The MoD’s nuclear convoy found itself in difficulty on the home stretch of its journey to Coulport last Friday morning as it was delayed for an hour by a Peace Camp blockade.
Campers used superglue and lock-on clips to stop the convoy on the ‘haul road’ from Loch Lomond to Coulport, just off the A82, at around one o’clock. Following the action, four were taken into custody and held over the weekend, with three later being released without prosecution. One was bailed to appear in court in October, charged with breach of the peace and resisting arrest.
The nuclear convoy is part of the regular servicing of the Trident warheads deployed on Faslane’s submarines. It comprises between three and five warhead carriers with support vehicles and a police and military escort, which travels Britain’s main motorways from the south-east of England to the west coast of Scotland. There isn’t a population centre in the country safe from the potential impact of a nuclear accident with this transport.
It’s a very clear example of how the practical elements of sustaining Trident represent a major public safety threat, quite aside from the moral and legal considerations of maintaining nuclear weapons. The secrecy and lack of accountability accorded to the MoD make it clear that its operations are considered untouchable. It’s for this reason that direct action and awareness-raising are so important, to present a challenge to the Ministry’s autocracy and mobilise wider resistance to it.
Thanks to all for their kind messages of support, and to those who contributed practically on the night.
The UK Government’s relatively-new celebration of all things military was marked by events across Scotland. As the Army, Navy, and Air Force rolled out to encourage blind loyalty to flags and uniforms, so too did the peace movement to show that not everyone is in love with the morbid machinery of militarisation.
Winning hearts and minds
In Stirling, around 40 picketed the national Armed Forces’ Day event. The counter-demonstration was mostly made up of affiliates to the nascent Scottish Peace Network, including a sizable delegation from the Peace Camp. Concerns about possible ill-will from supporters of the military procession through the city proved largely ill-founded, and protestors had few problems dispensing a considerable number of leaflets with the prominent, and promising, heading of ‘NO MORE WAR’.
The text highlighted the massive cost of the whole-day Armed Forces event, estimated at £500,000 to the local authority and corporate sponsors, as well as its timing – 82 days prior to the referendum on Scottish independence and coincidental with a two-day event in Stirling commemorating the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. The insensitivity of celebrating warfare in the context of ongoing campaigns and their bloody fall-out was also noted. These messages were sympathetically received by nearly all those who deigned to comment, showing that what seems superficially to be a token presence can in fact be an important reflection of unspoken sentiment. Altogether, this first sortie for the Scottish Peace Network as a group boded well for future joint operations.
Crane on their parade
Meanwhile, there was high drama in Glasgow as four members of the hitherto-secretive White Feather Collective overcame both vertigo and a newly-installed steel door to adorn the Finnieston Cran with a succinct rejection of warfare and capital. Banner dropped, the four remained in situ for around twelve hours, subject to close police attention whilst soldiers advertised killing machines to kids in George Square. On their descent, the team was taken into custody and held until late on Monday to appear in court. Despite an attempt to ban them from the city of Glasgow for the duration of the Commonwealth Games, they’re now free until trial in October, unless they breach bail by going within 50 metres of the crane in question.
Edinburgh saw the exposure of months of work as a patchwork pink scarf was unrolled over 900 metres of the Royal Mile. Knitters from around the country contributed to Wool Against Weapons, which easily upstaged a low-key Armed Forces’ Day event in the city. Impressive as it is, this scarf represents a mere component of the full seven-mile train which will stretch between Atomic Weapons Establishments Burghfield and Aldermaston in August. There’s still plenty of time to get involved in this project, and make space in your summer for the couple of days around August 9th you’ll need free to ensure that Scotland is duly represented at its culmination. It’s likely to be the best-attended anti-nuclear event of the year, apart from local stuff in September of course.
What would John MacLean do?
The next big date on the agenda is August 4th, which will see both the closing of the Commonwealth Games and the opening of a four-year onslaught of First World War revisionism. The exact proceedings are a bit unclear at the moment but the Queen and heads of state from the Commonwealth nations will be involved, as will George Square and Glasgow Cathedral. We’re hoping for a good turnout to show that the mass slaughter of a generation of working-class men has not been forgotten, and resist the abuse of their memory to promote the values which murdered them. Get your affinity group ready and equipped, or meet at the statue of Donald Dewar on Buchanan Street before 10am on the 4th (kettle warning!).
Pictures robbed from the groups named above, apologies to any other credits due.
The Peace Camp’s anniversary passed in some style as friends and former campers joined to celebrate 32 years of anti-nuclear action. Camp stalwarts, including some of its founders, shared memories, whilst current campers offered workshops on present and proposed future activities.
Our still-standing stage took the party to the MoD, or some few feet of its land at least. Unfortunately this gave its police force licence to be annoying, though they did stand off some in the end and made a series of agreements (with themselves) to permit the party, amid some mumbling about multiple trespass transgressions.
Transgression was supplemented with aggression, as probably the first ‘brutal death metal’ band to perform at the Camp rocked the base with noises not heard locally since the last Punk’s Picnic. A surreal segue into elevator music kept the festival sound system warm for our visiting mixmaestros to play out the weekend (and a little over, until the generator failed).
Unsupervised use of this awesome equipment by enthusiastic amateurs led to a number of complaints, but Police Scotland actually confounded expectation by dealing with these in a courteous and tolerant manner. It was almost enough to lead us to forget the numerous wrongful arrests, extended terms in custody, spurious vehicle pulls, speculative stop-and-searches, and idle threats, but not quite.
Perhaps the rationale for the (relative) fluffiness of the forces of oppression was that the party would serve as a distraction from the action that usually accompanies the Peace Camp’s birthday. It wasn’t; the nuclear convoy staging at and leaving AWE Burghfield over the weekend did that. Since it didn’t come up in the end, we didn’t get the opportunity to welcome it to Scotland despite putting other plans on hold. In consequence, the next Peace Camp action doesn’t count, an attitude we hope is shared by the eventual prosecuting authorities.
More generally, the weekend remained a success in bringing people to the brink of destruction (Faslane, of course) and offering them a mix of entertainment and information. Everyone was lovely, but we owe special thanks to the sound-in-every-way guys and their diligent decksmithery; the musicians who played mostly to midges (numerically at least); the guest-starring chefs who helped us hospitalise; everyone who brought us presents; and our neighbours for their understanding. This said, hopefully the Camp doesn’t have too many birthdays left, because neither does Trident.
Please note: there are more and better birthday pictures. These are placeholders until the Campers remember to charge their phones and upload them.
The amazing-looking Peace Camp touring van has been out and about at one of Scotland’s biggest festivals, moving the message to Moffat for the Eden Festival.
Weeks of hard work got this show on the road, meaning our mans-and-womans-with-a-van were effectively working a double shift. Getting time-and-a-half on our rate of £0 / hour, they really came through for the cause, lending festival-goers their rounded understanding of nuclear warfare and what to do about it (hint: don’t vote No).
Newly-minted propaganda and painstakingly-printed T-shirts went like hot cakes, only more political. That said, sharing hot cake at Peace Camp realises the joys of full communism, and we may try and have some on our next outing.
Speaking of that, although there’ll be some leafletting at Glasto this weekend, our next confirmed appointment with the full shebang is yet remote in July, at Audiosoup. Between now and then, we’ll be going after people where they live, canvassing it up somewhere, soon. Look out for our van (police excepted).
Note: the pictures show our van at other places. They’ll be replaced in due course.
Peace Camp’s 32nd anniversary week started well with a vehicle blockade of Burghfield AWE on Monday morning. Current and former campers were present and locked-on, although in their capacity as members of Trident Ploughshares, who organised the action in support of the ongoing Action AWE campaign.
Burghfield is a critical site in the UK’s current and future nuclear plans. It’s the assembly plant for Trident warheads, and services them as required, sending convoys of nuclear material and completed warheads from the south-east of England to the west coast of Scotland, along either the M6 or M1/A1 and putting the entire population at risk of a military nuclear accident. Ongoing work at the base is ostensibly replacing the 1950s ‘gravel gerty’ assembly units, lambasted on health and safety grounds for a catalogue of failings, with a safer modern facility. What’s actually happening is the re-tooling of the equipment for use in designing and manufacturing the Trident Successor. Amazingly, this kind of work, determinedly happening now for the purpose of continued nuclear deployment, is counted as a ‘saving’ in the Government’s nuclear program, as the safety monitors asked them to do it ages ago in order that Reading not be obliterated by sheer neglect. The people in charge of this have called it ‘Project Mensa’, perhaps ironically.
Lots of plotting and some hard graft on the part of Ploughshares’ engineers paid off well. Anxiety on our approach – vehicle lock-ons are expensive in time and money terms and easy to stop if anticipated – proved to be ill-founded, as we once again caught the forces of darkness on the hop and deployed three automotive obstructions within four minutes of each other, with paramilitary precision. Banners, cones, and support team members in hi-vis indicated no pasaran to the would-be Bomb-builders.
Police presence was light, indicating that our arrival was unexpected, and remained so for the duration. Clearly lessons were learned from the debacle of last September’s Big Blockade, when a disproportionate police deployment had arguably caused more disruption than the lock-ons. Having handled a number of blockades since, the MoD-Plod managed to deal with their truncated traffic in an efficient and effective way, stacking vehicles in adjacent sports grounds and the access road at the south-east of the base. Note to future blockaders: do something about this.
Ministry police were soon supplemented by Thames Valley coppers and the local fire brigade. The latter were called in to assess whether gas bottles used as part of a sophisticated lock-on contained any residual propane. Having observed that the bottles had been cut in half and had plastic tubes running through them, the firemen were able to reassure panicking proliferationists that the only gas around was tritium. Meanwhile Thames Valley police were strategically assigned to each blockade to preclude the hourly comfort breaks the arrestables had hitherto enjoyed – literally, a pish detail.
Cursory assessments of all of the lock-ons were made but the plan was obviously to open the eastern Construction Gate (so-called because of Project Mensa, supplied via this route) and shepherd all traffic through it, possibly whilst dealing with the other blockades or waiting for them to falter. A cutting crew therefore set about the eastern blockade, releasing and arresting two and achieving a lane of traffic through the gate. On seeing this, and suffering physical discomfort due to the hot sun and restrictions of the lock-ons, the remaining blockaders negotiated their release so successfully that they retained the converted cars they’d used to confound the cod-constabulary of commercialised conflict…
That’s right – having stopped traffic to one of the UK’s most secure military sites for half a day, including a kibosh on deliveries which must have cost a small fortune, we got to up and leave in our modified motors with no arrests subsequent to the first two. That means one less count of bail and both means and opportunity to do it again. Could anyone happy to drive hot vehicles into hot water by the end of the month, please get in touch.
Thanks again to all participants, including but not exclusive to: the planners, who colluded in conception; the engineers, who wrought safe mayhem from concrete and steel; the drivers, who delivered the goods; the support teams, whose determined defiance ensured a constant friendly presence in hostile circumstance; the blockaders, for whom disobedience is a duty; and our hosts, whose understanding does well to exceed their hospitality. Such solidarity bodes badly for those silly enough to be on the other side.
A Peace Camp delegate made it to the recent Trident Ploughshares gathering in Plymouth. Hosted by local group Tamarians, attendees spent much time in workshops and meetings, but also took the opportunity to get out and about at the local MoD facility: Devonport.
Devonport is a major Navy site, with a flotilla of surface ships based there, construction and repair facilities, and more significantly to us, a submarine z-berth and dry-dock. At the moment, HMS Vengeance is slumbering in the dry-dock like some Lovecraftian leviathan, whilst its fiendish devotees carry out the arcane processes which will make it ready to awaken once more.
At the moment, operations at Dock 9 include the refuelling of submarines, which process involves pulling old fuel rods out of the boats with a crane and dumping them in a lined pool until someone can think of something better to do with them. Devonport’s corporate overseers are also interested in carrying out decommissioning of submarines there, such as those currently rotting in the Rosyth dockyard. This sounds great until you look around the place and realise that it means juggling serious nuclear waste within a stone’s throw of many homes and schools, and there isn’t a proper waste disposal site available anyway.
Local group CANSAR (Community Awareness Nuclear Storage And Radiation) surveyed five streets in close proximity to Dock 9 and found seventeen times the national average incidence of cancer. Understandably, they are concerned about the prospect of the Ministry carrying out more, and more dangerous, work at the base. Of course, there are sophisticated statistical arguments which completely deny the significance of all such clusters, and causation is nearly as difficult to prove as the non-existence of God… Nevertheless, we won’t be going to church anytime soon, nor hanging laundry outdoors downwind of Devonport.
Having heard about how awful the place was, we of course went down to have a look at it, and took some banners. Devonport is an odd place, surrounded by homes and traversed by both a railway bridge and the road to a separate, civilian, ferry terminal. Despite being an advertised nuclear site, the security there appears to be as bad as that of Faslane. Although the old part of the base (at the Drake Gate) is patrolled by military, there’s nothing but accommodation there so who cares. Dock 9 is somewhere behind the suspiciously wide-open and lightly-guarded Camel’s Head gate at the Western end of the base.
Unfortunately it wasn’t the time for amazing direct action, but some good stories were told. Our favourite was the attempt to literally jam the communications of a submarine, though tales of successfully meeting the challenge of blockading such a massive, multiple-entry facility were also inspirational.
Garlic and olive oil, apparently
The last day of the meet saw TPers assemble at the city centre police station. We weren’t waiting for detained comrades this time, but instead carrying out the ‘Report a Crime’ activity promoted by ActionAWE. This consists of presenting at a police station to report the criminal activities of the Ministry of Defence and its contractors in maintaining and deploying nuclear weapons. One can do this at any police station, and it’s an interesting exercise, albeit unsuitable for anyone with outstanding warrants or unwilling to tell the police their address and phone number (staff at the Plymouth station were cheekily asking for birthdates as well, clearly to facilitate a criminal record check).
Up to twenty reported war crimes to the counter staff, and this should technically lead to a follow-up investigation by police, although we’re not holding our breath. At least next time any of us is in the dock they won’t be able to say that we didn’t try other means.
Before, during, and after our application to have the State investigate and prosecute itself, we distributed leaflets to passers-by, some attached to leeks (do you see?) along with a recipe for turning them into soup. This went down pretty well, perhaps surprisingly for a Navy city. All in all, it was a successful and productive weekend, and we look forward to more interaction with Ploughshares in the future. Thanks to the locals, and their Friends, for having us.
Pictures stolen from Ploughares’ website.
Peace Camp elements were involved in the recent set-up of a Protection Camp at Upton-by-Chester, helping secure a prospective drill site against Coal Bed Methane (CBM) exploitation. Future events such as these will affect us all in the future, as they say, so here is the story so far.
Outstanding in a field
In response to a call on the red site phone, FPC arrived at the Welsh border to be appraised of the situation. Drilling company Dart Energy intended to wreak proto-fracking havoc on a dairy farm close to the Chester suburb of Upton, potentially releasing heavy greenhouse gases and poisoning the groundwater within a few hundred metres of a housing estate, a zoo, and several schools, and threatening seismic activity within visible distance of a gas-fired power station. A team comprising unhappy locals, veterans of the Barton Moss campaign, and FPC rolled on to the field in question in a moonlit raid to make sure it didn’t happen.
Having thrown up fences, tents, and Section-6-squatting-advice notices, campers endured a miserably wet dawn before being revitalised by the arrival of supporters and police at the same time. Happily, the site’s perimeter was respected by the local cops, and we were able to welcome everyone else in due course.
You can eat principles
With concordance established, the camp was widened by a literal field kitchen even as an assembly determined the projected trajectory of its future as a community space. Both were enhanced by the arrival of an eco-stove purchased by local subscription, along with sufficient supplies of food and water to maintain an insurrectionary march on London.
Having opted to postpone this for now, campers set about facilities with extreme prejudice, making things comfortable and sustainable for now and the future. Upton now boasts kitchen, toilets, washroom, communal shelters, fireplaces, a huge A-frame tent and PA system, a complex and interdependent tripod-and-bipod arrangement to protect the front gate, and an intrepid treehouse overlooking it all.
She’s a model, and she’s looking good
And… that’s about it. Setting up the camp appears to have frightened off the frackers for the foreseeable, and a continued presence is being encouraged by solidarity with other sites and a programme of events, including workshops given by revisiting Peace Campers.
What’s particularly interesting is that this camp is the first ever pre-emptive occupation of a drill site, and the hope is that it sets a model for future action. With ongoing attention, Chester residents can ensure that their locality not be besmirched by coal-bed cowboys. This tactic may have contributed to the recent fire-sale purchase of the drillers Dart by Barton Moss offenders IGas. Once these shell companies have all been rolled-up and investors suddenly face the consequences of their actions, we’ll be well on the way to a true victory of the masses against the classes.
For more information about the Upton site, consult the Frack-Free Upton page.
Update: in an embarassing solidarity failure, this post didn’t include this video of Will’s amazing Daneshill rig action. Here it is now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngmh5rBQjQM