PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE USE
Two campaigners from Faslane Peace Camp were arrested on Wednesday morning aboard the Royal Navy submarine HMS Ambush at its berth in Faslane.
Security at the site – home to Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons and headquarters of the Royal Navy – was again called into question by the protestors’ actions.
Speaking today following her release from custody, boarding party member Heather Stewart (29) expressed surprise at the success of the action. ‘I am amazed and disturbed by the accessibility of the UK’s top defence site. Up to eighty nuclear warheads are often stationed here, along with several nuclear reactors. We thought we could get in, but not that we would be arrested within meters of nuclear materials.
HMS Ambush is one of the new Astute class of hunter-killer submarines. Two of a planned seven Astutes have been completed, with all seven intended to be based alongside the £100 billion Trident replacement at Faslane. The base is currently undertaking a £31 million expansion to accommodate the additional service personnel for these submarines.
‘These submarines use the same leaky reactor which has recently been disclosed to have caused problems at Dounreay. Bringing another five to Faslane will double the chances of nuclear accident and increase the amount of nuclear waste on our roads and railways,’ said Jamie Watson (29) on release from Dumbarton Sheriff Court.
Having been charged with bye-laws offences, malicious mischief, and offences under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, the protestors were allowed to leave custody with no trial date set. Stewart said, ‘Direct actions such as this are necessary, to reflect the overwhelming public support for scrapping Trident and to show that we won’t accept a Trident replacement or new nuclear submarines.
‘Since there’s nowhere else for them to go, a “Yes” vote in September will help pile on the pressure for these engines of destruction to be sent to the breaker’s yard as part of a programme of unilateral disarmament.’
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Faslane Peace Camp has been a base for anti-nuclear action for almost 32 years. Consisting of a line of caravans along the A814 opposite the submarine base, the Peace Camp calls to all opposed to war, militarism, and weapons of mass destruction to join us.
HM Naval Base Clyde is a number of sites on the Clyde, Gareloch, and Loch Long, in the West of Scotland near Helensburgh. The main sites are Faslane, which hosts the Vanguard submarines which carry Trident nuclear warheads on constant patrols of the Atlantic, and Coulport, which stores undeployed warheads. Nuclear waste from the sites is set to be moved following public consultation on a temporary disposal site this year.
Both the Vanguard and Astute submarines based at Faslane use the same type of reactor as HMS Vulcan, the test reactor at Dounreay. A leak detected at this reactor was not publicly disclosed for two years, despite a tenfold increase in radioactivity in the surrounding area and obvious implications for the UK submarine fleet. HMS Vanguard is now scheduled for refuelling in 2015 at an estimated cost of £120 million, with the remainder of the UK’s nuclear submarines likely to follow.
Faslane Peace Camp 01436 820901
Faslane Peace Camp is sprucing up the gardens for spring-time, planting seeds and flowers, regenerating raised beds, sharing ideas and bringing in the new seasons.
We’ll have plenty of gardening supplies and lots to do but bring seeds,tools,plants if you have any spare.
There will be a vegan lunch and dinner for everybody for donation.
People are very welcome to stay the night before or for the whole weekend!
Last week saw Peace Campers form a flying picket in support of anti-fracking campaigners Northern Gas Gala and their protest site at Barton Moss near Salford.
As drilling company Igas undertakes exploratory work with a view to setting up a full-scale shale gas extraction operation after March, local campaigners have set up camp outside the gates of the facility and aim to stop the frackers before irreversible environmental damage is caused. Trucks entering and leaving the facility are regularly slowed and stopped by demonstrators blocking and walking the access road, causing daily disruption and depleting the profit margin of the entrepeneurial exploiters.
Faslane campers arrived by invitation to give direct action workshops and immediately set to improving site facilities. High and low levels were attended to, with a climber stringing a worthy treehouse aloft whilst other work was carried out below.
An escalated police response took great interest in these activities, with a large number of Greater Manchester Police surprised to find themselves guarding a latrine on a cold dark night until it could be filled with concrete to ensure public safety. Meanwhile, an attempt to scale the fence of the drill site was confounded by poor fitness and a hands-on approach to policing which left a Peace Camper choked, bruised, and in custody. Simultaneously, one of the locals was seriously injured, having played the dangerous game of challenging a senior police officer over the legality of the traffic to the facility.
The violence and intensity of the police ‘facilitating’ the protest seems to be due to the oversight of the GMP’s Tactical Aid Unit, who have transferred the skills and experience of dealing with armed criminal gangs to the peaceful protestors at Barton Moss. Creatively vindictive charges and bail conditions have been used repeatedly to run campaigners through the mill of custody and court, increasing public expense and testing the determination of the anti-frackers.
We’re pleased to report that this determination is not in question. Whilst we shared direct action skills and tactics, we were given a lesson in committed campaigning which made it well worth the trip. On returning, we learned that the treehouse we’d left had been forcibly removed by the authorities, along with the trees it had nestled in. That they’re still there, and still fighting, in the face of such uncompromising oppression is the measure of the Barton Moss camp, and the assurance of their inevitable victory.
Pictures to follow!
One of 2013′s hangovers was the trial of the Scottish section from the Burghfield Big Blockade, which took place on 10 January. This was the criminal consequence of September’s successful shutdown of the illegal atomic arms factory AWE Burghfield. Of the five-strong affinity group, one had not been charged, and another copped a plea, leaving three to go before the district judge charged with wilful obstruction of the highway.
A passionate and robust defence had been prepared, detailing the nuclear crimes and public safety nightmare of the bomb factory, but in the event this was not required. An embarrassed CPS officer confessed to the defendants beforehand that the police evidence was in disarray, to the extent that it did not identify any one of us as a person arrested at the blockade. Having been offered the opportunity to plug the holes in the prosecution’s case in order to be able to hold forth in court on the topic of nuclear weapons, we mulled it over for a surprisingly long time before preferring to ask the judge to refuse an adjournment and dismiss the case. Which they did.The failure of the CPS case seems to have been consequent to the vast amounts of data and footage they collected during the Action AWE Disarmament Camp. As none of us had confirmed our details to the police during the blockade, all of the police statements referred to ‘Male 1′, ‘Female 2′, etc. In order to link these statements to us, the CPS would have had to go through dozens of hours of video footage to locate recordings of us being warned and arrested.
The lesson is repeated: don’t tell the police anything apart from your essential particulars when arrested (and only give those to the desk sergeant at the station in England). Never give a comment interview, and don’t negotiate any statement with the police or CPS. This good practice is why we’re now awaiting cheques for our travel expenses instead of paying fines.
A permitted exception to this would be the mass-grass Report a War Crime event on 8th February in Reading. Good luck to all participants.
Political film-making group Camcorder Guerillas recently celebrated their 10th birthday with an awards ceremony in Glasgow´s Govanhill Baths, at which the work of around thirty campaigning organisations was celebrated. Three of the awards were presented to anti-nuclear groups associated with Faslane, including one to the Peace Camp for being ´the world´s oldest peace camp´. A padlock inside a display case commemorated the camp´s success in regular ´lock-downs´of the submarine base, or perhaps campers´propensity for defying locks, chains, and fences.
Another award was given to the North Gate vigil — a golden sou-wester to honour their dedication and constancy. This was handed over during the vigil itself, and demonstrators were quick to point out to the attendant police that, although both groups were regularly stood in the rain of a Wednesday afternoon, the wider world actually liked the vigil for its efforts.
Finally, a gilded pair of binoculars highlighted the work of convoy-spotters Nukewatch, and their role in monitoring and campaigning against the Ministry of Defence´s regular encroachments on Civvy Street.
Each award was representative of countless hours of tireless committment, including in some cases many sleepless nights and time spent in custody. It was fantastic to see the Guerillas take the opportunity to recognise these potentially under-appreciated campaigners, and hopefully encourage further interest in their activities.
Munitions protestors from the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU) celebrated recent campaign success with a walk-on at the UK’s only depleted uranium (DU) testing range at Dundrennan near Kirkcudbright on November 6th.
With campaign pressure seemingly having caused the Ministry of Defence to drop out of its regular testing schedule for the highly-radioactive weapons this year, CADU and their allies (including a delegation from the Peace Camp) took to the range to keep the issue in the spotlight and push for an outright ban.
DU munitions are used by the UK’s armed forces for their incendiary and armour-piercing properties and maintained in one or more secret stockpiles, undisclosed even to those charged with handling the shells. Both chemically- and radiologically-toxic, dust and detritus from DU weapons has been linked to an increase in cancer and birth defect rates in conflict zones such as Iraq and Serbia, and drinking water in Bosnia-Herzegovina was found to be contaminated years after the end of the Balkans war.
Over 300 DU tank shells have been fired into the Solway Firth from the range at Dundrennan — none of them recovered — and the range itself features the remains of a tank destroyed by the accidental detonation of DU shells in 1994. As the half-life of the substance is approximately 500,000 years, this hulk is likely to remain there for some time yet.
The UK’s reserve of DU munitions is approaching the end of its deployable lifespan, making campaigners hopeful that it will not be renewed. Meanwhile, actions such as November’s walk-on make it clear that continued testing — or any steps towards a new generation of radio-chemical weapons — will not be tolerated.
Those of you who aren’t in the West of Scotland will be interested in the upcoming benefit gig organised by our awesome friends in London. It’s a mostly hardcore / queercore line-up, it’s at T Chances in Tottenham on November 30th, we want to go to it, and you definitely should.
Meanwhile, back at the nuclear weapons base, peace campers recently raised some noise at North Gate by playing a selection of songs from Penny Stone’s book ’50 Years of Scottish Songs for Nuclear Disarmament’ (reviewed here) on guitar and ukelele. Classics such as ‘What Shall We Do with the Nuclear Waste’, ‘Freedom Come All Ye’, and ‘Ding Dong Dollar’ echoed round the lochside for the first time in a long time. This was fun, but more importantly, it gave us a real sense of connection to a history of politics and protest which pre-dates the Peace Camp; ‘Ding Dong Dollar’ was the cover song of an album of anti-Polaris songs released to support the campaign in 1962. We’ll certainly be playing together again, and with an increased repertoire.
Talking of benefit albums, ours remains available online. Alternatively, real copies made from actual plastic and cardboard should soon be available at the camp or at any stall we happen to be doing. There’ll be one of those tomorrow, at the Radical Independence Conference, then as regularly as we can manage in Glasgow and Edinburgh.