A belated summary of our 30 Days Action Campaign (with reflections!)
June 12th saw the thirty year anniversary of the permanent roadside resistance to the Faslane Naval Base, home to Trident, the British nuclear weapons system and it’s fleet of nuclear powered submarines.
In a purposeful break from tradition of marking the day with a party, the current campers (who are trying very hard to regenerate meaningful anti-nuclear activity and education at the Camp) decided a
diverse, inclusive and creative range of actions would better suit our purposes. We initiated a 30 Days Action Campaign from June 9th.
On the first day a few of the more intrepid campers got off to a good start by dropping a huge banner from the Finnieston crane in Glasgow declaring: “Nuclear Disarmament. If Not Now, When?” (words borrowed, via the inspiring Sylvia Boyes, from the resounding title of Primo Levi’s novel set in Nazi Germany). After 14 hours the brave trio climbed down, were arrested and held in custody all weekend. Little did they know, during their incarceration, that they had made the BBC news and a full page spread of the Herald! (They are currently in court proceedings for breaching her majesty’s peace and at least one of them has been separately awarded with an ASBO).
The next day campers and friends had a walk around the perimeter of Coulport where the nuclear warheads for Trident are stored leaving banners tied to the fence before being spotted and herded off the hills by police on quad bikes and dog handlers. This hill walking activity became a bit of a theme for the thirty days when we had neither the energy or people power to generate naughtiness of an altogether more naughty nature… sometimes we were spotted in our ramblings and sometimes we weren’t, which really begs all sorts of questions on the safety of these weapons.
On June 11th, the Gareloch Hortis staged the Peace Olympics with events as varied as synchronised swimming and putting the haggis. The medallists were arrested during the Tug of Peace across the Faslane North Gate. The winners’ podium highlighted that the only way to win the Race for Peace is to lay down the weapons of mass destruction.
On the birthday itself, after a long day of radio and t.v interviews on the longevity of protest here (entirely missing the point that any credible move by the UK government toward their nuclear disarmament obligations would mean that we WOULDN’T HAVE TO BE HERE!), two campers decided to go for a night stroll toward Coulport, mainly to see how far they could get. Angus Chalmers and Leonna O’Neill took off from the camp expecting to be apprehended quite quickly and to their amazement were able to enter Coulport, via the water, within meters of the Explosives Handling Jetty. They eventually set off the bandit alarm and, alerting the Ministry of Defence (MOD) security and were arrested and charged with military bye-laws and the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA). Both were held in custody until court on the following afternoon where the SOCPA charges were dropped and they pleaded not guilty to the bye-law charges. Court proceedings are ongoing but both are looking forward to highlighting to the court the ease at which they were able to enter the facility and what national security issues this action illuminates.
On Sunday June 17th, Helensburgh CND invited other CND activists to join them for a picnic at the North gate where, in spite of dismal weather and hoards of midgies, 30 people enjoyed hospitality from Jeely Peace cafe from Stirling.
Early on June 19th, the camp and friends locked on and blockaded both gates of Faslane for 90 mins disrupting the morning shift from getting in. One of the blockaders said “This blockade was a very international one. People from all parts of Britain and activists from Spain and Sweden were involved. I think that it is my right and my duty as a global citizen to do nonviolent direct actions against nuclear weapons as long as our governments do not fulfill their duty and stop fighting wars. Nuclear weapons are illegal by international humanitarian law and I want all countries to respect this and make a step to a more peaceful world.” All, with the exception of two were held in custody until court the following day. The powers that be decided that if two of the campers pleaded guilty, the rest would have their not guilty pleads accepted. The “guilty” two were admonished suggesting that the law sometimes does get it right, albeit in a convoluted way.
A Peach March group of determined walkers set off from Glasgow on June 21st, to walk to Faslane and endured a lot of rain and a soggy night’s camping but arrived cheerful and determined at the camp the following day. The march ended with a vigil at the South Gate before retiring to the camp for dinner and a long workshop on the reactor (un)safety from an enthusiastic ex-camper.
Helensburgh awoke to a large banner displayed on the town centre gasometer on June 25th saying “There will be no jobs if the bomb goes off”. This was a response to the news that multi million pound contracts had been awarded to BAE Systems, Babcock Marine and Rolls-Royce in connection to the design stages of a Trident replacement. The local newspaper and Jackie Baillie the MSP for the area continue to push the “over simplified argument that jobs in the local area necessarily take priority over our international treaty and humanitarian obligations”.
July 1st saw the Rise Up Singing affinity group from Trident Ploughshares organise an afternoon of music and song and the following day the singing was accompanied by a couple of trespass actions as people walked through the open gates. This resulted in the “bandit alarm” being activated which disrupts the
normal running of the base as all personnel have to report indoors and the gates are closed until all the activists have been arrested. Three of the eight had found good hiding places that took the MoD police 45 mins on to locate them and so the base remained in lock down for the duration. The following day, before appearing in court, all the SOCPA and military bye-laws charges were dropped.
The 6th of July, saw a morning of fence decorating during the shift change and an afternoon of seminars during which academics from different disciplines lectured on a variety of subjects such as geographers talking about why we are all targets and scientists discussing the mounting encroachment of military purposes into scientific nuclear research. We successfully reclaimed the space at the North Gate to discuss a range of ideas on how we can continue to challenge these abhorrent weapons.
A change of pace burst upon the base the following day with the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, who travelled from far and wide, descending on the base with their unique brand of clowning disruption. Both main gates to the naval base were closed and held for five hours and fun was had by all participating and any passers by.
The month brought many new people to the camp and has helped revitalise an important part of the anti-Trident campaign. The campaign itself was not of the scale of many of the actions seen here in the past but was certainly more than the five current campers could have hoped to achieve with our small budget and ongoing struggle for numbers, and is certainly a great deal more activity that has emanated from the camp itself in a great many years. And so, for that it was a happy “success”, but, as always, we concluded with a foreboding sense of needing to do more and certainly what to do next. The opening statement we made with the Cran banner drop of “Nuclear Disarmament. if not now, when?” really encapsulates, as new faces to the anti-nuclear movement, what the movement means for us.
All of us living here, in the backyard of the Trident travesty, have many more issues with the state and it’s silencing control, the system and it’s lack of democracy, modernity and it’s disregard for the environment and the peoples of this world, but if we have not yet won this old and powerful battle against nuclear weapons, how can we move on to a new battle? How will we face the next generation if these weapons are ever used again or if human error leads to a terrible accident in the handling of this regrettable technology?
The anti-nuclear movement is not one that has failed, we simply have not won yet. We have a few opportunities in the coming years to change this, namely Scottish independence (2014) and Trident replacement (2016), which provide brand new chances for us to take and use and win. At the very least we can utilise these unique opportunities to use the media and current public awareness of the issues to take this campaign to a new generation of activists, to recruit and remobilise. We need you!
Faslane Peace Camp would like to invite you to come the camp and have workshops on Trident and Independence, Trident and International Law and non-violent direct action training. We can provide food and sleeping spaces for large and small groups and all we ask for is a small donation if you can afford one. Alternatively, you can invite us to come to you. We are more than happy to travel far and wide to spread the word about the current chances we have to get rid of Trident and how to use them! email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07511793227 or 01436820901.
If not now, WHEN?!