Nuclear sub blockades Downing Street
On a sunny October morning, one of Britain’s Trident nuclear submarines arrived on Tony Blair’s own doorstep in London – that is, a 25 foot grey plastic covered version, wonderfully made by Theatre of War from Norwich. Catching the police by surprise, there followed a five hour blockade of Downing Street.
While the crew of 18 gathered in St James’ Park, the police informed us that no street theatre was allowed in the royal park. Telling them we would move off to Victoria Embankment Park, we got into our harnesses in pairs, standing close together to form the submarine. Before we left a nice police man took one of us aside and warned that the area was on very high alert and we would be shot if we went anywhere near Parliament or Downing Street.
After some of us had painted our faces with radiation symbols, we started on our journey. Activists on the outside gave us instructions ’cause, lets face it, you can’t see much when you are in a submarine with 17 other people. Through the arch (tricky), down the road, slight crash at a theatre. We had drums and a megaphone calling out the vital stastics of Trident missiles. Before you knew it we were outside Downing Street…and, shockingly, the Trident Submarine broke down, right there!
We couldn’t believe that we had got there and locked on inside the sub so fast. The police were confused but calm; the press kept coming; the path on Downing Street side was shut down and all the tourists asked why we were there. We told the police we would leave if they allowed us to take the sub to our Tony’s door and give him a letter on why we were there. But they said no.. Surprised that Tony didn’t want his Trident sub ’in his own back yard’ we stayed where we were.
After five hours the cutting crew arrived. But we made a ’quick decision’ inside the sub to try and make a deal with the police. We will get up and move if we can keep the submarine and not get arrested. They agreed! So two by two out we popped and off we went. This gave us the chance to use the sub again – in early December we took it to Norwich to raise the nuclear issues. NPT postcards, information on USAF Lakenheath nukes and on our local nuclear power station was given out. It was a successful day, though I’m still shocked when someone says “I didn’t know Britain had any WMD”.
Despite all the media interest during the blockade there was absolutely no coverage of this event in Britain. The FT printed a photo but with no information or context. But Al Jazeera had also done some interviews and I have a lovely image of pictures of this little sub being flashed round the Middle East. I wonder what their caption was?
Sarah Lasenby and Mell
G8 Peace Bloc
Most analyses of the G8 focus on the economic power they wield but a number of peace groups, including TP, are mobilising a “Peace Bloc/k” to highlight their co-dependence on militarism and its links with poverty.
The Peace Bloc believes “The rich countries of the world depend on their overwhelming military might to defend and extend the globalisation that allows them to exploit and oppress the poor.
Nuclear weapons are the ultimate expression of the militarisation that makes economic globalisation possible.”
The G8 is probably the most exclusive private members club around just the leaders of the eight most economically powerful countries in the world (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US) who meet to spend a few days each year making sure the rest of the world stays carved up as they like it. This year, the summit is 6
8th July at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. And there’s a few folk wanting to have a word or two. In fact, so many people want to have their say that it’s possibly the biggest political event in Scotland ever.
The action will start on Saturday 2nd July with the Make Poverty History (MPH) march in Edinburgh. MPH is a coalition of large international development charities representing about 100,000-200,000 people. Scottish CND are mobilising for a Peace Bloc under a “Bread Not Bombs” style theme for this. Sunday 3rd sees a counter-summit in Edinburgh organised by G8 Alternatives.
Then, on Monday 4th July, comes the Faslane Blockade. But, due to the special circumstances, it’s a blockade with a difference. The action style, guidelines etc. will be similar to previous Big Blockades (although we are encouraging people to think beyond blockading, towards getting into the base, etc. as well). The difference is that instead of a purely anti-nuclear approach, we’re aiming for a wider anti-militarist message.
We’re targeting not just the nukes, not even just the good which could be done with the money wasted on the nukes, but the whole structure and mindset which makes the nukes possible in the first place.
Tuesday’s actions are likely to include an action at the refugee detention centre at Dungavel. On Wednesday 6th, the official start of the summit, groups within the Dissent! Network are calling for the Scottish contribution to a global day of action against the G8 to be to blockade Gleneagles completely while G8 Alternatives are calling for a march at Gleneagles. Thursday and Friday will see more themed actions.
This is a huge opportunity and also a huge challenge. If you thought previous blockades were “Big” then watch this space or rather don’t just watch, come along on 4th July and be part of it. But for that, we need to start mobilising now for the whole week of actions and for the Faslane Action. If you are interested in coming please contact us for a mobilisation pack.
Bringing it home to Burghfield
Nuclear base workers urged to disobey illegal orders
In June last year, six Trident Ploughshares activists from Norwich, Leeds, Leicester and London successfully cut their way into AWE Burghfield. They spread out across the base, to distribute leaflets urging base personnel to refuse to follow orders to build and maintain nuclear weapons. The fact that the nuclear weapons produced there could never be used in accordance with international law means that the work being carried out at Burghfield could be considered a crime against peace.
Kathryn Amos, one of the Burghfield Six said, “It is crucial that our message is understood by those working on nuclear bases: We have no personal enmity against you. We believe that you need to be told the truth about your responsibilities under international law as well as British law. If you were told the truth, we think you would see that what you are engaged in is criminal activity that must end. We hope that you will draw this conclusion, before, one day, it may be too late. We encourage all citizens to do similar actions, until Britain’s WMDs are disarmed.”
The leaflet distributed to personnel drew attention to the Nuremberg Principles, drawn up following the war crimes trials at the end of the Second World War. It reminded workers that low ranking personnel have been found guilty under these principles, even when following orders.
Disappointingly, following a trial in October 2004, the Magistrate found four of the activists guilty (the other two having accepted a bind-over in exchange for having their charges dropped). The magistrate listened sympathetically to the arguments of the activists
that they acted to uphold international law, and specifically that they undertook their action partly so as directly to inform all Burghfield personnel of their rights and responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Laws.
The Magistrate’s sympathy with the sincerity, seriousness and high moral fibre of the six, was shown by the fact that the total of the fines and costs they have been ordered to pay is just £380, which is less even than the MoD’s estimate for the cost of the repairs to the fence which the six cut.
Making waves at Faslane…
The British government promised £50 million for tsunami relief. But Joss Garman compared this to the £1.5 billion spent annually on Trident, and decided to make his feelings known…
There has been an overwhelming outburst of solidarity from the general public in response to the earthquake and the resulting tsunami in Asia. This made me think about what the public’s reaction might have been if the same level of media coverage was given for the images of limbless children and destroyed homes that could have been shown from Iraq. What might the public reaction be like if people saw the same scale of destruction on their TV screens, but resulting from a potential nuclear confrontation or accident? How many more people would pick up a hammer?
However, what struck me most was the pathetic amount of aid pledged by the British government, when compared to the spending for military budgets. The money pledged for the tsunami disaster is the same as just one and a half days spending on Iraq – the war having cost £6 billion so far. Similarly, just look at the £50 million promised by the British government and then compare it to the £1.5 billion spent yearly on Trident.
Accordingly, Sam Jones and I decided to try and highlight these dramatic comparisons, and mark the first disruptive action at Faslane for the year, and on 2nd January we cut our way into Faslane. We cut a hole in the fence at Faslane’s oil depot, crawled through and once inside phoned the Press Association.
We then continued into the base, and police boats seemed uninterested as we casually strolled along inside the oil depot towards the inner security fencing. With some difficulty (they have now doubled up the fence inside to make fence cutting more difficult) we cut a hole and Sam climbed through. Around this time, the bandit alarm was sounded. Police reacted fairly quickly once this occurred and made their way to where we were breaking in. Sam got inside and headed further in, between the razor wire and the inner fence. I climbed back out of the oil depot and walked along the outside of the perimeter fence, before being arrested.
Later, in the police station, it became apparent that the police came to know of our presence as a result of a phone call from the press looking for a comment! Both Sam and I were charged with breaching two bye-laws and of malicious mischief, and await a citation.
We hope that this action will be the first of many at Faslane in the coming year.
Devonport Disarmament Camp
Thursday 19 – Sunday 22 May 2005
This year we are planning to increase the energy in and around Plymouth for the biggest Devonport Disarmament Camp yet. We are planning a big day of action called the Trident Ploughshares Regeneration Carnival. The name reflects the local use of the phrase Devonport Regeneration for a multitude of projects, all working on the quality of life but ignoring the Trident submarine refit in the dockyard and the wider issue of money misspent on the Trident system.
We are asking all affinity groups to plan an action and bring yourselves down for some protest at the TP Regeneration Carnival which includes a blockade of the base. Also please ask friends and acquaintances who are drummers, street theatre or circus performers, musicians, dancers, ritual makers, poets, skaters, cyclists, skateboarders and banner holders of all shapes and sizes to join us for the day. We also hope people will have ideas for sea actions, as last year. However be aware that swimmers must know the currents. Kate has done a wonderful leaflet which will be ready soon for distribution and which will include directions to Camel’s Head gate for Friday’s Carnival. CND coaches will be organised for the Friday, but we would also love people to spend the whole weekend at the camp.
The food is fantastic vegan fare and we are wheelchair accessible.
For information or support in advance of the camp: Elizabeth 01822 833214. For details just before and during the camp call 0845 4588363.
Notes from Devonport
Victorious Not Welcome “Sunday 16th January saw the arrival of HMS Victorious at Devonport. A rumour going round the previous week had suggested that it might be coming in on that morning’s high tide. This was confirmed on Saturday and, at short notice, Plymouth Affinity Group sprang into action. About twenty protestors joined the usual gathering of gawping locals at Devil’s Point. Banners were hung reading No Nuclear Subs and Victorious Not Welcome. All this was overseen by two van-loads of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary. Victorious is the second nuclear weapons sub to undergo its ten-year refit in 9 Dock. HMS Vanguard’s refit cost £985 million and finished almost one year behind schedule. Incidentally this was the last action by Pymouth Affinity Group who, after much procrastination, have renamed themselves the Tamarians. This is to reflect the wider geographical catchment of the group’s members.”
A new pledger “A beautiful, peaceful venue at Elizabeth’s house just outside Tavistock. Sue Brackenbury and Margaret Jones did a great job of sharing the training sessions. We even had ’homework’ on the Saturday night! Although only two of us had met before, I felt we all worked together extremely well and although we came from totally different places, we all respected each others’ views, and reached decisions with ease. We all are now part of the Plymouth affinity group, and all but one of us signed the pledge at the end. I really enjoyed the whole weekend and after ’getting into trouble’ in the name of TP, I am now a fully-fledged pledger, and raring to go!”
Trident: a British war crime
New CD of the Oratorio
Camilla Cancantata’s oratorio Trident: a British war crime, performed in the Scottish Supreme Courts complex last July, is now available on CD (£10). The set includes a booklet and for an additional £5 the sheet music is included. Although some of the money raised will go to cover costs and as seed-corn for similar projects, most will go to Trident Ploughshares funds.
The CD has been prepared not just for listening but also to encourage groups to form choirs to perform the oratorio in whole or part – perhaps most appropriately as part of the 60th anniversary commemorations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
CDs can be ordered from Angie Zelter, Valley Farmhouse, East Runton, Cromer, Norfolk NR27 9PN, ENGLAND. 01263 512049 firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheques made out to “Trident Ploughshares”.
How to break Scots law while asleep
After a year or two of ferment in Scotland around the controversial breach of the peace offence, we appear to be back where we were. Breach of the peace is used in Scotland to deal with minor problematic behaviour that cannot be covered by more specific charges – very handy for responding to nonviolent actions like blockading.
In May last year five high court judges handed down a ruling intended to clear away the difficulties surrounding the charge. They said that circumstances are crucial for assessing a charge and that behaviour which is a breach of the peace in one context may not be in another. That sounds fine, but in effect it has given a good deal of discretion to magistrates.In Helensburgh District, the court which deals with most of the Faslane/Coulport related actions, this means more or less automatic convictions.
Following this ruling a batch of appeals against breach of the peace convictions were heard in October. All, apart from a small reduction in a fine, were rejected. Sharply illustrating the continuing absurdity of the law on peace and how to breach it, among the rejected appeals was one from Morag Balfour. She was arrested at a sombre Hiroshima commemoration outside Faslane, when the atmosphere was so peaceful that she fell asleep as she lay in the gateway.
Another unsuccessful appellant, Rev David McLachlan, minister of a Glasgow church, will not pay his fine and may be the first Church of Scotland minister to go to jail over the issue. David pointed out that he represents the mainstream view of his church.
Pat Sanchez summed it up: “When we have politicians who have so lost sight of morality and any sense of humanity that they are prepared to use nuclear weapons, we need strong, independent, courageous judges to remind them of their duty to honour the law. In other more dangerous days or countries, such judges risked their lives to be truthful to the spirit of the law. So it is even more disheartening that in our country, where all they risk is the opprobrium of politicians, or the chance of promotion, they fail the people by choosing to serve their political masters rather than the cause of justice they have sworn to uphold.”
Over the past year a steady stream of Trident Ploughshares activists have continued to pass through the prison system as a result of their disarmament actions. The list of prisoners includes members of the Scottish parliament, grandmothers,and activists from several different countries.
Without any recent “maximum disarmament actions” it has been some time since TP activists spent time in prison on remand awaiting trial, and the courts still remain reluctant to directly sentence people to time in prison. Instead, most have been in prison for refusing, or being unable, to pay fines and compensation, or for refusing to comply with the conditions of supervised attendance orders (SAOs).
The reason for choosing to go to prison rather than pay a fine or compensation, or fulfil an SAO varies greatly. For some it is a pragmatic choice to spend a few days in prison, rather than find the cash to pay a fine, or have the disruption over of an SAO. If you have less than £200 outstanding, and if you time it right, you can hand yourself in to the police in the middle of the week, and be out of prison by Friday morning. However, the relatively high penalties for breaching the conditions of SAOs have led to the perverse situation of people who stated clearly in court that they would refuse to comply with the conditions spending much more time in prison than they would have if they had been sentenced to prison by the court in the first place.
For others, there is a clear political message behind going to prison. Paying a fine may not technically imply an admission of guilt, but many people feel that it gives practical (and symbolic) support to the state that maintains illegal and immoral nuclear weapons.
One thing remains constant, whoever is in prison and whatever their motivation for going there, TP prisoners need, and deserve, our support. Please see below for how to help.
Supporting TP prisoners for peace
www.tridentploughshares.org/html/prisoners.html This website has a regularly updated list of prisoners, and information on how to support them. The simplest way to show your support is to send a letter. You can also now send e-mail to TP prisoners at the following address: email@example.com mentioning the name of the prisoner. This is especially useful if the prisoner is only in for a short time, and you’re not sure if they’ll get the letter before they’re released.
Revolting Disabled People Shock!!
Morag Balfour calls for solidarity with disabled activists to demand accesible courts – perhaps using some of the money wasted on Trident.
Maybe it’s sounds strange but disabled access is as big an issue to me as getting rid of Trident. The same twaddle is heard about both. Laws are in place, ratified but unenforceable. There are parallels to the voter registration drives in the deep southern States of 1960’s America. The law accepted the human rights of African Americans to vote but claimed the “cost” of implementation was too high.
We have a government who set aside billions for “defence” and illegal wars but contributes no money for the conversion of buildings, even public ones. People with disabilities are allowed to take civil actions against those who fail to comply with the DDA… that is, if they can actually access the court building. And so they further disempower one of the most discriminated against sections of society. I’ll be 62 before I’m legally entitled to fully accessible public transport (I’m presently 31).
Last December I was due to plead in Helensburgh District Court. I decided to stay at the bottom of the stairs in the court; when my case was called a supporter would tell them I was ready to enter my plea but that someone would have to come downstairs for it.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Jane Smith and David Mackenzie were due to appear for a deferred sentencing. Before the hearing began they made a submission*, asking for the hearing to moved to a fully accessible building. The European Convention on Human Rights and the Scotland Act of 1998 made it mandatory for court hearings to be held in public. The Disability Discrimination Act now made it unlawful for buildings offering public access to be inaccessible. As a result a hearing in this court was invalid. When the JP rejected the submission, Jane and David said they could not take part in the hearing, left the dock and returned to the public benches. After a long adjournment to consider his response the JP admonished them as if they were absent.
After two hours of waiting downstairs, I was told my case was being treated as not called. “What do you mean? I’m here.” There is nothing more undignified than being ignored, especially after waiting in the cold for a couple of hours. I got out of my chair and started crawling up those stairs (causing impressive bruising) while barking instructions to Jane to carry my wheels. I crawled into that courtroom.
I spoke to the court officer, then the Procurator Fiscal, who both ignored me. I repeated myself calmly, but loudly, asking him what he was going to do about my citation. In the end he refused to recall the case saying it was up to him to decide what to do about it. I appealed to the JP who immediately felt the need for yet another adjournment. When he returned they moved on to the next case without any reference to mine. Indignant, I disrupted things, demanding my case be recalled. I mentioned the humiliation of having to crawl into court in front of my peers. I rounded off my lengthy submission by stating that I had nothing but contempt for that court. A hush descended. For what felt like an aeon nothing happened and then the JP said he didn’t intend to take any proceedings.
Solidarity isn’t patronising. So I am asking you, my friends in this movement, from this moment on to request an accessible court for your trials.
Bombspotting XL, Belgium 16th April 2005
In 2003, several Trident Ploughshares activists made the trip to Belgium for the Bombspotting mass action “Get in SHAPE”. This year, there are again plans for a group to travel together from Britain to join the action. Food and accommodation will be organised for visiting activists. A programme of events will include nonviolence training, briefings about the bases and actions, time for preparation including forming affinity groups and finding action equipment. There will also be a chance to meet with anti-nuclear activists from across Europe.
The United States still maintains an arsenal of many hundreds of tactical nuclear weapons in airbases across Europe. The NATO nuclear weapon policy remains a direct obstacle to nuclear disarmament and involves the NATO member states in a conspiracy to commit genocide.
To increase international pressure against NATO nuclear policy, the Bombspotting campaign is organising “Bombspotting XL”, a massive international nonviolent direct action at the three sites in Belgium related to nuclear weapons: Kleine Brogel (the NATO airbase where nuclear weapons are stored), NATO headquarters in Brussels, and SHAPE (the NATO military headquarters, in Mons).
The action takes place on 16th April, in the run-up to the crucial NPT Review Conference which begins in New York on May 2nd. All 187 countries who have signed up to the treaty, including the NATO member states, have an obligation under the treaty to begin negotiations leading to complete nuclear disarmament.
The action will be an open and nonviolent attempt to inspect these sites for the presence of nuclear weapons, or evidence of involvement in planning for their use. Bombspotting will also ensure that NATO’s illegal nuclear weapon policy cannot continued unhindered, as the presence of several hundreds of activists will disrupt the working of each of these bases. Importantly, the action will also give a clear signal to the NATO governments that they must take their disarmament obligations seriously. A withdrawal of the NATO nuclear weapons from Europe, and a denuclearisation of NATO strategy would be a good first step in this direction!
Weir making a killing
Joss Garman describes why it’s about time Weir was held to account for helping maintain Trident.
Devonport Management Limited (DML) is the company responsible for running the Devonport dockyards where Trident is being re-fitted. Guess who owns DML?
“Halliburton – Dick Cheney’s company,” I hear you cry. Yes, but not just Halliburton. In 1997, Dick Cheney, Halliburton Company’s chairman, president and chief executive, said “We are pleased that Halliburton is able to participate in the UK’s privatisation of this important naval facility.” However, 24.5% of DML is owned by Glasgow-based Company – Weir Group PLC.
However, Weir’s dealings with Halliburton do not begin and end in Plymouth. Weir is a sub-contractor of Halliburton in Iraq, where it is cashing in on the killing by participating in the pillaging – by providing oil pumps and helping with ’reconstruction’ work for Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown Root – which makes the cages for Guantanamo Bay.
Weir doesn’t have any moral qualms about that. But even the US Congress thinks Weir is dodgy. That’s why they are now under investigation for the company’s alleged involvement in the UN Oil-for-food scandal. “The Weir Group admitted in July to £4.3m worth of irregular payments amounting to an 11.5% mark-up on contracts worth £36.5m. It is still unable to account for the money, which is suspected of having lined the pockets of go-betweens and may have ended up in the hands of Saddam Hussein.” (Herald 16 November)
The Guardian (2001) noted, “Oil companies operating in Sudan are complicit in the systematic depopulating of large areas of the country and atrocities against civilians, tens of thousands of whom have been killed and displaced from areas around the oil fields” and highlighted the Weir Group’s £20 million contract on pumping stations for that pipeline in Sudan.
Guess who’s on the board of directors of Weir Group? Lord Robertson – Defence Secretary (1997-9), and NATO Secretary General (1999 -03).
“This company stinks?and to think we haven’t blockaded them yet!” I hear you cry. Well, go do it. You can do it in the knowledge that you are not just blockading a company which is aiding and abetting the crime which is Trident, but a company alleged to be profiting from death and destruction in Sudan and Iraq too.
A group of us blockaded Weir in December for their involvement in Iraq, and we received considerable support from workers as well as great publicity, including TV and national newspaper coverage. You can visit Weir at their HQ at: 149, Newlands Road, Cathcart, Glasgow.
More TP resources
Tabards and Banners
Made to order by Muriel Lesters Affinity group. Reasonable prices and discount for bulk orders. Phone Myra 020 7265 9477
Keyrings 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 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This CD is a compilation of tracks from Scottish bands, including Calamateur and Frog Pocket, specially for Trident Ploughshares. Some tracks are ideal for chilling out or meditation and it’s all classy and interesting. 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 3 Park Terrace Tillicoultry FK13 6BY. Cheques made out to “Trident Ploughshares”. 0845 45 88 366 from overseas ++44 1259 753815) email@example.com
March 25 – 28 Block the Builders at Aldermaston
April 16 Bombspotting (Belgium)
May 19 – 22 Devonport Disarmament Camp
20 May Trident Ploughshares Regeneration Carnival at Devonport Dockyard
June 27 Trial of Vanunu 5 begins
July 4 Faslane Blockade (linked to G8 Gleneagles 6 – 8 July)
August 27 – September 10 Coulport Disarmament Camp
October 22-24 Trident Ploughshares event at Derby