On Sunday 12 February, a group of anti-nuclear campaigners and activists gathered in front of the Camel's Head Gate at the Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth to protest against the agreement between the city of Plymouth and the Ministry of Defence to refit Britain's Trident nuclear submarines.
HMS Vanguard was refitted at the dockyard between 2003 and 2004 and, in early 2005, HMS Victorious came in for its refit; it is expected to remain there for two to three years. Refits of the other subs - Vigilant and Vengeance - will follow during the rest of the decade.
Marriage made in hell
During the day, protesters acted out the illegitimate “marriage” between the city and the government in a symbolic wedding ceremony.
The crowd wore Valentine's Day-themed pink and gothic clothing, while playing music and dancing outside the gates of the dock. Participants carried banners and signs, one of which read “Trident + Plymouth: A Marriage Made In Hell”. In the spirit of the romantic celebration, a large number of pink and red hearts were attached to the dock gates.
Absurd and hypocritical
The protest criticised the city of Plymouth for its continuing role in Britain's nuclear programme and aimed to highlight Britain's hypocritical nuclear weapons policy and the absurdity of maintaining such a costly arsenal of nuclear submarines. The refitting of the Trident submarines is also seen as a violation of non-proliferation agreements made by the British government as it is directly linked to future deployment.
One activist explained, “At a time when many of Plymouth's essential services are strapped for cash, we could better use the resources wasted on the Trident system.”
Another concern raised by the refits is the issue of the health risks to the citizens of Plymouth and its surrounding areas posed by radioactive discharges from the submarines' nuclear reactors into the river Taymar. Trident Ploughshares are planning to hold a Disarmament Camp in Devonport from 18 to 21 May.