TRIDENT PLOUGHSHARES 2000
Two years after the inaugural Trident Ploughshares 2000 action camp in Scotland, people pledged to resist the British nuclear arsenal returned August 1 to the Trident nuclear submarine base at Faslane and the nearby weapons store at Coulport, north of Glasgow, to continue the lawful work of disarming an illegal weapon of mass destruction.
The two-week long action camp began with a blockade of both gates at Faslane. Hundreds of supporters, including members of the British and Scottish parliaments, rallied nearby as police cut locks and escorted or carried away for arrest 83 people from at least six countries. Two people atop a large tripod at the south gate kept it closed for 13 hours until descending voluntarily. Women who had walked to the gathering from Aldermaston, in the south of England, found themselves jailed that afternoon in the same town where they had just been warmly received by the West Dunbartonshire Council. The very next day, the 30-or so peace walkers were again feted, this time at an official reception with the Lord Provost of Glasgow.
Arrests continued on a near-daily basis throughout the camp. A few people were held overnight following their arrest, and a handful were jailed overnight and for up to three weeks, either for nonpayment of earlier fines or because of repeated arrests during this camp. Fences were cut or climbed as activists made their way into both Faslane and Coulport. Several pairs or small groups swam into the bases, attempting to climb aboard the docked submarines and begin dismantling them. Workers were leafletted at the gates, trucks blocked, and courtrooms packed as the days went by.
On Hiroshima Day, following a Japanese tradition of remembering victims of the atomic bombing, activists floated paper lanterns on the waters of Loch Long, close to the Coulport Base.
The next day, one person arrested while blocking the morning shift of workers explained, "These workers, lovely as they are as individual human beings, are nevertheless aiding and abetting the preparations for mass murder and they must not be allowed to do this. We will continue to lawfully obstruct them and encourage them to shift to peace work."
After two weeks of open and accountable acts of disarmament, at least 161 arrests were recorded, including some activists arrested up to six times.
The steady stream of defendants and individual cases from this and earlier action camps has bogged down the Argyll and Bute District Court. There is little consistency in the judgments dispensed, ranging from charges dismissed because the courtroom was not accessible to the disabled defendants, to postponements and a handful of acquittals. People are convicted without consideration of the international law arguments buttressing the defendants actions, and some are fined, others jailed briefly because most refuse to pay fines, or banned from the vicinity of the submarine bases.
In September, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Tommy Sheridan, a member of the Scottish Parliament, after he refused to appear for a preliminary hearing. In October, even his trial was postponed. Some 40 trials are pending from arrests through February, 2000, while the August arrests have not even moved past the prosecutor's desk.
The most significant case, however, is the Crown's appeal of the ruling in the case of the Maytime Ploughshares, three women who were acquitted last October of seriously damaging essential Trident testing equipment in June, 1999. The international law basis for their acquittal by the jurist who heard their case is just this week being examined by Scotland's highest court, who could accept it or reject it as a legitimate defense in future Trident Ploughshares Cases Already Awaiting Trial.
On October 4, seven more people were arrested cutting the fence at Coulport, upon the arrival of a Special Nuclear Materials convoy delivering tritium to reequip the Trident missile warheads there. Their arrest brought to 772 the total number made during the entire Trident Ploughshares 2000 campaign.
The next TP2000 action camp will take place November 10-13 at the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment. For more information, contact Trident Ploughshares 2000, 42-46 Bethel Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1NR, UK, tel + 44 (0) 1324 880744; email@example.com