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PN 75 On that Day: Jane Tallents

PN invited activists from around the movement to record what they were doing when Peace News turned 75.  Our birthday was on 6 June 2011.

The week of 6 June 2011

It’s mostly been a week of paper. Those who try and marginalise us as only interested in “action” have no idea just how much paper NVDA (nonviolent direct action) can generate!

I start the week helping Brian with preparing his international law defence for his court case for blockading the Trident refit area of Devonport in November last year. So it’s copying, collating, stapling and labelling new information found on the internet, while out of the cupboard come piles of documents used in past cases. And with them the memories of many days in court supporting people attempting to use the very strange process we have for judging what is right from wrong to explain that if murder is considered wrong then threatening mass murder must surely be very wrong. It’s amazing how many bits of paper that takes.

While Brian is off in Plymouth, I haul out more boxes of paper. The revived Faslane Peace Camp are having a week-end gathering to celebrate their  29th birthday and I have promised to bring some old photos etc as some of them weren’t even born when the camp started!

I’ve long been meaning to get this stuff organised but am always too busy with here and now to sort out the past.

As I spread it all out I feel strong emotions: delight at seeing photos of old friends, the remembered excitement of past actions, pride at how beautiful we made the camp, wonder at how much we got done – year upon year – with so little in the way of resources, and no computers, mobile phones or even electric lights. But also frustration and despair at why we were still at it in 2011 after we and so many people around the world have put so much of our lives into getting rid of a weapon which should be abolished by now.

Eventually I distil out a selection to take to the camp.

Wednesday brings the weekly vigil where a familiar gang gather at Faslane North Gate to hang banners and wave at base workers as they leave for the day. Peace campers join some of us local TPers and three women regularly make the trip out from Glasgow by train and bus to be a reminder to the workers that “Trident is Illegal and Immoral” as the banner says.

On Friday Brian arrives home furious that his case was thrown out on a technicality before it had even begun. But one of his co-defendants, Theo, who was tried and found not guilty, managed to use some of the documents we’d found to crowbar the illegality of the work on Trident submarines into a reluctant court.

By Saturday my oldest son and his partner appear and we exchange news of our respective campaigns. He lived at Faslane until he was eight years old and now works on climate change, particularly against open cast coal mining. We head for the Peace Camp and arrive to find a lovely atmosphere and one group are out in the loch learning to kayak, others are screen printing patches. The rest of us old-timers just drink tea round the fire pit and catch up on the years that have passed since we last saw each other. Making the camp alcohol-free has brought back some committed campaigners .

The next day sees our flat fill up with Trident Ploughshares members on their way to or from the camp. We meet to discuss TP strategy for pressurising the newly elected Scottish Government to do much more about Trident. More paper appears as we study letters to and from the first minister. It is very different from engaging with a pro-Trident government but we must watch out for being co-opted and we are certainly looking for progress now they have a majority. In his first speech Alex Salmond said they were going to be bold. Boldness we like.

Then out to the Peace Camp again with a hastily revamped NVDA workshop schedule. A fun and informative three hours with activists old and new, aged 6 to 60 plus quite a few dogs, sitting under a tarp being drowned out by traffic is a truly inspiring way to round off the week.

And it’s good to get away from the piles of paperwork!

Jane Tallents is a member of Trident Ploughshares