On the 10th of March 2003, Danish peace activist and Trident Ploughshares Pledger Ulla Roder was arrested and charged with Criminal Damage to a Tornado ground attack aircraft. The aircraft was parked in a hanger at RAF Leuchars in Fife. Her action was accountable and peaceful; after damaging the warplane she sat and waited to be arrested. Tornado’s from Leuchars were involved in the bombing of Iraq and patrolling the No Fly Zones. Her story follows below.
Ulla was released from prison on the 9th of August due to a procedural error by the Procurator Fiscal. Since then she has stopped appearing at pre-court hearings and a warrent has been issued for her arrest. There is currently no court date set.
Ulla has explained that she has been keeping a low profile not because she is trying to escape justice but because of her frustration with the courts. Her concern is that she will not be given a fair trial under a Scottish legal system that is bound by the response given by the Scottish High Court to the Lord Advocate’s Reference. She has posted a personal statement on the “Keep Ulla Free” campaign website www.free-ulla.org.
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Women for Peace:
(Correct as of Feb 2005)
24 November 2003 TP Statement on Ulla
15 October 2003 Court Issues Arrest Warrant For Ulla Roder
10 October 2003 Ulla Roder Hearing Adjourned Again
19 September 2003 Packed Court Hears Of Another Adjournment In Ulla’s Trial
15 September 2003 Ulla’s Pre-Trial Hearing Continues Friday
10 September 2003 Further Hearing Set For Ulla on Monday
12 August 2003 Ulla Roder Trial Now Set for 22nd September
9 August 2003 Ulla Roder released
22 July 2003 Ulla Roder Hearing Continued To Thursday
17 June 2003 Ulla Roder Trial to be Adjourned
29 May 2003 Leuchars Disarmer Faces Trial 30th June
21 Mar 2003 Ulla Roder Faces Months on Remand
See also the Free Ulla website
By the way… this is not Ulla’s first case involving serious charges of criminal damage. Along with Ellen Moxley and Angie Zelter she made up the ’Trident Three’, who in June 1999 disarmed the Trident research barge Maytime [Ulla on left in photo]. All three were acquitted by the trial’s Sheriff who said that the women were justified in what they had done. They later received the “Right Livelihood Awards” in the Swedish Parliament for their work. [see also Loch Goil Action and Greenock 1999 Trial and Prestigious Peace Prize For Trident Ploughshares] Ulla has been in prison a number of times and is well known for her Faslane swimming exploits. In April 2001 she swam to a Trident in it’s so-called high security berth in Faslane and spray-painted ’Useless’ on its hull. As a Trident Ploughshares pledger she is committed to acts of disarmament that are nonviolent, open and accountable.
Ulla made a brief appearance in closed session at Cupar Sheriff Court the morning after her action. There has been a deliberate attempt to keep the Press away from Ulla. The Tornaado damages are believed to be in excess of one million pounds.
Writing from prison Ulla said:
“People’s disarmament has started. People are not blind or deaf. Nor are we stupid. We don’t buy any more of their lies. It’s going on now there is not a week without worldwide protest, civil resistance and direct action.”
Ulla’s own story of her disarmament action follows.
I looked at the seat in the cockpit in the streamlined white Tornado warplane, which I had just entered. In my mind I had the picture of a young pilot, boy, son, father; the many years of fear for the people of Iraq; for their survival; for a new world war nuclear war; fear of losing the little bit of freedom we people have left in this world, to a state which has officially declared that it wants “Full Spectrum Dominance” on earth as well as in space and which has shown all willingness and cynicism to use whatever means of power to gain this. All this made me lift the red and black bolt-cutters in my hand. Crash! I shouted out aloud in the hangar. There was no-one to hear, but it helped. “We don’t want your war, Bush and Blair!” This for all the dead civilians in Iraq and all the children still suffering at poor hospitals, caused by 12 years of sanctions against civilians. Crash! The control panel was out of commission.
The echo of the hammering was still in the air when I started on the wings. The hard surface resisted my attempts. This for my disabled friend who cannot afford a decent wheelchair. This for my other disabled friend who daily has to crawl up a stone stairway outside his house, because a proper house with disabled access cannot be provided for him and his family. This for all the marginalised people, the sick and older folks; This for all the people in poverty whose basic needs are not fulfilled; This in hope for the future of our children in the world. I had done enough.
The nose cone got the rest of my anger and all the energy I had. Lies! Disarmament treaties and negotiations thirty years! International law! Ignorance! All lies to buy time for the weapon industries and military to re-arm for the warfare of the 21st Century. Shame! Shame! Shame on all nuclear weapon states. Shame for all the time the courts have ignored the arguments of ordinary people. Now really tired, I slammed the bolt-cutters down on the back of the plane. This for all the arrogance from intelligent, learned people, who have never glanced long enough into the eyes of a young drug addict to understand why they suffer, but coldhearted send them away for shoplifting for their daily needs instead of giving them access to proper treatment because that is too expensive. A fiver a week or you go to prison! Problem solved. Then I returned to the cockpit and silently put the bolt-cutters down. On top I placed a piece of bread and in silence I symbolically shared it with all the hungry breaking off small pieces and spreading it around, praying for peace and justice in the world. I then went down to two fuel containers on the ground looking like two ugly fat bombs. On each was placed the sign: TO THE GULF. I put my last bit of bread on each of the signs. My job was done. No more will anyone face the horrors of war from that plane. One more war machine was disarmed. I felt a deep inner peace.
I now waited for someone to arrive. After a while I was very respectfully and peacefully detained and led away, while the alarm sounded through the whole base. Good! More delay in the preparations for war. And now I am facing a trial, maybe for £25 million pounds worth of damage more than my entire family will earn in a lifetime by hard and decent work. A Tornado costs £70 million pounds. We paid for this plane and we will pay for all the other planes I saw out there that night, being got ready for an illegal war.
All this world needs is love.
To all the civil disobedients, the resisters, the disarmers
As sand in the desert
We will always be
We are in the sun, warm and dry
We are soaking, cold at night
We are loved and hated,
But it doesn’t change us
We are black, red, yellow and white
We are at surface alike
We are never the same
But we can rage and gather in piles
We can in wrong environment grow to thorns
We are soft and flexible, moving easily
We can be caught and restrained
But we stay hard, keeping our condition
We are worldwide
We drift in the wind
We can be broken
But more of us will be
We cannot be cultivated
We cannot be controlled
We can, if many enough, stop the war machines,
But we are always staying firm, because
We will always be
As sand in the desert
On the 10th of March 2003, Trident Ploughshares pledger Ulla Roder disarmed a Tornado ground attack aircraft parked in a hanger at RAF Leuchars in Fife. This was just weeks before Iraq was attacked by US and UK forces, leading so far to the loss of between 7000 and 1000 civilian lives, the deaths of an unknown number of Iraqi conscripts, thousands upon thousands of injuries, in a land whose essential services and infrastructure are still in a state of chaos.
Ulla’s action was a very specific and effective piece of preventative direct disarmament, done to ensure that one plane would not take part in that slaughter. It was an entirely responsible act, carried out with full knowledge of the barbarous nature of air attack and from her conviction that our addiction to military violence promotes poverty and despair. She made herself fully accountable for her action, waiting calmly to be discovered when the work was done. She was arrested and charged with malicious damage. In spite of the muted response from mainstream media in the UK the inspirational effect of her action has been huge. People who marched, lobbied and wrote against the war and activists who did sit-downs and blockades were very graphically reminded of the purpose of all the their various contributions – to prevent other human beings being killed and maimed.
Ulla was held on remand in Cornton Vale Prison until the 8th of August. She was then released without bail conditions by Edinburgh High Court after a legal bungle by the Crown. This means she has already served five months in prison for the alleged offence. Since then there have been several court hearings, which she attended. When Ulla did not appear at two successive hearings, a warrant was issued for her arrest on16th October. There is now no date set for her trial.
We do not know where Ulla is or why she has decided to stay out of contact. We can only speculate. UK courts, whether through ignorance, sycophancy or fear, are showing an increased tendency to steer clear of anything that appears to be a criticism of the actions of the state and they regularly rule out arguments based on international law. It would be very understandable if, believing that she was unlikely to have any real opportunity to justify her action, she has given up on the courts.
We are sure that the best thing we can do for Ulla just now is to show that she is not alone, that there are many who share her determination to act.
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