Update: April 07
Welcome to the latest update from Faslane 365. I'm sorry that this comes on the same day as the Newsletter, but they contain somewhat different information and go to different groups. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU SHARE THIS UPDATE WITH THE REST OF YOUR GROUP.
It has been an eventful few weeks: The “biggest” story has been the local protest against our protests, more of which below. We've now had over 100 days of presence and very nearly 700 arrests. There has been a couple more prosecutions ― please read the legal update below.
We have also been getting feedback that people want some form of collective event to end Faslane 365 at the end of September. We are only halfway through, of course, and we are still looking for more groups to sign up ― or groups to sign up for second (or third or ...) slots. Does your group want to do another slot?
That said, we have a proposal for a couple of events to look at where we go after Faslane 365 and for a celebratory combined blockade on October 1st. However, we need feedback and input. If we don't get sufficient feedback that people want this, or enough people offering to help make it happen, we won't do it. See below for more.
Also, can we ask that group which is planning to camp get in touch with Jane on coulportcamp at tridentploughshares dot org (not because of the TP camp but because there are some logistical and other issues around camping that we want to make people aware of ― she just happens to be also involved in organising the TP camp!)
*** The Local Situation ***
There have been over 100 days of presence since Faslane 365 started. Many of these have been blockading days. All blockades hold up base traffic but because of the volume of traffic going into the base during the morning rush hour the tailbacks often causes local people to be held up too. Also some groups who have felt that they won’t be able to get into the gateway due to the heavy police presence have blocked the main roads. This holds up a lot of base workers but also has an impact on locals.
The blockade by the German group on 28 March which blocked the main road just south of the peace camp for 3 hours seemed to have brought things to a head locally. So on Monday 2 April a group of local people marched from Garelochhead to protest against us.
We had heard that it was going to happen as there were people going door to door to in Garelochhead telling people about it. The Faslane 365 Steering Group worked out an approach to take. We decided to go to the North gate and be a quiet, respectful presence and if possible take the opportunity to listen to local concerns and explain why we chose to protest the way we do. We reluctantly asked the Clowns not to come to the North gate at that time in Clown costume as we thought the locals might misinterpret that. After a long consensus decision making process the Clowns agreed to this.
On Monday morning we went to our usual spot near the north gate and put up our banners along with some new ones saying “We all want to return to normal, but nuclear weapons are not normal” and “Nuclear weapons are bigger than Argyll and Bute”. About 8am a group of 100 people arrived from Garelochhead. They were pretty quiet but had lots of creative placards. The BBC and some other media were there and both sides did interviews. Gradually the F365 folk started crossing the road and began listening and talking. The conversations were about both the nature of our protests and about nuclear weapons. Clearly the blockades are causing a lot of anger and upset and we knew this would probably happen if the police didn’t do all they could to minimise the effects to through traffic. However, it was very hard to hear about this directly from people. The young folk who had missed days at school and even exams were particularly passionate.
You can read more about the protest and the local concerns in the No Nukes Northants blockade report on the Faslane 365 website at www.faslane365.org/no_nukes_northants_blockade_report.
Although we contacted the school some time ago and asked them to tell us when exams were on we have not heard back from them. From the SQA website we know that Standard Grades and Highers are basically during May and we’ve already contacted blockading groups coming throughout May to ask them to consider blockading after the school buses have passed. School pupils pointed out that the two weeks at the end of April up to the exams were also very important, although others said that every school day counts.
We have since met with the police. We stressed that we cannot represent blockading groups but made clear that as groups come here with the intention of disrupting the ongoing illegal activity at the base they will most certainly continue to blockade at whatever point they are able to effectively do so. We suggested ways in which the policing could be changed to give groups more options of how to effectively disrupt the base without impacting on local people who are not connected to the base. Inspector Gavin Bone from Helensburgh Police Office took careful note of our suggestions and will report back to us next week after he has talked to his senior officers. The kind of things we suggested were; getting the base traffic to go and park up somewhere until the road is clear as has been done before during Big Blockades, allowing groups to go into the gateway to blockade and then deal with them so at least the main road would be clear or even investigating giving locals passes so that blockades could be lifted to let them through and then re-establishing the blockade.
The local newspaper, the Helensburgh Advertiser covered the anti-protest protest. The previous week they had printed 5 questions from local people to Faslane 365 and our responses. See this on the website here.
Feelings are still running high around Faslane. A car drove slowly up and down past the Peace camp on Tuesday night and eventually a bottle was thrown through the windscreen of a van where someone was staying although no one was hurt. Everyone from Faslane 365 and Faslane Peace Camp is staying calm and much discussion is taking place. There are a number of other local initiatives underway to improve dialogue between protesters and local people and we are working to find ways to minimise disruption. If any upcoming blockading group wants to talk things through with the Steering Group please get in touch by phoning 07768 312676 or email email@example.com. However, for now it is clear that the blockades will continue. In spite of what the MOD says the action is having a very disruptive affect on the base. And as no –one can answer us as to what else we can do to put pressure on the Government, non-violently then our strategy still seems valid.
*** Legal Update ***
There are a number of things to feedback on the legal front since the last Update.
As we said in the last update, all 12 of the Coventry group are being prosecuted (they were handed citations instead of warning letters on release). They all pled Not Guilty (by letter) and got trial dates ranging from May 14th to October 17th! The reason why some trials are so far away is because they all asked for an accessible court room. The actual court building in Helensburgh isn’t accessible, so they book a local community hall when they need an accessible court room and this hall isn’t available for six weeks in the summer. We were told by a senior police officer that the reason that Coventry had all been prosecuted was that there was a new policy that people who blocked the road instead of the gates would be prosecuted. However, since then the German group blocked right across the main road south of the Peace Camp for over three hours and were released with warning letters!
Meanwhile we have had our first prosecution to be completed: a member of the peace camp who was prosecuted for their blockade in December. He decided to change his plea to Guilty at the start of the trial and was fined £100.
Since then there has been one more group of prosecutions in rather different circumstances. Eight of the Oxfordshire group had locked on with tubes. The tubes had a bolt in the middle the end of which was covered with old tin can lids. The whole arrangement was covered with plaster. The edges of some of the tin can lids were quite sharp and the police have interpreted it as their being there to make it dangerous for the police to cut them out. They charged five of the eight with Culpable and Reckless Conduct and released them on an Undertaking to come back to court. We don’t yet know what the charge they will actually be prosecuted on is and won’t until their next court date. The other three were charged just with Breach of the Peace and released with warning letters. (We had had a meeting with the police in February where they had expressed concern about a lock-on which had had saw blades in the concrete, but this was quite explicitly on the grounds that they could shatter.) In this case, the police did ask the blockaders if there was anything in the lock-on which could injure them and they, quite truthfully, replied that they didn’t know, as the people actually blockading didn’t know about the construction of the tubes. We don’t yet know if this charge is going to go anywhere --- we clearly hope not. Had they denied that there was anything dangerous in the tube, they would be in a much more difficult position, legally, than not knowing. People should think about the tube and, if they didn’t make it themselves might want to ask what’s in it. You should also be prepared to answer the question about whether it is dangerous. You may wish to respond by giving an idea of the materials in it, rather than an opinion on whether they are dangerous (which depends in large part on the skill of the cutting team).
Clearly it would be a breach of our nonviolence guidelines to put anything in a lock-on which was designed to injure anyone (and we’re sure the Oxfordshire group didn’t). However, it can appear very different to the cutting team halfway through cutting you out. Try to avoid using things with sharp edges. When designing a lock-on try to put yourself in the position of the person cutting you out --- and remember they may not approach from what you consider to be the “top”.
Can we also take this opportunity to ask that the Legal Support Team (or person) within each Blockading Group contact the Legal Working Group on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07768 312678 at least two weeks before your group comes up.
*** Where Next After Faslane 365? ***
We’re only just halfway through Faslane 365 but a number of people and groups have already been asking what we plan to do to end the project at the end of September and where we will go from there. Given the feedback we have got so far we are proposing the following two events:
A celebration of what we have achieved, taking the form of a blockade of Faslane (what else!), on Monday 1st October. The idea being that as many people or groups as want to who have taken part in Faslane 365 get together for a celebratory ending of the project. The preceding weekend (29th/30th September) would have an element of “Where Next?” discussion (see below) on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, some sort of social/storytelling/film showing event on Saturday night and then Sunday afternoon and evening would be action planning for the Monday. This is not set in stone and we want more feedback and, if some sort of event is to happen, we will need people to volunteer to help make it happen.
As well as the "Where Next?" element to the event at the end of September we are considering facilitating a “Where Next?” type event on the last weekend in July. This is because any follow on to Faslane 365 might have to get started before the end of September!! There are many strands within an apparently simple question such as "Where Next?" ― most noticeably "where next for whom?" As we cannot make decisions for other anti-nuclear groups our primary focus would be on "where next for the energy raised by Faslane 365?" There will, inevitably, be consideration of questions such as "where next for anti-nuclear campaigning/direct action in Scotland or in the UK as a whole?" This event would not be restricted to people who had focussed on Faslane 365 and we would welcome input and involvement from other groups. This idea is very much in it’s early stages. The questions as posed above are an attempt to start a discussion, not a description of what the event will actually be. We need feedback on whether people want an event of this sort as early as the end of July? Are there people who want to put significant energy into anti-nuclear direct action beyond Faslane 365 and who want to get together with like-minded people in this fashion? Unless we get feedback that people want this then we won’t organise it!
Please respond to email@example.com or ring 0845 45 88 365 with any feedback or ideas.
That's all for now folks. We're looking forward to another six months of effective blockading and, hopefully, real progress towards a nuclear-free world.