Aldermaston Disarmament Camp June 13 – 18
Trident Ploughshares – Acting Against Terrorism
Marlene Yeo’s Defence Statement, Helensburgh District Court
What is Terrorism?
Who are terrorists?
What Does the Current Political Climate Mean for Trident Ploughshares?
In the Courts
Dialogue and Negotiation
Welcome to the 14th issue of Speed the Plough!
Trident Ploughshares is a campaign to disarm the UK Trident nuclear weapons system in a nonviolent, open, peaceful and fully accountable manner. People from 13 countries have pledged to disarm Trident in this way and our supporters’ database contains around 2000 names, including many famous people and parliamentarians. We act to uphold international humanitarian law and to expose the illegality of the Trident system.
42-46 Bethel Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1NR. United Kingdom, Tel: 0845 45 88 366, Fax: 0845 45 88 364, Recorded Newsline: 0845 45 88 365, Speed The Plough: 0845 45 88 362, Email: email@example.com, Website: www.tridentploughshares.org
In February, three days of blockades at the Faslane Naval Base attracted around 800 people; part of this rolling blockade was a big monstrous dragon, coming all the way from Belgium.
People from all over England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and India found their way up North for 3 days of blockading and direct action. A small, but truly international group from For Mother Earth in Belgium brought a revolutionary blockading-technique with them.
Early on Tuesday morning it was time for our big dragon to start his horrific blockade: a highly trained team of blockaders, and an equally highly trained team of “guardian angels” sprung into action. We walked up the road with a large banner, which hid sheets of insulation foam and chicken wire. Five of us wriggled into the banner and chained ourselves together. Within seconds, a 5 metre long yellow dragon, decorated with a big green paper-mache head, was laying on the street! One of my fellow activists said it felt a bit like being inside a big yellow womb, filled with overgrown quintuplets.
People tried to hide their action plans in a variety of different ways. Next to the beast which was originally disguised as a banner, another group locked themselves together with tubes hidden in a grey submarine that was worn as a big hat. Together, we managed to keep the gate shut for more than three hours before all of us were cut free and got the possibility to be warm and dry at the police-station. This was my first arrest and it was great to feel so supported by the other more experienced Trident Ploughshares activists, and especially the team who provided us with delicious food in Glasgow, and inside the dragon.
People interested in using the dragon-blockading technique, or improving it, are welcome to contact us:
Experiences of the Big Blockade
Of course a great deal of planning goes in to mass actions such as Block ’n’ Roll.
A debriefing meeting looked at all aspects of the demonstration – from police liaison and blockading techniques, to the soup at Helensburgh, which received unanimous praise!
Feedback, ideas and comments included:
“An amazing protest, achieved a lot, taught us a lot.”
“Some actions took a positive, rather than a negative approach to being non-violent. This should be encouraged, to highlight that there is an alternative, not just dissent.”
“I wish we had been able to bring a coachful, not just 14 people – but we have plans to recruit more vigorously next time.”
“Of course we all got too tired.”
“The interest of the popular media may be beginning to fade.”
“Well done on having the courage to be so ambitious. What’s next?”
“An undoubted success.”
Aldermaston Disarmament Camp June 13 – 18
Thursday 13th: Set up and leafleting of locals
Friday 14th: Workshops and training
Saturday 15th: Carnival and March in Reading
Sunday 16th: Multifaith Ceremony
Monday 17th: Action day at Burghfield with guided tour and picnic
Tuesday 18th: Take down camp
All the time: Individual affinity group action against the bases. Use your imagination!
Mass action against Aldermaston – more information nearer the time.
For more information: 0845 458 2544 (from overseas +44 1865 725 991)
Protest Against a Radioactive Environment
The first Trident ’Vanguard’ class submarine is now in Plymouth’s Devonport dockyard. Plymouth has four miles of private dockyard, much of it devoted to Britain’s nuclear fleet, in the centre of a city of more than 270,00 people. The nuclear waste produced is stored within 400 yards of the nearest primary school.
The coming of the Trident fleet means:
- 5- 7 times more radioactive waste dumped into the River Tamar
- 4 times more radioactive releases into the atmosphere in Plymouth
- profits of more than Â£100 million each year for dockyard owners Brown and RootThe arrival for its nuclear refit at Devonport Dockyard of the oldest Trident class submarine, Vanguard, was met by opposition from a coalition of organisations, including Trident Ploughshares, united in concern at the increased radioactive risks imposed upon Plymouth by the refit.In a colourful, tuneful and sometimes noisy procession, about 300 people marched on 3 February to each of the gates of Devonport Dockyard. At the gate nearest the dock, six Trident Ploughshares folk and one local campaigner sat in the road to uphold international and common law. They were supported by the Donga tribe of Newbury Bypass fame, with pipes and tabors, until all seven were arrested.
Earlier in the day we had been at The Hoe, to face the arrival of the sinister black hulk, fussed about by millions of pounds worth of security that would be better used in regenerating the long suffering and impoverished city.
Up till now, the Royal Navy’s only plan for dealing with redundant subs and their nuclear waste has been to dump them at sea – since this was banned by international treaty in 1994, the Ministry of Defence appears to have been in denial. There is a vast problem here which will not go away.
Trident Ploughshares argues that Vanguard should be de-fuelled permanently and not re-fuelled. The Ministry of Defence must then face the problem of how to store the fuel rods and contain the tritium from Vanguard and all the other redundant submarines.
A New Trident Ploughshares Affinity Group
In March 2002 a new Trident Ploughshares affinity group was established in Plymouth as part of the growing resistance to the Trident nuclear weapons system based at Devonport Dockyard here in Plymouth. This began in 1993 when Devonport Management Ltd (DML) bid against Rosyth for the contract. DML was assisted by local Labour Party leaders and trade unionists, who had previously made out that they were opposed to nuclear weapons and who used council taxpayers money and union contributions, set aside for the promotion of diversification from the weapons industry, towards winnning the contract for what they dubbed ’the people’s bomb’.
Those of us who have been in the anti-nuclear and anti-war movements for a while were not in the least bit surprised, but we were dismayed. But we also knew that the time for protest would come round again. On 17th May the new affinity group will be picketing Plymouth Magistrates Court in support of the seven people arrested for ’wilful obstruction of the highway’ outside Devonport Dockyard in February.
Resistance is growing. See the Diary Dates 17 May for contact details.
Trident Ploughshares- Acting Against Terrorism
Defending a charge of Breach of the Peace recently, TP activist Marlene Yeo told Helensburgh Magistrates Court that she had taken an “action against terrorism”, quoting Tony Blair’s statement that “Weapons of mass destruction are a tremendous threat to the world. It is essential that we take action against them” (see below).
“Terrorism” is more often a term used subjectively by governments. But if we can agree to define terrorists as those who advocate the use or threat of violence to achieve a political end, then the deployment of nuclear weapons has to be considered an act of terrorism by the state.
Opposing Britain’s nuclear weapons system is more important than ever. Since September 11, the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan has escalated; the Pentagon has leaked documents outlining the US government’s readiness to use nuclear weapons against seven named states; the development of star wars and battlefield nuclear weapons systems continues.
In the UK, Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, stated recently that Britain is ready to use its nuclear arsenal against any “rogue state” which deploys chemical or biological weapons, “They can be absolutely confident that in the right conditions we would be willing to use our nuclear weapons.” In the context of plans for a threatened war against Iraq, opposing nuclear weapons is more important than ever.
Who are the nuclear terrorists? Are they “the axis of evil” described by George Bush? Or are they a lot nearer home: sitting in the Ministry of Defence making decisions; busy at AWE Aldermaston producing nuclear weapons, and testing weapons with the USA; ensuring that Trident submarines are constantly on patrol, and that nuclear convoys don’t stop travelling up and down the UK, continuing our government’s preparations for nuclear war. Anyone who threatens the world with the prospect of nuclear war is a terrorist, and for us that means Geoff Hoon, Tony Blair and the UK government.
NVDA is even more relevant. All forms of nonviolent direct action, which do not induce “terror”, can never be considered “terrorist”. Taking visible, explicitly nonviolent, direct action is more important than ever in the post 11 September “security” environment.
TP is probably the biggest direct action group in Britain to be open, accountable and nonviolent in all its actions and campaigning. These aspects of TP mean that the group has an important role to play, not just in challenging the nuclear weapons policy of this particular government, but also as a people-centred mode of organising visible and practical resistance to the power of the state.
Yes, TP is a threat to national security. But TP is also capable of helping to redefine what we mean by security – not only in our opposition to Trident, but in having the power to believe that conflict can be resolved without violence. Our actions and our voices are a counter-power to the rhetoric of the “war on terrorism”.
TP is about upholding international law, and it is important that – through taking action, and in the courts – we continue to remind the government of its duty to abide by international law, especially when US and UK forces have committed massive violations of the laws of war in Afghanistan and where the US has trampled on the rights, under the Geneva Conventions, of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
The UK government has eroded political and civil rights and criminalised dissent – (and made publication of information about civil nuclear installations illegal under the recent Terrorism Act). Massive resources have been used to ensure that we’re all on board for the intrinsically vague and open-ended “war on terror”.
TP’s empowered nonviolent organising and activism is critical in confronting state power, and in demonstrating that in continuing to deploy and develop Trident, the UK is breaking international law and the Non Proliferation Treay. In the “war on terror” we must constantly remind ourselves that we are not the terrorists – the state is!
Sian and Ippy
From Marlene Yeo’s defence statement during her trial for joining the February 2001 blockade of Faslane. She was found guitly and fined Â£100.
“I am charged with Breach of the Peace, but I see it rather as Action Against Terrorism. These terms were not so common at the time of the blockade, but I would like to quote Tony Blair putting exactly what I had in mind ’Weapons of mass destruction are a tremendous threat to the world. It is essential that we take action against them’.
Trident is Britain’s weapon of mass destruction. One warhead is 150 times more destructive than one of the planes that hit the World Trade Centre. There are 4 X 48 warheads on Trident subs. Just one going off by accident would be the end of Helensburgh. This is not just conjecture, nuclear physicists have said it is only a matter of time. Warheads are meant to be used and one day will be. Robert MacNamara & Lord Carver said it will be a maximum of 10 years until a British nuclear missile is launched. The result will be the damage & mass killing that Tony Blair seems to deplore in other people. If this is not a cause for fear and alarm I don’t know what is. Fear and alarm is not caused by us, but by the existence of Trident at Faslane.
If you are not convinced that I have a case in law, then there are lots of laws that have been broken in the past because they are bad laws. There are many examples but I will give you just one: my Mother’s case.
She gave food, medicine and friendship to Prisoners of War on our farm and in doing so she broke the law every time. In Nazi Germany during that period it was forbidden.
I hope none of you in this court say that my Mother should have been taken to justice which would have meant the Concentration Camps. At the end of the war my Mothers generation were accused by the British occupying forces of being guilty of not doing enough to prevent genocide. That is why I feel compelled to act. I don’t want to be accused of not doing enough to prevent mass murder.
The German Nazi courts were singled out at the Nuremberg Trials as complicit in the crimes committed. I hope you don’t wait for the verdict of history to make you complicit in the crime of mass murder and start by acquitting me today.”
What is terrorism?
Who are terrorists?
What does the current political climate mean for TP?
“Geoff Hoon’s sabre-rattling over Iraq shows that nuclear weapons are designed to terrorise. This makes our job of disarmament even more vital.
If not now, when? If not us, who?”
“Terrorism is about creating terror, the terror of not knowing where the next strike is coming from. The existence and threat of nuclear weapons is a form of terror.”
“Terrorism is the systematic use of terror – you can see that on a very small scale, like a father beating his child. On a bigger scale, I think the British government is terrorist. Just taking one example – selling weapons.
It is even more important to do disarmament actions now, as the way this whole wargame is being played scares me and brings the actual use of weapons of mass destruction even closer.”
“Anyone, whether soldier, civilian or state can be a terrorist. Whether it is useful to define people or states as Terrorists is another matter. Maybe it is more fruitful to look at the roots of conflict and devise better methods of solving them.
TP’s disarmament actions are more relevant than ever in the present climate as they are open and accountable. Our state deploys illegal weapons of mass destruction and it is right that we deal with our own home grown terrorism in this way.”
“For me a terrorist is anyone who uses violence against other human beings to get control over people or their possessions or resources. I do not believe that people who fight for freedom from oppression can ever be terrorists, they are the people who have been terrorised.
I think it’s important to go on. The nuclear threat is closer to midnight than ever, and the war makers have to be told in a very direct way.
But the political climate will make it difficult for TP actions to be understood in the light and spirit of TP.”
“Terror is the attempt to get a group of people to conform to your will by physical violence to individuals in that group, selected not for military reasons but for the psychological effect on the whole group. Examples of terrorism are: the September 11 action on the twin trade towers; sanctions on Iraq; threats against the families of directors of animal research labs. But not all violent crime is terrorism, e.g. the September 11 action against the Pentagon (military target). This is still criminal, but it is a military crime, not a terrorist one.”
Caroline pays her ’sub’
Caroline Westgate was arrested with 171 others while taking part in a blockade of Faslane last October, and fined £100. Caroline decided to pay the fine on a cheque made of a seven foot model of a Trident submarine, pictured right.
An official at the Clerk to the Justices’ office refused to accept the submarine, saying that the Lord Chancellor had ruled that only ’cheques, cash or postal orders’ could be accepted in payment for fines. I pointed out the submarine was a cheque. The official withdrew and came back with confirmation that he could not accept the submarine.
Sensing an impasse, I offered to take the ’cheque’ to the bank and cash it for him. This I did, accompanied through the town by a small group of supporters. The bank manager met us in person with impeccable courtesy and happily handed over £100 in tenners without batting an eyelid. We crossed town again and handed over the cash at the office of the Clerk to the Justices. As a parting shot I said, ’I think that proves you don’t want Trident either.’ The official grinned broadly.
The Magistrates’ Clerks have made a policy decision that they were not prepared to waste staff time dealing with ’novelty’ cheques. It is a pity their concern for saving public money doesn’t extend to objecting to the £1.5 billion a year which Trident costs.
Defending ourselves – TP legal website
Many TP activists choose to defend themselves in court. Each person has different reasons, but the desire to speak directly and openly to the court; to dispense with technicalities and legal jargon; or to feel more in control of the process, are all mentioned often by those who decide to do without a barrister.
Of course this can be a daunting prospect, but with well over 200 trials, TP is building up relevant expertise: –
Ever wondered if anyone else has tried to refer to the new International Criminal Court during their trial? Or if anyone wrote up notes on that fantastic trial a few years ago that you could use in your own defence? Or do you want to share your half-formed ideas on legal defences or international law challenges, so that others can improve them or fill in the gaps? Or want to find some help with the forest of legal resources and law sites available on the internet?
Then welcome to the Trident Ploughshares Legal Wiki Website. This is an ongoing discussion site, with anyone able to contribute and add to the site at any stage. Anyone can use the Wiki: you can just read and surf it like any other website, or you can add your own comments and pages, or your own links to other sites. All you need is a web browser – any web browser will do, even an ancient one.
Eight a.m. Bailiff Blues
“Equity? Did you say ’Equity’? The actors’ union?” I had just been got out of bed by the banging on the door, and was only half awake.
’I’m from Equite Ltd.’
“Ah, you’re the bailiff.” We eyeballed one another through the keyhole. He had bright, bird-like eyes. In his shiny shoes and understated necktie he looked more like a solicitor, than the heavy in a donkey jacket I had expected. He didn’t at all want to hear my spiel about the illegality of Trident. ’I’m not interested in any of that. Are you going to settle this debt?’ “There’s nothing here that would interest you really,” I told him – truthfully. “In any case, I’m afraid you’re not coming in.” (You don’t have to let bailiffs in, though they can get in through an open window – so be careful!)
When I looked out again, he’d gone. That was seven weeks ago, and I’ve heard nothing from Equite since. I suppose I shall hear from the court, eventually.
Around a dozen of us spent a useful day at the Legal Strategy workshop in Birmingham in April with Phil Shiner of Peace Rights and Barrister Alistair Edie. I think the most important issue was that it reminded us that Trident IS illegal and we must not lose sight of that. We discussed strategies for keeping the illegality of Trident alive in the courts. Peace Rights will soon have completed a briefing on this available from their website.
We also looked at how appeals to the High Court both in England and Scotland had an affect on many more people than just the person appealing and we discussed ways of trying to access the consequences of appeals to prevent damage being done to the whole campaign. If you have an appeal in the pipeline please contact Jane or Andrew who will consult more widely.
Tel: 0845 45 88 367
Fax: 01436 677529
Tel: 0845 45 88 368
The Juror’s Story
A TP activist sat next to a woman on a bus going to one of the recent anti-war demos. The woman said it was the first time she’d been on a demo like that.
How did she get involved? She said she had been a juror on one of the TP trials, and had heard all the evidence and was not only convinced of the need to acquit in that case, but was also convinced of the whole case against nuclear weapons and war. She also persuaded an ex-army juror to vote not guilty.
When she next saw a peace group with a stall in her town, she stopped and got involved. If only we could have more people’s undivided attention for a few days!
Faslane Protester “Eloquent but Guilty”
Helensburgh District Court banned a protester from reading out his witness statement in the form of a 16 stanza poem. Roger Oldfield, from Stafford, was one of the 385 people arrested at the Big Blockade of Faslane last year.
The poem is called “Cranes over the Sow” in reference to the Hiroshima girl Sadako who died from radiation sickness at the age of 12 and whose paper cranes have become a symbol of peace worldwide, and to the river Sow which runs through Stafford.
We sang in the road in our peace rings
But then came our friends the police
Arrested us right there and charged us
“Disorderly, breach of the peace”
The officers had the law muddled
Imagining we were the hawks
And so the true culprits flew cageless
And we were now viewed like Guy Fawkes
The judge, unmoved, fined Roger Â£100. For the full poem, contact
01785 664 328
Dear Mr Blair…
The Dialogue and Negotiation Team of TP correspond regularly with the government to urge them to take concrete steps towards ending its possession and deployment of Trident. Below are short extracts from their latest letter:
All around you the world is changing in dramatic and deeply worrying ways, yet Britain’s nuclear policy remains the same as it has for over 45 years, a cold war relic, so weak that it must be protected from parliamentary and public scrutiny.
Since May 2000 [the review of the Non Proliferation Treaty] Britain has made no moves to reduce its nuclear arsenal further or to reduce the operational status of Trident (presently de-targeted and on reduced notice to fire, but not de-alerted). Nor have we taken any steps to diminish the role for nuclear weapons in security policies. Your government appears mute as the US violates Non Proliferation Treaty commitments, refusing to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and withdrawing from the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty. Worse, Britain has colluded in Bush’s undermining of international treaties by its willingness to let the US upgrade Menwith Hill and Fylingdales bases for missile defence deployment.
In successive opinion polls, the British people have made clear that they want no part of missile defence. We want a more assured security, such as comes through addressing world poverty and global inequalities, and the establishment and strengthening of international law.
We conclude this letter by appealing to you not to ignore the contradictions inherent in British nuclear policy. Trident, which can never be used without breaching international laws, pointlessly diverts scarce resources from our own health education and social services, and prevents us helping others in the world.
However, Britain could take the positive decision to increase our world stature and effectiveness against terrorism by being the first nuclear weapons state to renounce the possession and use of nuclear weapons.
Lakenheath Action Group – a new campaign focusing on
US nuclear weapons at USAF Lakenheath.
Contact 01508 550 446
They might not confirm or deny it, but there are around 30 American nuclear bombs at USAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. Weapons of unspeakable terror, capable only of mass and indiscriminate killing and of poisoning our environment. Weapons controlled by a regime which has contempt for international law and is risking a new arms race or global conflict by destroying the ABM treaty and writing its own ’nuclear hitlist’. We will not let the work of Lakenheath continue unhindered, or allow silence to be seen as apathy:
Nuclear weapons must be resisted!
Lakenheath Action Group is a new focused campaign to rid Britain of American nukes. This won’t be an easy task, but it can be achieved by a determined people’s campaign, which needs your support! We are organising a major action at Lakenheath on Sunday 6th October 2002 – be there!
Scottish Socialist Party Conference salutes TP
The following resolution was passed unanimously on 3rd March:
SSP Conference salutes the courageous dedication to non-violent action of Ulla Roder, awaiting trial for actions in a bid to rid the world of illegal weapons of mass destruction. Conference condemns the imprisonment of peacemakers like Ulla and calls for warmongers like Bush, Blair and Sharon to face justice.
Picket of Plymouth Magistrates Court (see above).
Plymouth Affinity Group, c/o 77 Notte Street, The Barbican, Plymouth PL1 2AQ
Richard 01503 250 215
13 – 18 June
Trident Ploughshares Disarmament Camp at Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment (see above)
22nd anniversary of Milton Keynes Peace Pagoda, Willen Lake, Milton Keynes. 10.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. Buddhist ceremony, multi-faith peace prayers, and celebration. Lunch will be offered to everybody.
Contact 01908 663652.
4 – 19 August
Trident Ploughshares international Disarmament Camp at Peaton Glen Wood, near Coulport, Scotland
Action at USAF Lakenheath, Suffolk
01508 550 446