At 5am on 1 November, anti-nuclear campaigners began to nonviolently blockade the Devonport dockyard in Plymouth where Trident nuclear submarines are maintained and re-fitted. The blockade, called by the Plymouth-based Trident Ploughshares group “The Tamarians”, was not cleared until 9.45am.
By the end of the day, 14 people had been arrested at Camelshead gate. They had used a variety of methods to blockade, including attaching themselves to a car and joining themselves together with metal arm tubes and superglue.
The day of action culminated with peace activists demonstrating outside Charles Cross police station in Plymouth to show their solidarity with those held in the cells. The railings of the police station were festooned with colourful banners.
After being held for several hours, several arrestees were charged with offences under section 14 of the Public Order Act, while others were given bail and will be charged at a later date.
Angie Zelter, from Knighton, founder of Trident Ploughshares and awarded the Right Livelihood Award 2001, was one of the blockaders. She said: “Nuclear weapons distort the moral fabric of our society and undermine our humanity. With our world facing massive ecological crises caused by corporate power abuse backed by military might, we need to actively promote a culture of peace not war.”
Prior to the blockade, protesters were hosted by the Plymouth Methodist Church in their central hall. As some of the congregation work inside Devonport, the decision to let the blockaders use the church had been a difficult but morally-strong decision. The local Friends’ Meeting House and the Christ the King Church also provided accommodation.
A tremendous success
CND Cymru vice-chair Ray Davies commented: “The blockade was a tremendous success. The small Welsh contingent joined hundreds of activists to stop the flow of traffic through both dockyard gates. “We boarded the minibus at 5am and dodged the police, as we linked our heavy-duty cables to each other. One group created a diversion, and we threw ourselves to the ground and ‘locked-on’ to the gates.
“A carnival atmosphere prevailed, with music and peace songs from all over Europe. After almost five hours of solid blockade, with not a single vehicle coming through the gates, the police arrived with their bolt cutters. They warned us several times to move, but we all refused. They took our names and personal details and a police photographer took our photos.
“Then we were dragged and carried away from the roadway. The police inspector told me and another protester that we would be charged with the criminal offence of aggravated trespass.”
A decade of Trident Ploughshares blockades and disarmament actions have helped build a strong and broad movement against nuclear weapons in Scotland.
Indeed, the Scottish government was elected with a policy of nuclear disarmament. Now it is England’s turn to change course and muster the political courage to say a firm and lasting “No” to the immoral and irrational replacement of Trident.