To Superintendent David Belcher,
Thames Valley Police,
Police Station, Mill Lane,
Newbury, Berks. RG14 5QU.
Dear Mr. Belcher,
Thank you for your letter, faxed to us on 19th April 2000, about the events at Aldermaston from 18th to 25th May.
We are glad of the opportunity to extend our liaison with you. You should however note that Helen Harris and Sarah Lasenby have undertaken to conduct the practical aspects of our liaison and this is the arrangement we would like to continue.
As our website and the Handbook (Section 2.5, pages 19 and 20 – also on the website) explain, we are not an organisation in the conventional sense but a campaign made up of autonomous affinity groups and individuals who have pledged to prevent nuclear crime in a peaceful, nonviolent, safe and accountable way. As the AWE at Aldermaston itself demonstrates, a conventional form of organisation can easily become the means whereby individuals can avoid taking responsibility for their actions. The 160 ’global citizens’ who have taken the Pledge to Prevent Nuclear Crime, individually take responsibility for their action, and for their own and others’ safety, and do not hide behind a formal organisational framework or insurance policies. There are no ’organisers’ or ’leaders’. Different people take on different responsibilities at different times but the bottom line is always individual responsibility and autonomy along with respect for others. The 160 Pledgers (there may well be more by May 18th as there is another training taking place soon) have taken their Pledge after careful consideration and have undergone a two-day training process, which helps them confront and resolve issues of nonviolence and safety.
Anyone who stays with us at any of the Trident Ploughshares Disarmament Camps is asked to attend a half-day nonviolence and safety workshop and sign an undertaking to abide by our nonviolence and safety guidelines. We enclose a copy of this (entitled ’Individual Supporters Nonviolence and Safety Pledge’) for your information.
We would also like to raise with you the matter of your response as a law enforcement agency to the existence within your area of responsibility of an industrial complex engaged in preparations for war crimes. We enclose a leaflet (entitled ’Refuse to be a War Criminal’) that we hand out to people working in Trident nuclear weapon related sites. It clarifies some of these issues. You will be aware that AWE Aldermaston is where the key components for Trident nuclear warheads are constructed. The UK Trident nuclear weapon system is clearly in breach of those fundamental principles of international humanitarian law which govern the conduct of warfare. The Trident system threatens innocent civilians in their millions and presents a long-term and serious threat to the natural environment. What action is Thames Valley police taking on this urgent and desperately serious matter? You will be aware that members of local police forces appearing at the UN Former Yugoslavia War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague are held accountable, not to their own interpretation of local statute, but to international humanitarian law in its full rigour.
We understand that it is difficult for a Police Force to tackle illegal and criminal acts when done by powerful people, institutions or ’official’ bodies and even more difficult to confront it’s own Government. We know that the ’official’ mind set is so entrenched that it may be difficult for some people and organisations to recognise the criminality of the Trident system. Although we may have very different perceptions of the role and legality of Aldermaston, we hope that you will support our right to publicly protest at Aldermaston and for Pledgers to engage in their disarmament work. Trident Ploughshares actively engages in open and accountable dialogues and sees its disarmament work as part of the whole democratic process. Nonviolent resistance and protest against criminal and immoral activities by the State and Military are an essential part of the democratic process and an essential human right.
Trident Ploughshares was launched over 2 years ago now and the Prime Minister and other major political leaders as well as members of the Military and the Attorney General and Lord Advocate are aware of our aims and objectives and our Pledge to engage in active disarmament work. Our aims and methodology are referred to in the Tri-denting It Handbook which is very explicit about the structure of the campaign. We openly send the names of all the Pledgers every three months to the Prime Minister. If you would like a copy of the latest letter to the Prime Minister, which will be sent out in the next few weeks and which will include the updated list of names of all Pledgers then please let us know, although as a visitor to our web-site you will probably already have found that this list is readily accessible.
These 164 Pledgers have never been charged with conspiracy to do any illegal acts. Three women Pledgers were recently acquitted by Sheriff Gimblett at Greenock Sheriff Court after openly admitting to £80,000 worth of damage to essential components of the Trident system. The grounds of their acquittal were, in the words of the Sheriff, ’the three took the view if Trident is illegal, given the horrendous nature of nuclear weapons, they had the obligation in terms of international law to do whatever little they could to stop the deployment and use of nuclear weapons’.
We would like to reassure you that we are respectful, thoughtful people who reluctantly and in sorrow have prepared themselves to safely attempt to disarm Aldermaston because the various official and state bodies who should be doing this work are failing in their public duties. We are assuming that we can work constructively and co-operatively with you.
We have held 7 previous large-scale events in Scotland. There have been in excess of 500 arrests. The roads around Faslane and Coulport and the narrow road access to our camps have also provided challenges. However, our police liaisons have worked informally with the Strathclyde Police, and the level of respect on both sides has ensured a high-level of trust, good humour and co-operation. There have never been any violent incidents nor traffic accidents. The Strathclyde Police provide a good model of co-operation both by their skill in minimal intervention and by their publicly stated commitment to ensuring that a citizens right to demonstrate peacefully must be safeguarded. We were going to suggest that it might be useful for you to contact that Force and exchange information and that an appropriate contact might be Superintendent Alan Davis of “L” Division, based at the Divisional HQ at Stirling Road, Dumbarton. However, we are pleased to learn that you have already become aware of our good relationship with the Strathclyde Police as we understand that you have been in touch and recently made a visit to them in relation to our activities.
We value your comments about road safety around Aldermaston. Apart from each individual taking personal responsibility to ensure safety we would hope that you will work with our police liaisons to ensure the positioning of adequate warning signs for the roads and to work out any other sensible solutions to any problems either side foresees.
We end with a direct appeal to you as an individual. Nuclear weapons for use on Trident submarines are not a political abstraction, but a present and deadly reality. Each one of the trident submarine’s warheads can kill millions of innocent people. The system is actively deployed, 7 days a week, 24 hours every day. Every citizen, whether civil or military or a police officer, is responsible. As a law enforcement officer it might be appropriate for you to take advice on how to prevent Aldermaston from continuing to provide essential elements of the criminal Trident system. Even if we agree to differ on this point, we hope that, as in Scotland, we will be able to co-operate and work together on ensuring that our camp at Aldermaston and the march to Aldermaston will be peaceful and safe. Our police liaison people will no doubt be in contact again.
Yours in Love and Peace,
Signed on behalf of
Kathryn Amos, Morag Balfour, Sylvia Boyes, Maggie Charnley, Alison Crane, Marilyn Croser, George Farebrother, Helen Harris, David Mackenzie, Joy Mitchell, Brian Quail, Rev. Norman Shanks, Jane Tallents, Angie Zelter.