Newsletter October 2007
Dear Friends of Faslane 365,
This is the final Faslane 365 newsletter, covering September 2007 and the 1st of October Big Blockade and with some ideas about staying in touch and moving forward, keeping the pressure on Faslane. Faslane 365 has been an amazing experience for us in the Steering Group and we hope also for all you who made it happen. Thank you all. We believe we have kept the pressure up and moved the issue forward a bit, although more needs doing of course!
Quakers yet again
September kicked off with the last of the Quaker blockades of which there were at least six during F365, in addition to the large Quaker contingent which came along to welcome and support the Japanese. This time a group moved into the road, briefly disrupting the business of deploying Trident with a banner that said "Quakers are disarming". You can view a photo. Four sat down and were arrested.
SOCRAP Weapons Inspectors
Refusing to be intimidated by the legal attempts to limit dissent, a group of activists calling themselves the Serious Organized Crime Investigation and Prevention Team cycled, cut and climbed into Faslane early in the morning of the 4th September 2007. Read the statement that the SOCRAP Team had on them as they entered Faslane and Coulport.
Lavinia Crossley, Tansy Newman Turner and Emma Bateman were charged under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which is increasingly being used to prevent peaceful protests at sensitive sites, including Britain's nuclear bases. Joan Meredith, who was 78 the next week, and Irene Willis entered Coulport shortly after midnight and were only arrested at 2.30am when they approached police on the main gate from the inside. They were arrested for breach of the Faslane, Coulport and Rhu Narrows Byelaws and released. Janet Fenton, Angie Zelter and Wolf Konowski cycled in through the oil depot gate and were charged with Breach of the Peace. Tansy, Lavinia and Emma's case will be the first challenge to SOCPA in Scotland and the trial is scheduled for Feb 20th at Dumbarton Sheriff Court.
In one of the most memorable actions of the year four cyclists rolled up at the gates and stripped bare. They wielded placards which read "Trident is Naked Aggression" and "Nudes Against Nukes". See photos of their barecheeked action.
Keep Space for Peace
Bruce Gagnon and Dave Webb of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space spoke about the Prague Conference in May where delegates from 9 European countries came together to formulate strategies and joint campaigns to oppose US plans for National Missile Defence. The system will use radars to detect incoming missiles, and interceptor missiles to shoot them down. While the US portrays this as a defensive system, in reality it will allow the US to launch attacks on other countries without fear of retaliation. It is already adding to global instability and tension with Russia and leading to a new nuclear arms race. And it may well lead to a new Cold War. Bruce and Dave were quickly arrested when they blocked the road. Global Network will hold its 16th Annual Space Organizing Conference and Protest outside StratCom in Nebraska, April 11-13, 2008. U.S. Strategic Command (StratCom) for years has been the site from which a nuclear war would be controlled. Since 9/11, its mission has expanded to become command central in the U.S.'s "War on Terror" and for the U.S. plans to dominate space militarily. StratCom has already drawn up the war plans for a space-directed assault on Iran's nuclear facilities. See Global Network website for a mass of important information on US plans to weaponize space as part of its overall quest for full spectrum dominance.
A group of Scottish Lawyers delivered a letter to the Commodore of Faslane Naval Base, questioning the legality of nuclear weapons under international law. Read the full text of their letter.
Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign and Teachers
These two groups supported each other on a Sunday, walking from the Peace Camp to the North Gate where there was a Barbecue, and Palestinian dancing round the roundabout. There were no arrests.
Women's Only Action
There was a women's only action in the final week of Faslane 365,rounding out the year which had begun with a Greenham and Aldermaston Women's action.
Scottish CND groups
In the last week there were several last minute additions to the rota. Groups showed up from Dundee, Aberdeen and Rutherglen and Cambuslang, keen not to miss out on taking part in Faslane 365.
The year-long Faslane 365 campaign finished on the 1st of October with a fabulous celebratory big blockade in which many of the autonomous groups and individuals who had already come to Faslane earlier in the year returned and together disrupted the operation of the Trident base for most of the day. It was a fitting conclusion to an extraordinary year of resistance. An estimated six hundred people converged on the base and quickly established the blockade at the North Gate which remained shut from just after 7:00am until after 10:00am. Eventually blockades were established at all three gates and for the first time both roads in to Coulport were simultaneously closed. Together we had succeeded in shutting down access to the entire nuclear weapons establishment in Scotland. By the end of the day 187 people were arrested bringing the Faslane 365 total to a round 1150.
At the North Gate the police were unable to control the crowd which soon poured into the roundabout and a festival atmosphere erupted. A People and Planet group were initially thwarted in the attempt to block the Oil Depot gate, and for some time there was no blockade of the South Gate. But the fearless Irene, who had already been arrested 11 times during Faslane 365, and company, soon filled that gap and word arrived that the South Gate was blocked. A cheer went up from the crowd when the announcement was made. Shortly after that Ben returned with the message that both roads into Coulport were blocked simultaneously. People and Planet from a consortium of Scottish Uni's had at last succeeded in accomplishing what they had tried more than once before and shut down Coulport.
It's impossible to piece together an accurate account of such an organic-anarchic eventful day. This report can only be a sketch. If it misses out anyone's action or gets any facts wrong please let me know so the story can be more accurately and completely pieced together for posting on the website and for the forthcoming book on Faslane 365. Email me with your additions or corrections at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org . See the Big Blockade Photo Gallery for some of the photos of the day.
Coaches from Glasgow and Edinburgh met up at the Helensburgh Pier at 6:30am. The training venues had been packed the day before. Additional vans came overnight from Wales, Oxford, Assynt, and Leicester with lock-ons ready, and joined with the assembled forces at Helensburgh. A coach of Finns and Swedes had come in to the Peace Camp a few days earlier. In the early morning darkness the Peace Camp was jammed with people at the outside fire. A police van, motor running, blocked in the Peacedrobe, a transit van which they feared was going to be used to blockade the A814 because it was precariously parked just inside the fence facing the road and looked as if it would roll onto the road any minute. Police were everywhere. They had set up a check point blocking the turn into the South Gate access road. And at the North Gate as dawn was breaking through thick fog the bellmouth was lined with police while van loads sat opposite. Three women sang "O my soul let it bring peace" in exquisite harmonies. Base traffic crawled through the roundabout as shift change was under way.
Then it happened. Activists emerged from the coaches South of the roundabout and crowded into the official protest area. With only one lane open traffic came to a standstill in the roundabout and groups of activists jumped out of vans and ran toward the gate, many with lock-ons already on one arm. The Bradford-Leeds lot were among the first. They got well in near the gate and superglued themselves to the road. Police snatched some lockons but a core group of the well practiced activists of the Leicester lot managed to get locked-on in a jumbled and twisted bunch right under the feet of the overwhelmed police. Other members of this group darted in to join on separately as they saw openings. When the crowd in the legal protest area had swollen to bursting point a section of the barrier was lifted up and passed back over the heads of the unruly crowd. The Swedes dove through the gap and got locked on in the bellmouth. A group of clowns surged forward adding to the melee. A giant Squirrel carrying a "Nuts to Trident" sign got down on the ground with nutty friends from Manchester. More Leicester folk poured into the gap. Bicycologists impeded traffic in the roundabout and before long the police had lost the upper hand. The people poured into the Roundabout along with a cadre of photo-journalists. The frenetic and triumphant drumbeat of Seize the Day sounded "We shall not give up the fight we have only started." Anarchy ruled. The North Gate to the Trident nuclear base was shut.
Soon several Muriel Leicesters, were wheeling and ambling about. A twelve foot tall grey wolf strolled through on stilts while Robin Harper in rainbow scarf gave interviews to bewildered journalists. All the while the cutting team was hard at work as so-called sterile areas were established by the police around the locked-on groups. Blockaders who had not locked on were being carried off one at a time. This was labour intensive work. The cops obviously intended to try to clear the blockade as quickly as possible but they had a job to do it with so many bodies to be carted off. The uplifted voices of some of the Protest in Harmony choir joined from behind the barrier with their blockading cohorts. Hands were soon seen to raise and, just as the morning mist had cleared the glorious chaos magically subsided. All went quiet. Gate Support announced that the attempt by People and Planet students to shut the Oil gate had been foiled. Neither was the South Gate road blockaded. People who were still arrestable were asked to go there. Despite shutting down the North Gate we had not totally shut down the base. A group of students poured pink paint over their own heads and sat in the roundabout. Police formed a ring round them but no move was made to arrest them. After a while it became evident, they were being left out to dry. Protesters had learned something from the Spaniards who had so successfully used red paint earlier in the year. But so had the police. A French copper was there, observing. Over on the South side of the gate voices were raised as Camilla Cancantata's Oratorio Trident: A British War Crime was performed. Soon word arrived that the South Gate Road was blocked. Irene who had already been arrested eleven times during Faslane 365, and two friends had gotten the job done. We had done it. Word came too that the Finns had partly blocked the A814 with a tripod in front of the Peace Camp. The resistance was full on. And to top it off word came that People and Planet had blocked both roads in to Coulport simultaneously. Thus the Big Blockade had succeeded in shutting down all road access in to the UK nuclear weapons establishments.
Meanwhile Clergy Action were quietly celebrating Communion across from the North Gate. Messages of support were read out from Sheilagh Kesting, Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Idris Jones Primate of the Scottish Episcopal Church and from Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland. Just when it seemed the police might regain control of the road a bunch of elderly ministers, veterans of Faslane blockades, sat down peacefully in the gateway. Amongst them the wife of the founder of the Iona Community, a number of grandmothers and a 78 year old priest. Michal, our cook, roamed through the crowd handing out vegan power balls. Renate's CIA (Cows in Action) puppets were, like their colleagues from the FIT team with cameras, gathering intelligence, while an effigy of a policeman looked down from the fence on the roundabout, blissfully unaware of the chaos below. The stubborn old GOATs (Golden Oldies Against Trident) formed another wave of arrests and cheers went up as these elders of our communities were lead off. I wonder how many times some of them had been arrested resisting the nuclear madness. Amongst them was the 89 year old Betty Tebbs.
As the dancing in the street subsided Jeely Peace café was open for business. A group of SNP MSPs arrived, bearing greetings from Alex Salmond. Two Green MSPs were there as well. And Jill Evans Welsh MEP (Plaid Cymru) returned to the scene of her crime accompanied by the magnificent scarlet Welsh dragon. Buddhists for Peace sat quietly in meditation, bringing an element of calm. The sun was shining now and people were shedding layers. One old crone with a staff was weaving amid the crowd topless. Again it seemed the polis were gaining the upper hand when a group from the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, joined by Roz in a wheelchair blocked off the South side of the roundabout. The police asserted control forming a cordon along the road edge. People continued to challenge this by crossing here and there without permission. Assynt Peace Group initiated a Ceilidh. Someone from the Irish Make Trident History group was breathing fire.
By early afternoon the Bicycology sound system was set up and those of us who had not been arrested enjoyed listening to music performed by David Ferrard, Leon Rosselson, Roy Bailey,and Seize the Day as well as a number of poems. Paula Bolton read a section of her Trident monologues. Seize the Day performed again and just when it seemed all was winding down Theo and Richard breached the line of cops and dove into the road. The police dragged them out of the road while Theo characteristically laughed. He must be ticklish. This last blockade came just after Helen Stephen had negotiated with the Commanding Officer for the group to be allowed to have a closing circle in the bellmouth. There was a wish to mark the end of this extraordinary year of resistance. The Commander withdrew permission for the circle in the road, but Helen spoke to him again and he agreed. The yellow sea of police parted and we entered the bellmouth. The circle widened out, filling the bellmouth and all of the near side of the roundabout, surrounded on all sides by police. An image of a monk was placed in the middle a reminder of the severe repression often imposed when people speak out against injustice, a reminder that we here face such minor consequences for our acts of resistance. If the Burmese monks can risk imprisonment, torture even death we can and must stand against the violence of state sponsored terror here where at most we face two or three days in jail. Many people had spoken of this moment as the end of the campaign. But Faslane 365 had come out of the hard work of people who had been actively opposing nuclear weapons for many years. It had brought people back to the struggle who had been away from it for years. And it had introduced people who had never before taken part in nonviolent direct action. Autonomous affinity groups had been formed. Skills had been shared and developed. The spirit of resistance had been nurtured. It was obvious that this was only the beginning, the renewal. So it was fitting that in that moment we sang "You Can't Kill the Spirit, Old and strong she goes on and on..." We had been given five minutes but the weaving of the spiral seemed to last forever. No-one wanted it to be over. You could feel the love, strength, determination. But at last it did finish. Coaches carried those remaining away.
But back in Helensburgh at Legal Support Central the work went on well into the night as phones rang off the hook. Those arrested had been taken to stations all over Glasgow. Some twenty one were still unaccounted for. Then the calls started coming. Groups were being released early. Transport was dispatched and by 11pm everyone was out except Irene who was held on a warrant for another action down South.
The Big Blockade was covered that night and the next day in all the major media. There were photos on the front page of The Herald and The Scotsman, with full pages of coverage in the Scottish papers and full stories in all the English papers. The Big Blockade had definitely made an impact.
Early the next morning the other half of the Leeds-Bradford lot pulled off a Faslane366 rainbow paint action. And the following day the Faslane Peace Camp and Finnish friends blockaded the South Gate and the next night a group of Swedes got inside Coulport, some by swimming. They were undetected for several hours before presenting themselves to the MOD police. The BBC carried a factually inaccurate report on this breach of Coulport security which repeated MOD claims that Andreas had been rescued from the water. In fact he had waved down the searching helicopter from the land and he needed no medical attention. This phase of the campaign had reached its conclusion, but these post-365 actions indicate that nonviolent resistance will continue until Trident is disarmed.
A few weeks after the Big Blockade the Scottish Government hosted a summit of stakeholders, "a National Conversation on a Scotland free of nuclear weapons". Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the representatives, and spoke of the unprecedented historical situation now in Scotland. She noted that 76% of Scots are opposed to Trident and paid tribute to the political pressure which had been generated by Faslane 365 and the demonstrations at Faslane over the years which reflected that widespread popular opposition. And now Scotland has a government which shares the desire of the people to have that democratic will honoured and for Trident to be removed from Scotland and altogether. The many participating groups brainstormed ways that the Scottish government can proceed within the terms of devolution, to oust Trident from Scotland. In addition to the STUC, the Churches and politicians from the SNP and the Green Parties a number of civic groups participated, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, NukeWatch, Trident Ploughshares, Faslane 365 and SCND. Discussion focused on four areas: Jobs, the Environment, International Law, and the position of Scotland in the world community.
Bruce Crawford, Minister for Parliamentary Business,indicated that a working group will be set up. It was agreed that this group needs to build on the SCND/STUC report on the impact to the local economy of the removal of Trident. Detailed plans must be made for the retraining of the workers who would lose jobs when Trident goes. The base workers whose jobs are at stake should be closely involved in this process. And there needs to be investment in other areas of economic opportunity on the Gareloch, including renewable energy and leisure. Rob Edwards, Environment Editor of the Herald reported on the lack of oversight of MOD nuclear weapons operations and the disturbing number of "incidents" at Faslane and the admitted risk of a nuclear weapon explosion in an accident involving the convoy which transporting nuclear warheads on Scottish roads. A number of ways that the Scottish government may be able to force the removal of Trident based on its responsibility for the environment were discussed. In terms of international law John Mayer reported on the bill which he has written and which will be introduced by Michael Matheson MSP which would make illegal the preparation of crimes committed with weapons of mass destruction in Scotland. Angie Zelter outlined a number of options including suggesting that the Scottish government simply call upon the UK government to remove Trident from Scotland. Adam Conway, representing NukeWatch, reported on citizen verification of the transport of nuclear weapons in Scotland, and suggested that Scottish Parliament screen the forthcoming NukeWatch film on convoys and distribute this film to schools, and fund a public information campaign on nuclear weapons in partnership with the NGOs. Rebecca Johnson of Acronym Institute reported on the status of the NPT and called for Scotland to apply for observer status at the next NPT Review Conference in 2010. It was recognized that Scotland should aim to be a leader on a culture of peace. Scotland and the world would be safer without nuclear weapons. Disarmament here would strengthen the case for calling upon those current non-Nuclear Weapons States which might seek to join the nuclear club not to do so. Scotland would gain enormous respect around the world by being the first country to stand up to US nuclear hegemony. In closing Bruce Crawford paid tribute to Bobby and Margaret Harrison who established the Faslane Peace Camp twenty five years ago.
Some have already pointed the way. On the 12th of November a group stopped the convoy near Loch Lomond for nearly an hour. At Aldermaston 12 people were arrested as part of the Block the Builders campaign for impeding the construction of the monstrous laser facility where the new nuclear warheads will be developed. Visit the Block the Builders website for further information on future actions. The preparations for the next generation of nuclear weapons seriously endanger the NPT and have been denounced by Non- Nuclear Weapons States as contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the Treaty under the terms of which the UK and the other Nuclear Weapons States have been obliged to bring to a conclusion negotiations for nuclear weapons for forty years. There is work to be done to encourage the Scottish government in its attempts to remove Trident from Scotland. But we must look beyond Scotland to a future in which the UK government agrees to disarm nuclear weapons.
Faslane 365 generated critical public pressure and raised awareness of Trident. We cannot let the momentum be lost. Some ideas are already being suggested. To celebrate its 50th birthday CND is planning a demonstration at Aldermaston at Easter while SCND will be at Faslane.
In order to build on Faslane 365 we are setting up an email list which we suggest calling Faslane Activists' Network. Eventually, there will be a website at www.faslaneactivists.net to allow people to share stories and ideas from actions at Faslane and Coulport. An email will come to you shortly inviting you to participate in this email list. If you want to be part of it you must respond to the email. When that is up and running we hope that you the people and autonomous groups of Faslane 365 will use it to communicate with each other and organize future resistance to Trident however whenever and wherever you think that needs to happen. Already Angie Zelter is inviting anyone wanting to take part in future hidden actions at Faslane to get in touch with her. Email her at reforest_at_gn.apc.org
As we go to press the first citations have been received by 11 people who were arrested in the Big Blockade, while a further 19 have told us that they've got "warning" letters dropping the charges. So far these were mostly repeat offenders. Please let Faslane 365 Legal Support know if you receive a citation or a warning letter. Email legalworkinggroup_at_faslane365.org . Trials of the SOCRAP offenders have begun and will continue in February. The women who painted the High Court in Edinburgh at the beginning of Faslane 365 have been found guilty but sentencing has been adjourned for the Sheriff to investigate ways to try and extract the £3000 which the paint removal cost. Some of the Greenpeace activists who were arrested with banners on the high security boom around the Trident Area when the Arctic Sunrise blocked the sea gate to Faslane are being prosecuted under the byelaws.
365 Group Addresses
One month from now the Faslane 365 email accounts will all be shut down. We will shortly be contacting those people directly. You may want to set up your own group lists before then.
Faslane 365 posters, a collage of images of hundreds of banners and blockades are still available. The posters cost £2 each. Cardboard postal tubes to protect them cost £1 each. Postage to the UK for a tube containing 1 poster is £1.52. If you want several posters, or postage to abroad, please contact us. Posters can be ordered by calling 0845 4588 367 or emailing tp2000_at_gn.apc.org
Finally in the words of David Ferrard, folk singer and Faslane activist, "It's been one helluva ride."
Peace to you all,
Brian for the Faslane 365 steering group