Month-long nonviolent resistance at Burghfield nuclear weapons factory

sworod1467114987A month of coordinated blockades of England’s AWE Burghfield nuclear weapons factory in June got an unexpected boost when bobbies opted to avoid arresting nonviolent campaigners who had locked themselves together to block the gates.

About 50 people joined the protest on Monday morning, June 6 when a colorful cloth “red line” banner was used to block the main gate and lock-downs halted traffic on two roads leading to the construction gate. The organizing group, Trident Ploughshares, had asked police not to interfere with their intervention against weapons of mass destruction but were surprised by the lack of police response. By that evening, the demonstration evolved into a single blockade, closer to the construction gate. A core group of about 20 people settled in for the night.

Trident War CrimeThat night in London, the messages “Trident is a War Crime” and “Stop Trident Replacement” were projected onto the exterior walls of the Ministry of Defence and Houses of Parliament, referencing the major vote in July when that body approved a multi-billion-pound plan to replace Britain’s strategic nuclear weapons delivery system.

The next day, four people, including three conscientious objectors from Finland, were arrested for obstruction after using a car to block the roadway near the main gate and locking onto it. The four were held for a few hours and released with court dates. But the blockade of the construction gate remained.

Organizers put out a call for supporters to help keep the round-the-clock action going, preventing all traffic from using the vital construction gate, and to join groups already committed to taking direct action later in the month.

For the next week, the English, Welsh and Scottish nuclear abolitionists were joined by activists from France, Germany, Belgium and Finland who helped sustain the blockade, taking turns locked together and sheltered from the elements by others in support roles. Construction inside was reported to have come to a standstill, and blockaders saw that police were turning away trucks too large to reach the construction site through other gates.

20160627_122146xOn day six, women from Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp came to support the blockaders, and three of them – Juliet Mcbride, Kay Tabernacle and Giulia Gigliotta – together with Angie Zelter, were detained by police for “defacing the fence” (hanging banners on it) before they were released with a summons.

After the first week of continuous blockading, the protest continued as a peace camp just across from the gate. It became the gathering place for scheduled protest groups who would hold day-long blockades in the following weeks.

On the afternoon of June 13, police stormed the temporarily unattended blockade, seizing the lock-on equipment but making no arrests. With those who had stayed overnight for almost two weeks having other obligations to attend to, overnight camping at the site ended a few days later.

Cl7yhTAUYAA26MSDaily protest and day-long sit-ins and blockades of the construction gate kept it out of use though the end of the month. On June 27, the No Faith in Trident action saw fourteen members of Christian peace groups block all three entrances to AWE Burghfield using super glue and arm tubes. After two hours, police removed locking devices and arrested five people at one gate, while clearing another without making arrests. Alongside the protest, people from local Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Sikh groups gathered to pray outside the base for the victims of war.

A Scottish woman was arrested early in the morning of June 28 as she painted “No More Deadly Convoys” in the road leading to the main gate, referring to the nuclear warheads that are moved on public roads and through cities from Burghfield to Coulport in Scotland. Mary Millington was released that afternoon with a court date.

More than 200 people had participated by June 30, when demonstrators hung large red Xs all along the perimeter fence and again blocked the construction gate for the “red line” finale.

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