Bread Not Bombs Ploughshares, September 13, 1998
On the morning of Sunday, September 13, three Swedish peace activists were arrested within the perimeter fence of VSEL shipyards in Barrow-in-Furness on suspicion of going equipped to commit criminal damage. They had begun to dismantle equipment outside "Devonshire Hall", the "shed" in which HMS Vengeance, the fourth and final British Trident submarine, was built.
Calling themselves "Bread Not Bombs Ploughshares," the three carried with them household hammers, a group statement, and individual statements. Annika Spalde, Stellan Vinthagen, and Ann-Britt Sternfeldt were arrested, charged with "conspiracy to commit criminal damage," and held overnight at Barrow police station.
On Monday, September 14 they appeared in Barrow Magistrates Court and were remanded into custody. At subsequent court dates, remand was continued until a plea hearing, now set for December 11 in Lancaster Crown Court. Until then, the two women -- Spalde and Sternfeldt -- are now in Risley Prison; Vinthagen is in Preston Prison.
In their group statement, the three wrote: "The military force of the western world is the largest barrier to creating justice in the economic world. For the most part the western world doesn't have to make a show of force to keep the developing countries under control, but the military is still the guarantor of suppression and nuclear weapons are the ultimate threat... We are taking this action, as privileged people living in the First World, because nuclear weapons are a threat against all human beings and against future generations. As long as nuclear weapons exist, humanity is doomed to live in fear that they will be used."
All three are members of the Swedish ploughshares movement, and in August attended the Trident Ploughshares 2000 (TP2000) Camp at Coulport Trident warhead base in Scotland.
HMS VENGEANCE ROLL-OUT
HMS Vengeance was "rolled out" of the Devonshire Hall on Saturday, September 19. Keeping an eye on the official merrymakers were more than 200 nuclear abolitionists gathered on the road bridge facing Devonshire Hall. Also alert were four uniformed Citizen Inspectors who demanded entrance to begin an independent audit of British nuclear weapons. They were eventually turned away from the gate after securing upon it a "Wanted" poster for Prime Minister Tony Blair. They departed without arrest, despite the timely phone call of a senior legal officer in Scotland to VESL security, insisting the Inspection team be taken seriously and granted access.
Not so fortunate was Yorkshire peace activist Lindis Percy. She drove into the VSEL shipyard without challenge on Friday evening, September 18, and watched the preparations for the Vengeance roll-out and naming ceremony from the workers' car park. The next morning she was awakened there by VSEL Security who called Cumbria Police; they came in riot gear and threatened to smash her windshield and spray her with CS gas.
Percy offered to get out of the car but she was told to stay inside while a forklift truck was brought over to lift the car off the site; the car was not tied down and shook as it was transported across the yard. Once outside, Percy was dragged out of the car, pushed to the ground, handcuffed and taken to Barrow Police Station.
She was released Sunday afternoon, charged with "being in an enclosed place equipped to commit criminal damage" after tools were found in her car. Percy entered a plea of not guilty and goes to court next on November 24.
The impending launch of the Vengeance also prompted plans for prison protest in Scotland, where four Trident Ploughshares 2000 women wrote to prison staff, announcing their protest not against the prison but against the impending launch. Staff was informed the women would peacefully remain in their cells, neither speaking nor eating, all day on Saturday, September 19.
Staff responded by strip-searching the women on Friday night. A search of their cells turned up a banner made of newspaper strips stuck with toothpaste to a sheet, reading NO ESCAPE . . . FROM TRIDENT, which they intended to drop from their cell windows Saturday morning. On Saturday, their silent fasting was met with further reprisals: a trip in handcuffs to isolation cells and rough treatment. All of the women were released by the end of the month (see TP2000 article).
For more information about the Bread Not Bombs Ploughshares, contact the Liverpool Catholic Worker, 1 Horne Street, Liverpool L6 5EA, UK.
Letters of support should be sent to Stellan Vinthagen #BT 8233 HMP Preston, 2 Ribbleton Lane, Preston, PR1 5AB, England, and individually to Annika Spalde #BE 8940, and Ann-Britt Sternfeldt #BE 8941, HMP Risley, 617 Warrington Road, Risley, Warrington, WA3 6BP, UK.