Protests shut down road to nuclear weapons site

Five campaigners from the Trident Ploughshares international nuclear disarmament camp were arrested this morning after they blocked the road leading to the Coulport nuclear weapons depot starting at 7am.

The group of mostly veteran peace activists from Spain and the UK locked onto each other using concrete and metal tubes, which MoD police took nearly three hours to cut free.

The crew included retired teacher Brian Quail, 79, Welsh peace and environment campaigner Angie Zelter, 66, community worker Sam Donaldson, 29, university worker Almudena Izquierdo Olmo, 60, from Madrid and librarian Juan Carlos Navarro Diaz, 46, from the Canary Islands. Angie Zelter said:

British nuclear weapons are illegal and now there is a United Nations Ban Treaty. It is imperative that all of us get involved in nonviolent nuclear disarmament as our government is engaged in state terrorism.

The UN agreement, which aims to prohibit possessing, using or helping to use nuclear weapons worldwide, was signed on July 7th by 122 nations, not including Britain, at a conference in New York. It opens for signatories on September 20th and will likely come into force around the end of the year.

Speaking on behalf of 11 Spaniards who are at the Coulport camp, which opened on July 8th, Almudena Izquierdo added: “We demand our government, as part of NATO, sign and ratify the UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty in order to prohibit nuclear weapons from entering foreign military bases and ports in Spain.”

The Coulport camp runs until July 18th and is set up at Peaton Glen Wood [details here].

High Court puts off highway obstruction ruling

In related news, the High Court has held its decision on whether to clear Christian activists who were convicted in January of Wilful Obstruction of the Highway during a protest.

Put Down the Sword joined others from the Trident Ploughshares network in attempting to stop the building of new Trident nuclear missiles replacing old stock. They were arrested after successfully blocking all vehicle access to the Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment in June 2016, which the MoD said hindered activity on the site where the missiles are built.

In court today protesters said they were careful not to block the public from using any roads around Burghfield, and were only blocking entry to the site – a private road where the stated offence is impossible.

The Judge at Reading Magistrates (DJ Khan) had already rejected the argument that blocking Trident counted as Prevention of Crime when considering a previous case – since he concluded that UK law does not ban the production of nuclear missiles.

Angie Zelter of Trident Ploughshares said ” Trident Ploughshares actions have always been within the law. It is a crime to threaten mass destruction and this treaty strengthens pressure on the UK government to finally obey International Law.”

Opposing Nuclear Weapons – intrinsic to Christianity?

In their trial, the defendants testified to how they felt compelled by their Christian faith to take action for peace and justice, even where this lead them into conflict with the law or the authorities. Defendant Angela Ditchfield, from Cambridge said: 

Sometimes political leaders like to claim they follow Christian values. Well, Christian values include not using fear to control others, especially the threat of annihilation. They include caring for the poor and the sick, for children, migrants and the elderly – spending money on things to help people not on threats of destruction. For me actions like this are as intrinsic to being a Christian as going to church and praying. I’d urge all Christians to join in! And also people of all faiths or none – I don’t know any religious or humanitarian value system which would endorse such widespread loss of life & environmental destruction.

 

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