Faslane's breach of the peace

IssueJuly - August 2008
Feature by Emily Freeman

During the Big Blockade of Faslane on 1 October 2007, Emily Freeman was arrested. Charged with breach of the peace, she was finally brought to trial in Helensburgh on 18 May 2008. Reflecting rather badly on police competence, the case was dropped due to lack of evidence. Here is an excerpt from Emily’s defence, which deserves a hearing:
Breach of the peace is defined as “conduct which does present as genuinely alarming and disturbing, in its context, to any reasonable person”. My conduct, considering its nature and context and intended consequences, could not be disturbing and alarming to any person. I was trying to uphold the peace.
I have been brought up to believe that nuclear weapons are immoral and illegal under international and humanitarian law. I know that the use of nuclear weapons would be a terrible thing, killing hundreds of thousands or millions of civilians in cruel ways, which as far as I know, no human truly wants. I have seen the British government go to war and threaten to go to war with other countries because it said it believed they had such weapons. I have been taught that the British government acquired nuclear weapons without any democratic decision, and that the current system is partially controlled by the United States.
I have tried many forms of democratic protest against these atrocities – writing letters, attending demonstrations and contacting officials both from my own government and from the UN. Nothing has changed except that the UK government has voted – against its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations – to build more weapons. I infer that despite the fact that I have tried many kinds of democratic protest, my own government does not and will not listen to me if I try to get through to them in these ways. I believe that because of all of this, I must do what I can to stop this absolute threat to global safety, to stop the British government from breaking its obligations internationally and to its people, and to stop Scotland, Britain and all other countries of the world from having and housing these deadly and terrible weapons.
If we’re going to talk about breach of the peace, as far as I’m concerned the existence of the base is a breach of the peace. I am genuinely alarmed and disturbed on a daily basis by its existence. The context of its existence is only to bring danger and death. My actions were an attempt not only to make my voice heard that I and we – there were a great many people there on that day – want to get rid of these weapons, but also an attempt to keep the peace, to non-violently use my own body to temporarily shut down the unpeaceful and dangerous base. In the context no alarming or disturbing actions can have been intended, and in comparison to the massive breach of the peace that is Faslane Naval base, no breach can have been carried out.

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