The pace of nuclear resistance in Great Britain associated with the Trident Ploughshares 2000 campaign has not diminished. In addition to a series of arrests during the quarterly action camps at Faslane, Scotland, home port for the four nuclear submarines of Britain's Trident fleet, other related actions in Scotland and England have contributed to a total of 325 arrests since the campaign began in August, 1998. To date 140 people have signed the TP2000 pledge to take part in nonviolent action against Trident.
Many of those arrested during blockades and fence-cuttings have had their charges dismissed. Others have been admonished or fined, sometimes more than £500, and a few brief jail sentences have been served. The local court has repeatedly rejected the international law arguments for the defense that are the foundation of the TP2000 campaign.
In late January, TP2000 co-initiator Angie Zelter challenged the competency of the Helensburgh District Court to hear her case and asked that at least she be given an assurance that her whole defense would be heard. When no reply was forthcoming, she began to leave the court and was arrested for contempt. At the end of her eventual trial, she was convicted and fined, then asked to give an unequivocal apology. After refusing she spent another few hours in custody and then apologized to the magistrate on a personal level but said she was unable to apologize to the court as she had no respect for it. She was fined £65.
In February, following a complaint about Zelter's treatment during a peaceful protest inside Cornton Vale Prison in September last year, the Scottish Prisons Complaints Commission recommended introducing special training regarding passively resisting prisoners. A supporter hoped "it would mean that the humane and peaceful actions of imprisoned nuclear disarmers have begun to have an impact on the quality of life for all prisoners."
The winter TP2000 action camp came on the heels of the Aldermaston Women Trash Trident action. A blockade of Faslane on Monday morning, February 15, resulted in 49 arrests, including the ex-chair of the Scottish National Party and a member of Parliament. Only two people were jailed overnight, and the others were released, and charges later dropped.
In March, Sylvia Boyes, a 55-year-old Quaker from Birmingham, was convicted on two protest charges. When she made clear her intention not to pay a £50 fine, the magistrate sent her to prison for seven days. Many other TP2000 resisters have been jailed on remand, but hers was the first conviction leading directly to a prison sentence.
TP2000 resisters converged on the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston March 13 and 14, scaling the perimeter fence to hang banners and blockading the entrance.
On Sunday night, March 28, the Northumbrian TP2000 group dismantled large amounts of fence and painted graffiti for peace at the Albemarle Secure Nuclear Vehicle compound near Newcastle. Nuclear weapons convoys regularly spend the night at Albemarle en route to and from Coulport in Scotland. The activists left leaflets claiming responsibility, but not until mid-May did authorities contact Joan Meredith, a long-standing Labour Party member and TP2000 pledger in Alnwick. She was invited to the local police station "to be arrested at her convenience." With many supporters behind her as she turned herself in June 2, Meredith was only cautioned by police, not charged, while she made clear to police that she was not promising anything.
In April, another convoy bringing nuclear weapons into Scotland was blocked near Loch Lomond. Three Faslane peace campers and Brian Quail, Joint Secretary of Scottish CND, were arrested.
Seven Scottish members of the Local Heroes affinity group blocked the Faslane gate on April 22. Long-time peace camp and now Helensburgh resident Jane Tallents explained the group's "Trident = Genocide" banner: "When words and phrases such as 'genocide' and 'ethnic cleansing' are on everyone's lips because of the war in Yugoslavia it is vital to remind people that Trident has been made specifically to threaten and commit genocide. Nuclear war means millions of dead, millions of injured with no hope of medical attention and many millions of refugees who will have no safe zone to go to, no rescue services. As local people we have to do something about this outrage on our doorstep."
The May action camp was low-key, with many activists in Belgium for the march on NATO following the Hague Appeal for Peace, and others involved more directly in opposing the war on the Balkans. Sixteen arrests were made to break up a May 16 blockade at Faslane, and another arrest was made at Coulport.
In early June, the Ploughshares action at Maytime, the sonar test lab on Loch Goil brought the depth of the struggle back to Scotland.
The Scottish Parliament convened on July 1 for the first time in modern history. A nuclear weapons convoy was sent to Coulport that day as well. It was blocked along the Sterling-Balloch road, where local people from Buchlyvie village came out of their houses in support of the protest. Billy Woolfe, executive of Scottish National Party, said: "Sending these nuclear weapons up here to Scotland on the day of the opening of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh is rubbing our noses in it because the parliament has no power to do anything about Trident even though the majority here don't want it. I feel it's more important to be out tracking Trident across the country and registering my protest than to be in Edinburgh." Eight people were arrested there, while later at Coulport, Ian Thompson was arrested as he tried to begin dismantling the fence at the nuclear weapons storehouse.
Thompson was jailed 12 days until his trial, when he was convicted and released on time served.
Four members of the Midlands TP2000 group entered AWE Aldermaston on July 13 to dialogue with workers about their responsibility under international law and to unfurl banners advocating disarmament. The four were held until evening, then released without charges. On August 24 they were charged with criminal damage, and will plead not guilty at a hearing September 29.
The August action camp began with blockades at Coulport and Faslane on the 13 and 14. Activists from Finland, Germany, Ireland, Great Britain and the Netherlands were among those arrested. Dutch resister Marjan Willemsen was taken into custody during supper one evening, one of many Trident Ploughshares who have refused to pay a fine. She was jailed for four days. Helen John was spotted and arrested at the camp five minutes after her arrival for the same reason, and remanded to custody for seven days.
On four occasions over 11 days, the last occurring four days after the action camp concluded, activists slipped into the water and attempted to swim into the Trident base and begin disarming the submarines at the dock. On another day, a small building in the picturesque village of Cove, just south of Coulport, was covered with anti-Trident slogans to reveal its role as part of a submarine test station. Retired school teacher Peter Lanyon, 67, from Leiston, brushed off charges of malicious mischief, declaring "the Trident system, every bit of it, must be exposed for the ugly and malicious thing that it is. That is what we were up to last night."
A total of 102 arrests were reported during the camp, which was attended by over 80 activists from at least eight countries. Almost all were released without charges, as the local courts are beginning to be clogged with TP2000 cases.
Shortly after getting out of jail, Helen John was arrested again for writing truthful statements where all of Scotland could see them. On the High Court and the visitor's center for the new Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, she wrote DO NOT COLLUDE WITH GENOCIDE - BAN TRIDENT - BAN DEPLETED URANIUM - RECOGNIZE INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW - RESIST NUCLEAR AMERICAN TAKEOVER. John was released after three days, charged with malicious mischief. In London, September 15, she was again arrested, this time outside the House of Commons where she was painting NO STAR WARS - BAN TRIDENT - BAN DEPLETED URANIUM WEAPONS - LIFT THE SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ, THEY ARE MURDERING CHILDREN. At her bail hearing September 23, she refused to promise to stop painting anti-war graffiti, and remains in custody. Trial is set for October 19.
Updating previously reported TP2000 actions (NR #114), four people jailed for cutting into the nearby nuclear weapons store at Coulport in November, equipped for disarmament, were freed within 10 days, after trial. Following his conviction, Rupert Eris said "I have committed no crime but I'd rather be branded a common criminal than a war criminal. We did not get as far as we hoped we would at Coulport but we would have been wrong to have done nothing just because we feared we could only do a little."
Finlander Katri Silvonen, one of three people arrested in August, 1998 while swimming into Faslane, was convicted in January and simply admonished by the Helensburgh Justice of the Peace. Her Dutch comrade had charges dismissed when the court could not provide an interpreter. The American third had already returned stateside, so an arrest warrant was issued.
Several appeals on the issue of international law are progressing through Scottish courts and on to the European Community courts as well. Brian Quail's was the first given leave to proceed to the High Court, with Lord Cullen saying it was arguable that the magistrate should not have excluded consideration of what were said to be principles of international law. A ruling on his appeal is expected soon.
Angie Zelter's appeal to the High Court was refused, but she is preparing her case for the European Court. A malicious charge of reckless driving filed against Zelter when she drove a carload of activists into Faslane last November was dismissed as without foundation.
On September 15, Alan Wilkie, arrested at Faslane last November, declared in Argyll and Bute District Court that his civil rights had been breached under the European Convention on Human Rights, and claimed the local court cannot proceed against him until this question is resolved at the European Court of Human Rights. His case was adjourned until October 6 for further consideration.
For more information, contact Trident Ploughshares 2000, 42-46 Bethel Street, Norwich, Norfolk NR2 1NR, England, UK; + 44 (0) 1603 611953, email : firstname.lastname@example.org web: http://www.gn.apc.org/tp2000/ A new issue of the TP2000 newsletter, Speed the Plough, is due out soon.
Letters of support to imprisoned activists Helen John, Ellen Moxley, Ulla Roder, and Angie Zelter should be sent to their addresses under Inside & Out, or c/o the TP2000 address above.