Nuclear warheads are the most destructive objects present anywhere on the surface of our planet and they have been constructed and maintained by six of the worlds most powerful democracies1. If the arguments against nuclear proliferation are both moral and pragmatic (which I believe they are), then how has this been allowed to happen? Why have people continued to vote for the bomb? Is this a global conspiracy? Are people being lied to, or are they not listening? What can we as individuals do when all three main parties believe in the need to the nuclear “deterrent”?
Breaking the law is the last resort for the campaigner. I decided to answer the call.
I have never risked arrest before but in the company of good friends with shared objectives I felt I could do anything. Plunging into new situations with new people is always daunting, yet my experience at Faslane was both empowering and exciting.
I overcame my natural tendency to avoid the unknown and at the same time worked hard against my natural urge to volunteer for everything (it is my 3rd year after all2). I pretty much managed it. Months of planning, training, construction, fundraising and practising lead up to the weekend. York was due to hold the torch for the year round blockade 18th-19th March.
I arrived in the middle of the night having missed the day of (legal) protest on account of being stuck in Nottingham. I had six hours to lay down my bags, sleep, wake up, eat, find out what I was supposed to be doing, wake up and put what was about to happen out of my mind. Then I woke up and tumbled into the van with my comrades on our merry way. With a strong sense of doom in the air, we sung exerts from Team America and prepared for deployment. 5.45am – the enclosed industrial city of the nuclear base appears out of the window. It is time. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. It’s a nuclear base. What the HELL am I doing. Oh shit. Oh shit. Ok. Ok. Do I have my tube. I… where’s my karabiner? Oh shit. Oh shit. Doors open. We run. Oh shit. Get Down! We’re down.
Lying on your back attached to two people through some plumbing inside the gate of a nuclear submarine base watching the clouds go by, is more relaxing than you might think. It’s about 2oC and it’s considering snowing. The concrete is cold. I’m very tired. But we made it. The traffic is stopped. At 6am the police arrive (they’re not very surprised) and the traffic starts to queue up. It makes me smile to think of that moment. We had succeeded.
It gets colder and noisier, and the “cutting team” arrives. By 6.30am we’re being picked off one by one and the traffic starts to move again. The good news is those at the South Gate kept the resistance for another hour.
I was covered with a sheet and the cast-cutter got to work on our tubes. I was marched down the road (chatting merrily about the weather) by two somewhat confused policemen, asked some questions, photographed, and put in a van where I shared my hobnobs with the male arrestees (not the policeman, they declined) and listened to the radio. Then through the beautiful Strathclyde countryside to Dunbarton where an equally genial officer discussed his last holiday to York with us. We had our possessions confiscated, details recorded, and were put in solitary confinement.
The cell is a bit bigger than a toilet in a train, with no window, just a crash mat and a toilet. The florescent light flickered and it smelt a bit of sick. But I suppose there had to a hard part to this experience somewhere. I thought I was in there for 24 hours. But after some lunch, a cup of tea (free food!) we were, to our great surprise, given back our possessions and our freedom. We discussed our relief in the foyer of Dunbarton police station and cheered the women’s release in Greenock. In Scotland at least, resistance is not futile: it’s a daytrip.
I didn’t get the impression I was being treated like a danger to society. It was more like the detention with the teach who actually liked you but felt your shenanigans needed to be punished to make sure no-one else was encouraged. I trust that isn’t the message you are receiving. Come to Faslane to protest this debacle. And if you like, you can lie down on the concrete too.
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1 That’s India, Israel, UK, USA, Russia and France. China and Pakistan having nuclear capabilities but not being democracies. There are a lot more countries without and they do fine.
2Voice in my head
This article was originally published in the June 2007 edition of ‘GoodMag’.