Seven hours of practical disarmament
Concerned citizens from around the UK linked arms against arms Monday 13th April, closing Faslane to road traffic for seven hours.
Ongoing nuclear proliferation at the site was disrupted for the duration as police engineers battled to remove the obstruction. Thirty-four blockaders were arrested but not charged, ironically for ‘breaching the peace’. Two more got lifted for improving the famous Faslane fence with the slogan ‘Scots say no to Trident’.
The blockade began at 0700, with arrestables immediately in situ at all gates to the facility like some wonderful clockwork machine of righteousness. Busloads from Glasgow took the main gate, a crack Ploughshares team occupied the oil depot, and the Peace Camp was put to good use in hosting those charged with holding the southern end of things. Local knowledge proved valuable in helping to evade police patrols and take up positions of maximal effectiveness and minimal disruption to the local community. In the event even the adjacent Clydebank Nursery remained accessible throughout the blockade, with traffic on the main road flowing freely.
The sturdy equipment brought to bear proved useful as cops set to clearing the South Gate road, with the first set of lock-ons surviving over two hours of power tools. Campaigners confounded the removal of another line with the liberal deployment of red paint — the traditional weapon of choice for anti-arms-trade action.
Protesters dancing and rolling in red emulsion to the beat of a samba band, whilst a BDSM mermaid looked on from the banks of the Gareloch… Grandmothers in onesies and nappies, their costumes uncomfortably padded with chains… Such scenes will haunt the dreams and nightmares of those with the privilege to have witnessed them.
A sound system and mobile cafe supplied tunes and provisions to round off the carnival atmosphere which prevailed at what would otherwise have been the sharp end of things.
Meanwhile, public relations niceties meant that the North Gate crew remained unmolested throughout. This contingent included Green and Scottish Nationalist MSPs, as well as Peace Camp and Trident Three veterans. Peace Camp founders were doubtless disappointed to be once more at Faslane after so many years, but we hope they took heart from the scale and effectiveness of the blockade. A turnout of 400, and a seven-hour lockdown, made this one of the biggest and best mass actions against Britain’s nuclear weapons for many years.
Many thanks and congratulations to all those who took part. From the Peace Camp perspective, special thanks to the people who kept things going back at base while we were in the road or the back of a van, and the rock-solid, up-for-it solidarity crew of anti-frackers who took on two gates to ensure a comprehensive closure. We hope to see everyone here again sometime soon — when they’re not expecting it…
There’s a good crew at the Peace Camp just now, if we can be so pleased with ourselves. However, to be fully effective the camp needs greater numbers and wider support. For that reason, we’d like to organise a ‘bank’ of part-time Peace Campers, to help make sure all the boxes are ticked and afford greater ambition in campaigning at this critical time.
What we hope is to put together a rota, maintaining a minimum number of people at camp over and above full-time camp residents. This would achieve two main objectives:
— to free up Peace Campers for direct action, demonstrations, meetings, conferences, research, and monitoring — as well as breaks and nights out!
— to help share the skills which have been built up over 33 years of the camp, spreading knowledge of direct action, blockading, anti-eviction tactics, protest site maintenance, nonviolence, facilitation, and more.
Anyone who is even remotely considering this should know that the most basic function of the Peace Camp is to be welcoming, and hopefully informative, to visitors. If you can make a cup of tea and hand over a leaflet, then you are exactly what we need. Equally, whilst it’s great if people can be on-call to rush through at short notice, we’re just as happy to pencil them in for when they get a free week-end in June.
It’s also worth noting that the camp is well-appointed by protest site standards, or even caravan site standards. There’s a bathroom with hot and cold water, flush and compost toilets, gas and wood-fired cooking facilities, solar power, and telephone and internet. It’s also well-established; there’s no current eviction threat, and the police usually respect our boundaries.
What we don’t want is a two-tier system of full- and part-time Peace Campers. Anyone who’s up for camping recurrently over time would be invited to participate in meetings and contribute to the democracy of the camp.
So, if you like the sound of this, get in touch and we’ll get organised! We may follow up with local meetings dependent on interest. Dogs and children are welcome.
PS: if you’re worried about the security of your personal details, a (nick)name and phone number would be amply sufficient for our purposes.
Alarms were once more raised in anger last night at Faslane as paddling Peace Campers swept past security in a daring moonlit amphibious assault. Two boats made it under the first jetty and under the radar, allowing one camper to make a landing at berth 7 near the sub pen. Staff were again caught napping, with none seemingly concerned by our man’s soaking wet clothes, boots, and dreadlocks. Having marched along the road unimpeded by several manned checkpoints, the intrepid trespasser was finally huckled by a singularly conscientious Ministry guard on entering the Trident area.
This marks the first time unauthorised feet have strayed past this perimeter for a long time, and sets a new benchmark for current activities. Of course, the more people we have, the more things we can do…
With the bandit alarm bleeping, the trailing kayak was unable to find a route past alert police and… more details may be confirmed following the outcome of potential consequences.
Having managed to fumble the incursion into their custody, the forces of oppression followed up in fine fashion by failing to successfully collude on the charging and prosecution of a number of statutory offences. Being unable to distinguish between the land and sea, and unfamiliar with the arcane bye-laws ‘protecting’ the Gareloch facilities, the fiscal’s officer managed to get the case against dismissed despite the accused proferring a ‘guilty’ plea in the name of expediency.
Meanwhile, the Peace Camp’s efforts to bring dry clothing to its people led to farce as a car seeking to make the drop-off at South Gate was waved through the checkpoint and into the facility. An immediate alarm led to further disruption and confusion for the proliferationists, whose heightened numbers and state of alertness seems to have precipitated a loss of coordination. So if you’ve already voted by post to banish the bomb, now is an ideal time to cause trouble and strife for the nuclear warfare operation.
Either way on Thursday, Saturday will see North Gate hosting ‘Yes or No – Trident Must Go’ from 12pm. Anti-nuclear people old and new are invited to come and reinforce the message, network, and plan future actions and activities to make sure the pressure for disarmament is unabated.
The new exhibition by Peace Camper Lavinia Raccanello is still open at New Glasgow Society in Argyle Street, near Kelvingrove. Three new works inspired by the artist’s time at the Camp over the spring and summer, plus a collection of archive material from the protest site, are on display.
Most of the nicer artwork to have appeared at the Camp over the duration has been attributable to Lavinia, including such banners as have been carted by Peace Campers on recent demonstrations of solidarity with Palestine in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
She can also take credit for the singular look of the Camp’s touring van, which has been acclaimed by all those lucky enough to have seen it out and about. There will hopefully be more chances to view it in action soon.
Mere painting’s not the limit of Lavinia’s contribution though – she’s been present and correct and pitching-in with the rest of us since March, playing a part in essentially all of the interesting things to happen in that time. From each according to their means? Aye, and then some.
So where can you meet this person? And where can you see their cool work? The work remains in situ at New Glasgow Society, 1307 Argyle Street, Glasgow until Sunday night. There will follow a closing event, “Not Protest, but Active Resistance?”, comprising a discussion of direct action with particular reference to the anti-nuclear movement. That starts at 6pm on the 7th September, in the same venue, and attendees will include the artist herself and some fellow Peace Campers past and present. All are welcome – nay, encouraged! – to come and join in.
Photographs by Lavinia Raccanello.
The anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were marked by the Peace Camp and local CND. Some efforts were frustrated one way or another, though the best recent trespass was achieved, as a kayak reached the docks by the sub pen, before being angrily redirected by surprised Ministry police. Apparently they are still obsessed by watching people on the shore between the Camp and the base, seemingly not having learned any lessons in March.
Both the dates in question saw the now-traditional floating of lanterns on the loch. Although the weather wasn’t as favourable as last year, the lochside gatherings gave opportunity to reflect on the significance of the bombings.
The atomic weapons programme was started during the Second World War due to fears among British scientists that Nazi Germany could be developing a similar weapon (it was). The joint Allied ‘Manhattan Project’ quickly took on a life of its own. As their own technology improved, the Allies realised that Germany could not realistically hope to produce atomic bombs. Instead, panic set in when it became possible that the war could end before their own project was complete.
Fortunately for the future of mass destruction, Japan held out until its mainland was besieged. This gave time for successful atomic detonation to be achieved in the New Mexico desert. Prior to the live test, some projections had indicated that the intensity of the bomb could set the entire atmosphere of the planet alight and destroy all complex life. In the event, this didn’t happen.
Having cracked Japan’s ciphers, the Allies knew that it was ready to sue for peace, with the preservation of the monarchy the foremost concern of the ultra-nationalists they’d be negotiating with. Nevertheless, two main targets were selected for atomic bombing. These were removed from air raid schedules and left intact, fully to assess the capabilities of the new weapon without mis-attributing damage already caused by conventional ordinance.
Hiroshima was attacked on August 6th, 1945. Prior to the bombing, the navigator on the Enola Gay bomber wrote in his logbook, “Everyone has a big hopeful look on his face.” An entry after reads, “I honestly have the feeling of groping for words to explain this. I might just say: my God, what have we done?”
The bombing of Nagasaki followed three days later on August 9th, following which Japan’s military offered unconditional surrender. Altogether, 180,000 deaths are attributed to the bombings. Either one on its own would constitute the single worst atrocity of the world’s worst conflict.
Following the bombings, the Allies were quick to try to quash rumours regarding radioactive emissions and fallout from the attacks. Journalists were escorted on visits to the bombsites and kept away from victims, and film footage showing the human effects of radiation exposure was confiscated and classified ‘Top Secret’. However, Wilfrid Burchett, a correspondent for the Daily Express, had already made his way to Hiroshima on his own initiative. What he found in the vicinity made headlines as ‘The Atomic Plague: A Stark Warning to the World’.
Another journalist, John Hershey, compiled accounts from survivors of the bombing at Hiroshima. Reading these is harrowing, and full of monstrous detail. For example, the heat from the bomb caused seeds to germinate, covering the ruined city in a joyless carpet of flowers within days. Ultimately, though, what comes across is the incredible show of human resilience which followed the bombing; all of the survivors in Hershey’s interviews have somehow overcome worse than could ever be expected, and are making progress in their attempts to recover.
So, it is difficult to look at the cherry tree planted by visiting Hiroshima survivors in the Peace Camp and not take heart: for as long as people live, there is hope. It is impossible to look at the tree without another thought soon crowding forth: NEVER AGAIN.
What a great opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow! Having had their hopes for jingoistic pageantry confounded by an arch choreography including dancing teacakes and kissing men, the Forces of Darkness were left with only the closing day to recover some imperial pride. By invoking the dead of the First World War, they ensured that this was done in as morbid a fashion as possible.
A joint closing ceremony and Great War commemoration in Glasgow was attended by Prince Charles (to our disappointment – we’d expected Brenda) as well as the heads of state of the Commonwealth nations (excluding the ones who dropped out early in shame, hounded by pantomime protest). A service at Glasgow Cathedral was the starting-point.
With friends from the Scottish Peace Network picketing out front of the service, Peace Campers avoided armed police and roadblocks by jumping over a wall. Climbing the Necropolis above the Cathedral, we dropped an enormous banner just under the disapproving gaze of John Knox.
Some kind of plainclothes unit got onto us straight away, complaining that our campaigning was somehow offensive to the dead. When we explained that metaphorically digging up millions to invest current military adventures with misplaced reverence for previous ‘victories’ was offensive to the living, we were threatened with charges of ‘desecration of a sepulchre’.
Although tempted to acquire convictions for this offence, thereby to become Kings and Queens among Goths, we’d already decided to be non-arrestable, so we slowly and sarcastically complied with direction to the official ‘protest zone’. This meant we were able to again hoist the banner, within metres of the departing motorcade as it set off for George Square.
We then packed up and rolled on to the main public event at George Square. Some lovely Loyalists were also foaming somewhere abouts, which possibly took the heat off us as we once more set up, spanning North Frederick Street with hand-lettered defiance. We were pleased to see some friendlies picketing nearby, and got practical solidarity from both these, and sympathetic shop-fitters who lent us scaffolding to take the weight from tired arms.
Being behind a banner meant we couldn’t see the comrades who penetrated the proceedings, unfurling another banner demanding ‘RESIST MILITARISM’ before the dignitaries at the Cenotaph. This peaceful plea was met with illustrative hostility; apparently the Empire’s so shaky these days that such dissent must be crushed, with prejudice. Escaping from the mob to the safer fold of fellow-travellers outside the fencing, this plucky band recovered their breath for a last action.
As the memorial service closed and the marching bands struck-up, it was abundantly clear what this day was about: falsely invoking our lost people, and revising their meaningless slaughter into a source of pride for Brittania and all who kill, and die, in her name to this day. The offensively inappropriate gala-day atmosphere of the military march-past was successfully tempered, however, as peace people showered the soldiers with white feathers, in memoriam of the conscientious objectors.
Aye, because in all circumstances, even universal conscription at a time of hysterical nationalist fervour, there are those principled few who choose to do the right thing regardless of personal cost, and their example shames the rest of us. That’s what Milgram’s experiment showed: not that it’s easy to direct people to torture one another, but that a minority will always instinctively refuse. By supporting and celebrating that resistance, we can win the cultural war against war, when the minority becomes the majority.
Meanwhile, back in Glasgow, our day ended with a commemoration of the consequence of current conflict, as we participated in the chalking of two thousand human figures in Kelvingrove Park, representing the dead in besieged Gaza and the West Bank territories. We left tired, but with a renewed sense of purpose: because every day the other side wins, humanity loses.
Almost all pictures stolen, from AF Glasgow and the Scottish Peace Network.
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.