless ironing and cleaning to be carried out prior to inspections. This is just the sort of training that will be useful in civvie street to Michael and the others being discharged after their sentences!

VIGIL OUTSIDE COLCHESTER MILITARY PRISON

A vigil was held outside the main gate to celebrate Michael’s
action and to encourage further resistance from inside the military. 27 people from London, Colchester and the surrounding area were present. A shrine was erected by members of London Catholic Worker.

Giorgio from the organisation Payday spoke about the need
for solidarity and inclusiveness in the peace movement in order to support refuseniks internationally. Naomi from UK Friends of Bradley Manning updated us on the persecution of Bradley. Gwyn for the organisation “At Ease” spoke about the details of Michael’s case
and the work that she does in supporting soldiers who have a crises of conscience. Ciaron of London Catholic Worker told of his own experiences of being in prison as a result of his peace activism. He also told us how valuable solidarity from the outside was in keeping him going whilst in prison.

Michael’s mother Jill thanked everyone for supporting her son and told us how proud she was of him.

The local Stop the War convener told us about an upcoming march in London and about meetings they were holding.

Martin and myself gave a report about our visit and encouraged others to write to Michael and visit him.

The visit and the vigil outside went very well. On the way back to London I phoned Michael’s wife Lillian to let her know how Michael was doing. We are planning to go back at the start of September for another visit and vigil.

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