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.
Protests at Faslane in recent weeks have been enlivened by the arrival of members of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA). Carefully marshalled by a visiting officer from CIRCA’s European section, the colourful interlopers showed the local police and military the benefits of a tight drilling and inspection regime.
‘We’re here to highlight that nuclear weapons are a serious business,’ said clown spokesperson Captain Obvious, ‘and to place our operatives at the full disposal of the Royal Navy for any decommissioning work they may have available.’
In fatigues, wigs, and greasepaint, and bearing comedic placards, banners, and sweeties for passers-by, the paramilitary performs successfully completed two tours of duty in front of Faslane’s North Gate.
Operation Particle Fizzics was an attempt to safely decommission a suspicious device discovered on the A814 roundabout. Needless to say, this did not go according to plan, and over one clown was exposed to emissions of an unknown nature. Fortunately, subsequent investigation established that the leak had a radioactivity level not significantly higher than ordinary cola.
One week later, the clowns returned in greater force for Operation Dawning Self-Awareness. This saw the red-nosed radicals acting on behalf of the United Nations Weapons Inspectorate to investigate operations at Faslane. Specially-commissioned monitoring systems were manually deployed by CIRCA in the attempt to identify potential ‘smugglers of dangerous atoms’. Having located a number of atoms, the clowns helpfully offered to turn these over to police for further investigation. When this was refused, they took matters into their own hands – by swallowing the atoms in the interest of public safety.
CIRCA disorganisers confirm that they are pleased with their visits to Faslane and looking to build on this success with more events in Scotland. Watch out for them at an urban centre near you.
We are moving forward!
After finally seeing our frames standing on their own, we could move on to free running. we climbed the naked roof and braced it, dug the floor to the right level, had a few jams in the exposed attic, collected new materials and didn’t fall down once!
With a group of a dozen or more,the structure is now starting to feel like home.
We are now going into details…
We have many new materials now, from just around the corner… Willow, birch, logs to cut in our homemade saw mill and a great desire for more… Look for hints throughout the page.
We got our tin roof.. Though we forgot one piece which we still need to bring from Glasgow. We screwed it down on the weekend and are nearly sheltered on one side. ,
The inside of the walls is going to be weaved in order to hold the natural plastering. So, we are collecting and de leafing birch, willow and bamboo, occasionally in jungle outfits and bringing them back to our weavers which are slowly creating a solid wall.
Along with thinking of the inside, it is always important to think of what you look like from the outside… Not really.. Anyways- during the weekend, a sawmill has been put together on camp and we are now waking up every morning to the gentle hum of the chainsaw cutting out beautiful wonky planks.
We also have a window. It has been cleaned spotless, and we have the first book placed on its inside shelf. Only three more to go, when we find or magically wake up in the morning to long and straight planks of wood. Hint hint…
In between the windows we are putting plywood which will be our canvases for the winter.
And then… Something happened! While digging the ground we discovered the end of a red cloth. We pulled and it revealed itself as a roman emperor. Well actually- as a blanket. And then we found beside it a plastic hello kitty fork.. And then- the skeleton of a small animal. We kept the pieces and are still in search of an answer for the mystery- what was buried in the ground- cat, rat or dog?
We have no hints, besides one plastic spoon…
And now… There is more to come. Our hands are full of cuts, our backs ache and we are still alive!
Still to come: road trip to cladco to get the missing pieces of our roof puzzle, finish the weaving on both walls and creating more planks for the outside… Then finally getting our warm sheep’s wall for insulation…
We are soon closing the other side of the roof with plywood and tarp (until we get our beautiful shingles)… All materials we do not currently have.
Everyone and anyone is welcome everyday to pitch in. We have probably five weeks until the coldness takes over, and it’s always better to weave with company. We are waiting for materials and presents.
Wish us luck…
Last proud picture
Tomorrow (Tuesday 24th September) will see anti-nuclear activists Sylvia Boyes and Mary Millington appear in Dumbarton Sheriff Court on charges of ‘malicious mischief’ following an action on February 4th this year.
The two entered Faslane at 3am through the old fence at the south of the base, hanging a banner reading “Disarmament: If not now, when?” They were in the process of leaving a more permanent reminder of their visit, by painting “SCRAP TRIDENT” on a wall at the facility, when interrupted by the police. Arresting officers were treated to a spontaneous performance of three songs from the peace movement oeuvre whilst undertaking their duties.
All are invited to visit the Court tomorrow to show support and solidarity. Mary and Sylvia’s case should be heard at some point during the day, from 10am onwards.
Update: Mary and Sylvia presented well in court, giving an outline of the motivation for their actions and reiterating the illegality of Britain’s nuclear weapons. As the evidence against them wasn’t challenged, the sheriff found both guilty, but having been given the context chose to admonish them. It was a good day for all, excepting the prosecuting authorities.
Footnote: Although the Procurator Fiscal’s office tried to paint this as a serious matter of damage to government property for which SOMEONE MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE, a visit to the scene shows that, seven months later, the authorities haven’t bothered to repair the hole in the fence.
Peace campers were in England from late last month to support Action AWE´s Burghfield Disarmament Camp. This was a two-week camp at AWE Burghfield — Britain´s nuclear bomb factory — including a blockade of the facility on September 2nd.
Arriving on the Saturday before the announced start date of the camp, we were quickly brought up to speed on the local network´s plans. Early Sunday morning saw us set off in convoy to take the site. Thanks to some excellent reconnaisance work and good choreography, we were able to set up right outside AWE Burghfield´s perimeter fence, deploying tents and a rapidly-immobilised caravan and securing the space with fencing.
The next few days were spent setting up the camp´s facilities and interacting with Ministry of Defence police. Not satisfied with the clear evidence of our competence and understanding, they made a point of repeatedly restating that we were in contravention of MOD byelaws, and collecting evidence of this dreadful transgression in the vain hope that the CPS might be interested. We did try to make their lives easier by explaining that Aldermaston Women´s Camp had already succeeded in contesting identical charges, but to no avail.
By the time the International Brigades arrived the camp had a full kitchen, water supply, toilets and sanitation facilities, and some other home comforts such as charging packs for computers and mobile phones. Newcomers were met at the police checkpoints established nearby and briefed before coming into the camp, in order to counter police misinformation. Eventually there were around sixty campers as people came from Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Finland and Spain — and all of them there for some direct action.
During the first week of the camp, there were regular workshops and planning meetings to prepare participants for the big blockade, an announced action to take place on the following Monday. Tactics and techniques were discussed and rehearsed, sites were scouted, and intelligence and information were exchanged.
Since all of this was happening within touching distance of a high-security nuclear weapons facility, in the full glare of a comprehensive suite of surveillance technology, and under the supervision of three police forces, the blockading teams set off on the morning of the 2nd expecting to be intercepted or otherwise inhibited en route. To our surprise, we discovered that we had confounded police plans by the simple measure of getting up early.
After successfully deploying almost unimpeded at a fairly obvious site, the Scottish team was able to enjoy the sight of several dozen police officers trooping past on their way to the morning briefing which would explain to them how to prevent us from setting up a blockade. In general the cops seemed fairly clueless, with one encouraging a locked-on protestor to disconnect so that her picture wouldn´t be printed in the local newspaper. Unfortunately this incompetence worked in their favour to some extent, with two blockaders voluntarily decoupling when it became clear that the police cutting team were going to put them in danger by using the wrong tools on a lock-on tube.
In the end Scotland managed three hours in situ, thanks to the use of reinforced heavy steel pipes. However, the top prize went to the Spanish section, who stayed locked-on for a massive fourteen hours! The Belgians also get extra credit for staging a good recovery after police found and stole the equipment they were planning to use. Overall, the traffic into AWE Burghfield was completely stopped at both gates for a full hour, with continued disruption for the entire day thanks both to additional blockades and an excessive police deployment. Twenty-two demonstrators were arrested, with twenty-one released the same day.
There were further workshops, debriefings, and activities at the camp for the remainder of the week, but possibly the main event in this time was a naked protest on the Thursday following the blockade. Of course the Scottish team would have loved to have been able to participate in this, but we were precluded from doing so by our bail conditions… Hats, and everything else, off to those who did.
It was a pleasure and a privilege to work with such a committed and capable team, and we would like to thank all involved in the camp. Special mention must be made of the amazing catering team, who fed the entire camp three times a day; the site team, who worked round the clock to make and keep the camp comfortable in every way; the transport team for keeping things rolling; and the locals whose planning and reconnaisance made the whole thing possible. We very much hope to work again with the Action AWE, War Resisters International, and War Starts Here network affiliates in the near future.
More information, photographs, and video from the camp, are available from the Action AWE campaign website here.
Court Addendum: Of those arrested on the day, most accepted police caution and will face no further consequences. One was held over for court the following day, where she was admonished and bound to observe the law for one year (after which she presumably has licence to recommence lawbreaking). The remainder entered various pleas by various means to Newbury Magistrates Court this morning; all are charged with variations on ´wilful obstruction of a highway´. More news when we have it.
Update: One protestor has plead guilty in order to expedite the removal of bail conditions, and has been fined £50 plus £25 costs. All others who appeared in court will now face trial in mid-January.