by Angie Zelter.
What a wonderful Trident Ploughshares (TP) action this was. A full
blockade of all vehicle entrances into Burghfield for almost 5 hours! It
was organised as part of the ActionAWE (AAWE) campaign (see
3 autonomous groups set off from different parts of the country and
arriving at 6.45 a.m. on Monday 9th June they locked on and phoned S,
our press co-ordinator who sent out press releases. We had all arrived
within 4 minutes of each other – an excellent bit of timing.
At the Construction Gate, a huge trailer was unerringly steered right
across the entrance by a very cool driver, H (TP), and the car driven
safely away. Immediately J (AAWE) and P (AAWE and Berkshire Greenpeace)
locked into a tube lock-on (made out of old gas containers) that had
been attached to the trailer and then R (TP) and H (AAWE) managed to
release another lock-on and roll it into the road beside the trailer and
the entrance was blocked. D (TP), who had done an excellent job getting
equipment and cars for us all and building lock-ons, along with A (AAWE)
provided the legal support and back-up for the group, completing the 7
people at this blockade.
Meanwhile, at the south end of The Mearings, one end of the long MoD
road that leads to the Main Gate at Burghfield, a car adapted by C (TP)
was driven just up the MoD road to avoid blocking a house on the corner
and L (South West Against Nuclear) and J (TP and Faslane Peace Camp)
locked onto the tube covered in concrete in the back of the car blocking
the access road completely. 2 of the tyres were let down. Support
consisted of the Muriel Lesters TP affinity group (M, A and Z) with 2
of the Tamarians (M and J) and they were joined by R (AAWE) who arrived
simultaneously and did a superb job of legal support for the whole
group. 9 in all.
At the other end of The Mearings, my group arrived. R (The Dragonistas –
TD – a Knighton based group) drove the adapted car right across the road
and R (TD) and me, A (TP, AAWE and TD) locked ourselves into the tube
and then chained ourselves to H (TD) who also chained herself to a sign
on the side of the road to stop cars running up the kerb and finding a
way through. One Burghfield worker had done this as soon as our car
swung around and managed to get through but only with a burst tyre! The
rest of the support team from Knighton arrived – C and K (TD) and our
legal support person B (TD) all arrived within 30 seconds. L and M
(Women in Black from London) arrived on the dot as well helping put up
traffic cones, hanging banners, taking pictures and letting S (press
person in London) know that we had completed the blockade. We were 9 people.
It was not long before all 3 groups heard from S that we had managed to
block all the entrances and a great cheer went up – we were now stopping
some of the illegal and unethical work from continuing at Burghfield. It
was not business as usual.
The traffic started building up immediately. Police directed some of the
traffic around to the Sports Centre at the south end of the base and
then managed to get cars parked in the football pitch and some workers
just stood around their vehicles and others managed to get clearance and
walk into the base. We gave out leaflets explaining why we were stopping
work but how their skills were needed to disarm the nuclear warheads and
to verify nuclear disarmament in the long-term. We rang the police
liaison officer from the Thames Valley Police (TVP) Jennie Fox at
7.30a.m. to let her know we had blocked the entrances and suggesting
that she come down to ensure that the police behaved themselves, that
they were informed of our nonviolent guidelines and to ensure everything
stayed as peaceful as we the protesters were. She arrived soon after and
was very helpful in ensuring that legal observers were given visibility
and in helping to negotiate the ending of the blockade 5 hours later.
Some press turned up including a local TV crew. Then we heard the good
news that all construction deliveries had been stopped for the day – hurray.
Meanwhile, at the north end of the Mearnings where I was, a car drove up
from behind us from one of the houses in the road. Not many people live
in these MoD houses but a few do and inside the car were an elderly
couple who said they needed to get to a hospital appointment and
demanding that we move. We offered to pay for a taxi for them or take
them in one of our cars but they were really flustered and unhappy. L
did a great bit of calm talking to them and the police and soon we
decided that H would unhitch herself from the chain which was removed
and the couple slowly and carefully went up on the grass verge and
passed us and then H chained herself up again. One policeman had been
very angry and rude to us but 2 others seemed relieved and pleased that
we had been able to accommodate the elderly couple so gracefully. These
kinds of incidents are always moral dilemmas and there are no easy
answers as to how protesters should deal with them.
Police inspected all the blockades and seemed uncertain how to proceed
but soon it became clear that our intuitions had been correct and they
were going to concentrate on clearing one gate and leaving the other 2.
Work began on the trailer at the Construction gate but the tubes were
made of recycled gas cannisters. The fire brigade was called in – we
later discovered this was to check there was no gas in them and that the
‘cutting crew’ were safe to start cutting through them (despite the fact
the gas cannisters had had their ends cut off and 2 people had their
arms through them!). Almost 2 hours and 6 cutting blades later P was
released and arrested and taken away followed by J. They were taken to
Lodden Valley police station and later released. P has been charged with
Highway Obstruction and will be appearing at Reading Magistrates Court
at 9.15 on June 25th – please support him if you can. J signed a caution
and was released. Both were out by about 6 p.m.
It was very clear from about 11.30 that the police were likely to let
the other 2 blockades continue for quite some time as they were now able
to get most of the traffic into the base. They may have tried to clear
one of the ends of The Mearings by cutting out the people in one of the
cars as this would make it easier for them but we decided instead to end
the last remaining 2 blocks at 11.45 as we had done really well and been
there for 5 hours and had completed our major impact of the day. We had
shown our civil resistance to nuclear proliferation and were free to
continue the resistance another day.
We therefore negotiated, with the help of Jennie the TVP police liaison,
to self-release and go home with all our equipment including the adapted
Retiring to a nearby cafe we had a great de-brief and people were able
to exchange their stories and then most people returned home. We left D
to wait at the police station and collect the 2 prisoners and B did a
sterling job of keeping in touch with the police station to enable D to
pick them up and return them home. J decided to accept a caution and P
has been charged (see above).
Thank you all for taking part. Keep the resistance going. I will be
writing notes and check-lists to advise on how to plan for unannounced
‘secret’ non-violent blockades to help people plan their own. Our
learning from this action will go into the briefing. The resistance
by Angie Zelter.