Message from a US activist
The TP camp at Coulport this summer has helped me to strengthen more than political convictions. I am here at a time when my brother and father are fighting in Iraq and my friends in the States are dodging rubber bullets. More of us will soon be making choices that divide families and turn peace-lovers into targets.
Thanks for strengthening my belief that trans-Atlantic solidarity is stronger than the Bush-Blair agenda. Thanks for acting out your dreams of peace.
Coming from a US climate where recent non-violent demonstrations met with riot cops gassing an activist clinic, I have wondered whether we should risk brutality for the sake of accountability. Throughout this camp, I’ve been inspired by TP activists working with intelligence and conviction to address such dilemmas. Folks here recognize they have an opportunity to take direct action against a major military machine without the likelihood of intolerable state brutality. From a strategic perspective, the local context makes the decision to be accountable both important and relatively straightforward. Nonetheless, because TP enacts the ideals of open, peaceful disarmament and respect for people and planet, I believe the work would continue whatever the legal consequences. At camp’s end, I am further convinced that nuclear weapons are illegal tools of genocide, and I have a renewed faith that non-violent, accountable direct action is the appropriate way to disarm.
The TP camp has helped me to strengthen more than political convictions. This gathering in Scotland reminds me that humans delight, not in the violence of segregation, but in the confidence of truth-telling?as well as in dancing, drinking tea, and playing ’tig’ with coppers. TP is wonderfully straightforward. We swim out to subs because we know a bit of paint will keep them sleeping. We block gates to shut them. Having grown up inside military bases, I dream of a world without fences. TP teaches us to cut wee holes in wires and slip through. With fear dividing so many, I count myself lucky to discover this welcoming community of rebels, unafraid of one another or of those paid to listen in on evening jokes.
A CD compilation of tracks from Scottish bands, including Calamateur and Frog Pocket, contributed specially for Trident Ploughshares. Classy and interesting, with ideal tracks for chilling out or meditation. Comes with an introduction to the campaign. For your own pleasure and tailor-made for gifts.
£7 plus 50p postage and packing from David Mackenzie 0845 45 88 366 (overseas ++44 1259 753815) firstname.lastname@example.org
Coulport International Disarmament Camp
When I reach North Gate about a dozen or so are already locked on in the gateway – then I notice two climbers up lamp-posts on either side of gates who manage to get a rope and banner strung across the gate. A cutting team arrives and cuts the first blockaders out of tubes etc. and carry them away, but almost immediately a larger group of blockaders sits down and locks on so the gate is still closed.
The North Gate blockaders and supporters are left by police for hours – so there is much singing and chanting interspersed by the inevitable boredom – until Tigger announces that there is to be a competition between Tony Blair (mask) and peace protesters. The peace protesters win hands down through multifarious acrobatic skills to the delight and laughter of the gathered blockaders. The cops are standing around bored as usual lost without someone telling them what to do.
I watch the police video camera team taking mug shots of protesters and filming as people calmly sit down and lock on – including Members of the Scottish Parliament – though the only parties represented are Greens or SSP. The cops put up a sign saying ’Gate Closed’ so they have no intention of clearing it for some time yet. I hear reports that all the gates are successfully blockaded and people are playing music and chatting with each other and eating and drinking and doing all the ordinary human things that people do – contrasting sharply with the razor-wire fences with gun-toting police guarding the nuclear menace.
At the first oil gate a big blue car drives up very aggressively and tries to get through the gate. I am one of 4 or 5 who stand in the way and tell the driver the gate is closed – after some aggressive engine revving and threats to force his way through us the driver backs off and drives away.
At the second oil gate a double line of cops is hemming our people in – forcing them onto a strip of grass next to the gate or along the narrow pavement. They have obviously been told to look mean and threatening – Mr Fluffy cop is out of his toy-box and wants to play rough. None of the blockaders rises to this challenge however, and though I hear reports of at least one rough arrest the blockaders are still in a good mood. Eventually, however, word has gone down the line and the whole North Gate crowd – 100 odd people – turn up. The decision is taken to walk down the road and up to the gate. However, the police form a cordon across the road and we are forced to sit down and lock on. The top cop then warns people they are causing a Breach of the Peace though I point out to him that this is a very calm and peaceful atmosphere. The police then bring in reinforcements and the cutting team arrives and spends 40-50 minutes cutting people out of lock-ons. We return to North Gate and watch as police specialist teams build scaffolding towers to get Joe and Ludd down from the lamp-posts. Ludd makes it as difficult as possible for them by swinging out until he is dangling from a rope in the middle of the gate, to the delight of the protesters and even the police are impressed.
The remnants of the blockaders gather in the gateway and do the ’hokey-kokey-closing-ceremony’ at about 3.30. All in all the day was as success for us. All the gates were closed for hours and the mixture of young and old, crusties, clergymen and MSPs did what the government should have done long ago, and closed down the ugly WMD base and its imminent threat to humanity. But Tony and his cronies obviously have no intention of upholding international law or their obligations to the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty, so we citizens of the world will continue to do what we can to stop this heinous breach of international law.
Pitstop Ploughshares in court again
The five members of Pitstop Ploughshares who peacefully disarmed a US warplane headed for Iraq just prior to the war will be back in court in Dublin on October the 11th 2004, though the trial may not go ahead until 2005. All are on strict bail conditions – for Karen Fallon, this means she cannot return home to Eire.
Donations and support: “Karen Fallon” c/o Talamh Housing Co-op, Birkhill House, Coalburn, South Lanarkshire. ML11 0NJ. www.tridentploughshares.org/antiwar…
Anti-Trident oratorio in Edinburgh Court
Trident Ploughshares pledgers often pass through Parliament Hall in Edinburgh on their way into the court to face charges of breach of the peace, branded as criminals for taking non-violent action against nuclear weapons. But on this Monday morning in July, seventeen activists had gathered to sing.
After milling around, trying to look like respectable tourists, lawyers or their clients, the smartly-dressed chorus took up their position in an arc in front of the dramatic fireplace. For one brief moment the performance looked like an officially sanctioned event. But as they began to sing the new anti-nuclear oratorio, Trident: A British War Crime, and the words were heard, it became clear that this was not a normal day in the high courts.
A few long days of rehearsals had lead up to this moment. Swapping bolt cutters, banners and D-locks for sheet music, the group were taking a different approach to challenging the “justice” that surrounds Trident. With hours of singing along to practice tapes, and a huge amount of patient coaching from Camilla Cancantata, the creator of the piece, seventeen mostly inexperienced singers came together with one clear, beautiful voice to address the judiciary.
The security guards were perplexed, and scuttled backwards and forwards between the singers and the front desk. The music of the oratorio filled the space of the heart of the Scottish court system, reaching out towards those it was written for. It addresses everybody in the judicial system, reminding them of Nuremberg, asking questions about security, breach of the peace, and the true crimes being committed. Using words from treaties, eyewitness reports of the Hiroshima bombing and international law, the singers asked the judges to think about the real consequences of our hoarding weapons of mass destruction, and consider what they could do to protect the innocent.
Judges and advocates strode through the hall, head down, pretending nothing was happening as they were handed leaflets with the words and a statement about the action. But then they paused in groups in the doorways, stopping for a moment to listen. Others stood in the hall, watching and listening to the performance, applauding loudly when it was complete.
Weeks later, lines from the Oratorio are still sounding in my head. I hope that some of it has taken root in the ears, memories and souls of the judges and advocates who stopped to listen, or walked through the sound-space that was created in the Hall, and hope it will come back to them next time an anti-Trident campaigner is standing in front of them in court.
The Oratorio was sung again, on Nagasaki Day, outside USAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, where US nuclear weapons are stored. There are also plans to perform it at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York.
For A CD of the oratorio and/or copies of the score and words: Camilla on 0207-607-4104.
TP at Aldermaston
Aldermaston in July – well the weather blew a gale and it poured down basins full, saving us collecting water from the travellers site for the rest on the camp! We all kept cheerful and were lulled by Chris Bluemel’s violin by the fire at night. All the efforts to set up a southern store of camp equipment have paid off and we are now over equipped if anything.
We demonstrated each day at the gates in the early morning. What a glum lot they seemed as they streamed into this factory for the death machines. On Sunday July 4th we handed in a letter about wanting Independence from Nuclear Weapons.
Andrew and Sue cut into the base and spray painted NO WEAPONS – NO CONVOYS on a building in full view of the road beside the Main Gate. These brave MOD officers with their guns in the picture were not too quick on the uptake and they had to wait quite a while to be arrested while sitting under their noses.
We went to view Greenham Common bunkers where there is a debate about how may of them need to be listed buildings and this is holding up the development of a storage depot. However our main activities were researching the fuel lines and tanks in the woods and fields round Padworth. These are connected to, as the US Defence Energy publication “Fuel Line” puts it, the largest Defence Fuel Support Point (DFSP) in England.
DFSP Aldermaston is equipped with 14 tanks holding 1.5 million gallons of fuel each. With five pipeline feeds, Aldermaston serves as a hub ’defence’ fuel point. Storage capacity: 2 million barrels 1998 issues: 200 million gallons. The pipeline control centre, which monitors fuel movements for southern and western sections of the Government Pipelines and Storage Systems, is located at Aldermaston.
Marching to a different drum on Drake’s Hill
The third Plymouth TP camp got under way on 27 May 2004 in brilliant sun on Drake’s Hill, overlooking the sinister Devonport military dockyard where the first Trident submarine is being refitted. During the six days over fifty people registered at the camp, more than ever before.
Friday saw a mystical procession of white-clad women decked in hawthorn blossom chanting their way down the hill and through the open Camel’s Head dockyard gates, with the MoD police too nonplused to stop them. Intuitively, the procession stopped just within the gates and police and workers, all of whom must have wished they had magic philtres rather than nuclear weapons to protect them. Spellbound, they willingly helped the women to arrange the may blossoms on the roundabout they had occupied -anything, so long as this lively presence would only go away and let them get on with their business of death. That night, Theo and Shannon of Seize the Day with their own brand of magic played for us at a gig in the city.
Next day, after a morning’s leafletting in the city, we joined forces with CND and other peace groups in a march through the shopping crowds and a rally at Devonport park, during which a protest against the refit of Trident and a container of tritiated Tamar mud was handed in to the Navy. In the evening our enormous TP banner had pride of place on the stage behind another gig by Seize the Day, this time further up the River Tamar at Calstock.
Sunday saw an interfaith service at the dockyard gates, and a number of meetings and workshops, including an inspiring account of the Brent Spar action by Skipper John of Greenpeace.
On Monday, a flotilla of six boats decked out in campaigning banners and flags patrolled the River Tamar, augmented by a horde of police launches and inflatables, evidence of just how seriously the forces of law and disorder take us. Two of the boats managed to infiltrate the huge yachts assembling for a transatlantic race. And the message of all our boats was reinforced by leafletting and banner-holding on the Hoe and on the Torpoint ferries -all in atrocious weather.
The camp ended on Tuesday with a demonstration at the dockyard gates. Appropriately; because that is where we are most visible to the workers, to the morning rush-hour traffic into the city and to the naval powers that be. The MoD admits that campaigning activity in Plymouth recently has “put back”e; the relationship between the city and the dockyard by five years.
From being only a few years ago a dependent community of taken-for-granted gung-ho loyalty, the city is now deeply questioning the health and wealth of the nuclear activities at Devonport. TP may feel proud that it is able to help the longstanding and patient efforts of local activists to begin to persuade Plymouth that DML, Haliburton, the Trident refit and all the other litter of clapped-out nuclear hulks are parasitic blights upon an underprivileged and needy city. So TP continues to disarm people as a way to disarm Trident.
The Belgian “Bombspotting” campaign has been running for seven years. Since 1997, our increasingly large actions of civil disobedience have created significant political pressure for the removal of US nuclear weapons from Belgium.
Like Trident Ploughshares, the justification for our actions comes from the illegality and immorality of nuclear weapons, and the fact that the Belgian government has refused to act when confronted with other forms of pressure, such as letter writing, petitions, and demonstrations.
Most of the actions have been focussed on the Belgian airbase of Kleine Brogel (where US nuclear weapons are stored), but we have also organised actions at the political headquarters of NATO in Brussels and SHAPE, the NATO military headquarters, in Mons. Over the past few years the numbers of people taking part in the actions have grown to many hundreds, and at one action we had over 2000 participants and 1117 arrests. Because of a fortunate quirk in the Belgian legal system, any act of trespass on a military base must be prosecuted in front of a jury, and the public prosecutors do not dare to prosecute us, fearing that a jury would acquit us. The government wants to avoid the political consequences of an acquittal, which would raise the issue of the illegal nature of Belgian (and NATO) nuclear policy.
Other successful actions have included the national “complaint day” where over 1000 people across Belgium visited their local police stations to make a formal complaint against the presence of nuclear weapons at Kleine Brogel, and the preparations for war crimes being carried out by NATO. Actions of civil disobedience have made nuclear weapons into a political problem that cannot be ignored. This, together with political lobby work has lead to political results.
The whole Belgian political establishment is in favour of a removal of US nuclear weapons from Belgian soil. But the Belgian government does not dare to get into conflict with the U.S. about this. Over the past few months it has become clear the US is itself considering a reduction in the size of the nuclear arsenal in Europe for cost-cutting reasons. However, a total withdrawal of the US nuclear weapons from Europe and a denuclearisation of the NATO strategy are not in view.
If we want to achieve a denuclearisation of NATO strategy, a European movement against nuclear weapons is needed. We need a peace movement that can put nuclear weapons on the national political agenda in several countries. For this reason we look for partners to make the Belgian Bombspotting campaign into a part of a European campaign. We are very glad that Trident Ploughshares has agreed to join us in this effort!
On 16th April 2005, just before the NPT Review Conference (see page 7), we will organise the “Bomspotting XL” action. We will nonviolently trespass on the airbase of Kleine Brogel; NATO in Brussels; and SHAPE in Mons to stop the functioning of the nuclear war system and to end the preparation of the use of nuclear weapons.
If you want to participate in the action and you don’t live in Belgium, please contact us:
Bomspotting vzw, Patriottenstraat 27, 2600 Berchem, Belgium
tel: +32 (0)3 281 68 39
Also: Lakenheath Action Group www.lakenheathaction.org
No Need to Mention the War ?
’Talk about international law has no place in a British criminal court.’ ’Our government can do in foreign policy exactly as it pleases because of Crown prerogative.’ Anyone who has ever tried to argue the illegality of Trident in court, will be all too familiar with this line of argument.
In July the Court of Appeal heard pre-trial legal arguments from the “Fairford Five” – Paul, Margaret, Phil, Toby and Josh – all still contending for their right to talk about the war on Iraq, in their defence against charges of conspiracy and damaging military equipment at USAF Fairford.
The hearing began with a bit of drama, when the head of the Diplomatic Service sent in a last-minute witness statement, urging the judges not to make any ruling on the lawfulness of the war.
Any such ruling would, Sir Michael Jay said, upset Britain’s relations with other governments, destabilise the new government of Iraq, and “provide encouragement” to terrorists.
The Daily Mirror had fun with the Michael Jay story. “JITTERS!” said its three-inch headline. It went on to accuse the government of running scared of talk about the war.
No surprises, then, when the Court of Appeal refused to permit any discussion of the war’s legality. It simply was “not necessary,” according to the judges, to mention the issue at all. To have an adequate defence, all the accused needed was to argue their “sincere belief” that they were protecting property, as provided for by the Criminal Damage Act of 1971. The legality of the damage they were trying to prevent – for example, one supposes, the flattening of people’s homes by chunks of exploding metal specially flown from Gloucestershire – would make no difference.
Not surprisingly, neither Crown nor Defence are happy with this outcome. Both sides have applied to appeal to the House of Lords. The Crown lawyers want to know whether the defence of lawful excuse can apply to someone protecting property abroad, from damage caused by the government’s “lawful exercise of power to wage war.”
The Defence ask the Law Lords to judge whether the international law crimes of “aggression ” and “crime against peace ” can form part of the defence argument in any UK criminal trial.
How these questions are decided affects the peace movement as a whole, and Trident Ploughshares in particular.
Family Values and WMD
I would just like to say that I am a resident of this town and a regular attender at this court. As such I believe that the legality or illegality of nuclear weapons has already been decided elsewhere so there is no point in pursuing that subject any further here today. However, my own belief is that my government is acting illegally in a number of major issues.
I joined the protest action on the 8th March as a mark of respect to my mother, Mrs. Margaret Wallace, who died on 25th February just a few days before the protest. In her life she managed to bring up five children in a Glasgow tenement to respect the values of honesty and decency of her time: respect for society, respect for others, always pay your bills on time…
To her, speaking up about social justice was something a responsible citizen would be only too willing to do. To remain silent, however, to keep your head down, was to her the height of irresponsibility.
Her brother Bill Cow, my uncle, also influenced us. He and my mother lived through two world wars but it was the Depression and the General Strike which influenced them most. In their youth both worked hard for a fairer world but at the end my mother especially couldn’t comprehend why governments could continue to spend ever more money on weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, while poverty increased. Despite their efforts, in their lifetime the poor got poorer and the rich got richer!
One thing she could not understand about present day politics was why Britain should maintain possession of WMDs – to refine them, deploy them and modernize them and yet ask other countries not to do likewise.
She could not understand why Britain was a special case in this respect and to tell you the truth, neither can I.
After her death the family debated on whether or not to plant a tree or invest in a park bench in her memory – when I heard the protest was due to take place that Monday I realized quite clearly what she would have required of me.
Thank you for listening to this tribute to her.
No Nonsense at Northwood
On April 21st, five of us dressed in Vanunu masks and white weapons inspection suits with “Whistle blower” stencilled on the back, broke into Northwood Military HQ – the Control and Command Centre for Trident, to mark the release of Vanunu after eighteen years in prison, and to blow the whistle on Britain’s very own WMD.
A professional photographer, and a videographer (from Undercurrents) happened to be on hand at Northwood to capture the moment that Graham Thompson, Bryony Tomlins, Sarah Shoraka, Phil Gordon and I entered the base, and the footage was flashed around the world in hours. Kate Holcombe was present as Trident Ploughshares Press Spokesperson outside the base, and news of the action was seen on BBC London TV, BBC News 24, Channel 4 and Sky, and I understand she also took interviews with many national and international radio stations. The piece was covered on the front page of two of the Israeli national newspapers, putting yet further pressure on the UK government.
This action came just days before the start of the NPT Preparatory Conference in New York, and therefore was timed to pressure the UK ambassador there. This action was a Citizens Weapons Inspection, with the aim of finding documentary evidence of the illegal threat to use nuclear weapons. We intended to use a digital camera to record evidence that we found, and to formulate a weapons inspection report for submission to Elbaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency. (A copy of our report is available from the TP website. For paper copies, contact me.)
On entering the base, we were able to explore briefly before being held at gunpoint by marines, searched on all fours, and marched, hands on our heads to a ’holding room.’ It was just before we arrived there that a more senior soldier shouted at the marines not to treat us as prisoners of war, adding, “They could sue us for this.”
Soon after, civilian police arrived and we were processed and taken to Watford Police Station where we gave ’no comment’ interviews, and remained for several hours. We were all released on bail not to go within 200m of Northwood, having been charged with criminal damage and going equipped. On leaving the police station, having had no prior warning, we discovered from our solicitor (Maggie Pederson from Bindmans) that Sarah, Graham and Bryony had had their houses raided. Some of my documents were seized as evidence from Sarah’s home. When Maggie asked the police why Philip and I hadn’t had our houses seized, they said because they knew I hadn’t been at home for three weeks! And who said we weren’t under police surveillance? (Philip has been living with Graham.)
We were all being taken to Crown Court until recently when, surprise surprise they dropped the jury charge. So now, a trial date has been set for Watford Magistrates Court for 10th – 12th of November. In the meantime, we have some ideas for increasing the campaign mileage.
We are running an appeal to raise funds for our legal and campaign costs. Amongst our campaign plans is the idea of sending Phil back to Hiroshima this summer to document the effects of nuclear weapons to submit as evidence to the court in order to outline Phil’s state of mind. (Phil has in the past documented the effects of Hiroshima, Chernobyl and the smuggling of radioactive material in the former Soviet Union for international media agencies). We also plan to formally present our Weapons Inspection Report to the IAEA, alongside For Mother Earth.
Please make cheques payable to the “Vanunu 5” and send them to: Joss Garman, Penrhiw, Dolau, Llandrindod Wells, Powys LD1 5TH
Tabards and Banners
Made to order by Muriel Lesters Affinity group. Reasonable prices and discount for bulk orders. Phone Myra 020 7265 9477
Make your own key-rings for fundraising by following the instruction sheet produced by Sowsiders, using classic Trident Ploughshares images. Instruction sheets for a nominal fee from Jennifer Pardue on 01785 812070 email@example.com.
Citizens Initiatives keeping the Non Proliferation Treaty on track
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was an international treaty calling for total nuclear disarmament, a treaty that committed the countries with nuclear weapons to getting rid of them, and which ensured that non-nuclear weapon states didn’t develop nuclear weapons. And wouldn’t it be great if the treaty was signed by all but a handful of the countries of the world? Well, since 1968 the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) has existed to do just that! Dave Heller reports on how citizen’s initiatives are vital in keeping up pressure for progress on the NPT process.
Many NGOs and citizens groups from around the world are already actively engaging with the NPT treaty process. There is a lively NGO caucus present at the NPT conferences which can send representatives to address the official delegates. There are two recent initiatives of particular interest to TP activists:
Citizens’ Weapons Inspection report
For the past few years, Trident Ploughshares pledgers and other activists from around the world have been carrying out “Citizens’ Weapon Inspections” actions at nuclear weapon related sites. These actions are designed to draw attention to both the presence of illegal nuclear weapons, as well as the official secrecy and lack of official UN inspections at these sites. A report based on these actions was presented to the NPT PrepCom meeting in New York earlier this year. A new report will be prepared for the Review Conference meeting in 2005. News or information on citizen inspections is gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayors for Peace Network
This campaign, launched by the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, seeks to bring mayors (and other local government officials) into the disarmament arena, by appealing to their duty to protect the citizens of their town or city. The network pushes for change at a national and international level, as well as developing peace education at a local level. A delegation of mayors will visit the 2005 NPT Review Conference.
At the Review Conference for the NPT in 2000, the states that signed and ratified the treaty (including the nuclear weapon states) agreed to a 13 step plan for meeting the obligations under the treaty. This included steps such as signing up to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, stopping the production of nuclear materials, and agreeing to a treaty to rid the world of existing nuclear weapons.
Other steps identified included the unilateral reduction in nuclear arsenals, the reduction in non-strategic or tactical weapons, increased transparency regarding nuclear capabilities, a reduction in the operational status of nuclear weapons (for example by de-targeting warheads), a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies and the practical engagement in a process leading to the abolition of nuclear weapons.
However, despite these very clear commitments made by all the signatories to the treaty, the nuclear weapon states have made no real steps towards these goals. In fact, there are clear signs that rather than preparing for the complete elimination of their nuclear weapons, the nuclear weapon states are actively pursuing policies which see an increased reliance on nuclear weapons and the upgrading of nuclear arsenals.
Even the most practical of the steps, the reporting of current nuclear weapons capabilities, has been ignored. In response, a number of the countries that agreed not to develop their own nuclear weapons (in return for the promise of disarmament from the existing nuclear powers) seem to be getting restless, and threaten a series of regional nuclear arms races. The clearest example came with the recent withdrawal of North Korea from the treaty.
So, it seems like it might be up to all of us to put pressure on our governments to make real commitments at the NPT Review Conference in New York next year, and to ensure that they put them into practice.
The NPT process
The NPT entered into force in 1970, and since then the life of the treaty has been extended indefinitely. The Treaty has been signed by every country except India, Pakistan and Israel.
The Review Conference takes place every 5 years. PrepCom meetings take place in the 3 years before each Review Conference. The next NPT Review Conference is in New York 2 – 27 May 2005.
More information on Citizens’ Weapon Inspections: http://www.motherearth.org/nuke/ins…
More information on the Mayors for Peace network: http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/mayors/
More information on the NPT and the Review Conference: http://www.acronym.org.uk/npt/ and …