At April's blockade, in addition to the regular presence at the construction traffic's main entrance to AWE Aldermaston, Block the Builders decided to deploy their “away team” on a visit to John Stacey's yard in Tadley.
John Stacey is a contractor involved in providing building machinery and deliveries of sand and aggregate from a nearby quarry for the new developments at AWE, including the Orion laser facility. But not first thing on Monday 10 April, when their vehicles were locked safely in their compound by campaigners.
About 12 Block the Builders (BtB) blockaders arrived at the yard very early, via a circuitous route through two counties, but not as early as John Stacey's employees who had already opened up shop and started moving lorries filled with building supplies - many destined for AWE.
BtBers moved on up to the vehicle compound's single set of gates and, unmolested, managed to chain them closed, preventing any further trucks leaving the site.
Police arrived on the scene from nearby Aldermaston within 20 minutes - a mixture of Hampshire, Thames Valley and Ministry of Defence forces.
After about 30 minutes, Hampshire police brought out a metal cutter, but wandered off again before even attempting to use it. Shortly after this bemusing incident, John Stacey workers decided to take the initiative and try to cut the chains themselves. First they cut their own chain off (presumably by mistake), then a smaller chain was quickly destroyed with the loss of one of a multi-pack of padlocks procured at Pound Shop. Finally the horrible truth was revealed - that the massive chain and padlock believed to be preventing the trucks leaving had never even been firmly attached - thus ending the 40-minute blockade.
Red faces all round for the police, who - despite their large presence, with at least one Forward Intelligence and a cutting team on site - had never even investigated the cause of the obstruction. Victory to the workers!
The first law of dithering
After holding banners near the road briefly, the first law of dithering was invoked (the dithering coefficient of any blockade must always be smaller than that of the police), and it was agreed that the work at John Stacey's was done.
One of the legal observers was briefly “detained” using the pretext of the Road Traffic Act, given a producer and had their vehicle searched for a padlock, supposedly stolen from Stacey's yard, and for items used for going equipped to cause criminal damage. This resulted in the illegal seizure of a metal tube which had been lurking in the back of the car.
Arrests at AWE
Meanwhile, back at AWE, a noisy and visible presence had been maintained from about 7am - and that was just the police, who caused considerable disruption by stopping vehicles to check IDs and by parking (?) large horses in the gates. There were four arrests in total at the AWE blockade, all for suspicion of obstructing the highway.
Two were arrested at AWE's Tadley gate after lying in the entrance way. The police asked them to move and, while lifting them, tried to use pressure points. A Block the Builders legal observer remonstrated with police over this tactic and they were then instructed by a senior police officer not to use pressure points. It appears that having received correspondence about their use at a previous blockade, police at AWE are now aware of concerns about this unnecessary use of force. The two were arrested and removed without resort to further violence. There were also two arrests at AWE's Home Office gate in similar circumstances.
Two of the arrestees were cautioned, one was charged and was bailed to appear on 20 April, and one was released without charge.
Blockades at AWE - attempting to disrupt the building of new WMD facilities - are taking place on a monthly basis. More blockaders are urgently needed, as more than 25% of Block the Builders pledgers have now been arrested during blockades and many remain on bail - some with conditions not to approach AWE Aldermaston.