Founding principles

IssueNovember 2006
Feature by Frances Laing, Joan Meredith

Frances Laing talks to Joan Meredith, founder member of Trident Ploughshares, following her arrest at Faslane 365 in October.

Frances: Why did you join the opening Faslane 365 blockade?

Joan: I remembered Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was 1945. I was 15 years old - the announcement on the radio that the bomb had been dropped and then the awful thing was seeing it on the Pathe Gazette news - utter devastation and the tales of horror - how people had finished up as mere shadows on the wall ... trying to ease the pain, the burns, children on their way home from school - it was so horrific - I couldn't understand why we had dropped the bombs - why cities had been targeted like that - with civilians at the receiving end with no warning.

I'd been working with Women's Aid - protesting against violence towards women - and CND - then I met a friend at an anti-apartheid meeting who told me about the nuclear sub based at Faslane. I began to think about the submarine and how it was really state-organised violence against vulnerable people with the main aim to strike at civilians. It was being used by our country. It seemed that Trident was the ultimate violence.

Frances: Why is Faslane strategically important for international peace movements?

Joan: Because it's linked with the US threat - if those missiles are ever used, it threatens the whole world and the planet will never recover.

We've come to the point where we've had big demonstrations - in London, Manchester and so on -- and people have got to decide. Some realise that they can no longer trust politicians. The world is in such a mess that we have got to take the responsibility ourselves.

Something like Faslane is an opportunity for people to show they are tired of hypocrisy and all the waste of money. Instead of Trident we need basic fundamental things all over the world - hospitals, carpenters, better schools - Faslane 365 is going on for a whole year and people can find different ways of taking part.

Frances: In the past you've also campaigned for better conditions for people in prisons. How often have you been arrested for your beliefs, and what was it like for you this time in the cells?

Joan: After years of protests and the sixteenth arrest I lost count. This time after the Faslane blockade I was held at Clydebank (like the other protesters) for thirty hours. In the cell -- about six foot by eight foot perhaps -- there's a concrete block for a bed, with a plastic mattress, a thick window and a toilet. It was not pleasant at all, we were not allowed to communicate with each other -- the isolation was quite hard to bear.

I was on my own for most of the time except when I was fetched out for fingerprinting. It was dirty and hot, airless and the noise of the air conditioning prevented you from getting any sleep. The heat was very bad. The food was terrible. Our watches were taken away and I had no idea what time it was. They opened the flap in the door at intervals. You had to ask what was happening. In the end I asked to see a doctor because my blood pressure had gone up. They let me wash and get ready.

Frances: What would you say to Peace News readers imprisoned on their “shift” at Faslane 365?

Joan: Ask at the beginning what is going to happen, so that you know. Take a book -- one that is easy to read. You can ask for a pencil and a piece of paper or a drink of water. The big thing is when they open the flap to keep asking what is happening. You need to know. People should keep asking. [Note: free issues of PN should be available for anyone detained at Clydebank - ask for a copy.]

Frances: What about broadening the protest? Not everyone can get arrested, can they? What about people with children?

Joan: People should write to their member of parliament. Our elected representatives should be made aware of the large numbers of people who support the blockade.