Traffic is not entering the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Burghfield in Berkshire this morning, as critics of nuclear arms have blocked a major gate into the site by chaining themselves together. Many of those involved are Christians, including Anglicans, Quakers and others.
Eight people, aged between 19 and 40, lay down in the gateway at 7.20am, causing traffic intended for the facility to queue up along the road. The eight lying in the road are supported by others standing nearby to offer support and to liaise with police, site staff and the public. Several members of the group are now singing hymns while locked together in the gateway.
They are taking the action just ahead of European elections and a year before the general election. They want all candidates to commit themselves to opposing the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which polls show is opposed by the majority of the public.
Burghfield is one of the AWE’s two sites, seven miles from the better-known Aldermaston site.
The Christians are working alongside other supporters of Action AWE, a grassroots campaigning network, which is open to people of all religions and none.
They say that they felt led to take action due to the failure of governments to halt the evil of nuclear weapons production or to respond to public opinion.
Andrew Dey, 25, an Anglican from Bradford, explained his motivation before he lay down in the gateway:
The nonviolent Christ entered situations of violence and brought love, light and truth. In the same way, I believe Christians should be taking action against weapons of mass destruction, such as the Trident nuclear weapons system.
Hannah Brock, 28, a Quaker from London, who is also blocking the gate, added:
I cannot stand by while the British government gives itself the power to murder millions, into the next generation. This isn’t the way of Jesus.
Also in the gateway is Joanna Frew, 35, a member of the United Reformed Church, who lives in London but is originally from Scotland. She explained:
Trident is illegal, immoral and a waste of money. It is the opposite of everything that Jesus teaches us about being co-creators of life and loving your enemies. Political and religious leaders in Scotland are opposed to retaining Trident at Faslane. We have a real opportunity over the next year to say that it is no longer acceptable , and that we don’t want an illegal renewal.
Other people who are blocking the gate include Chloe Skinner, 26, an Anglican from Sheffield, who was recently acquitted of aggravated trespass at the London arms fair.
They are joined by Catherine Bann, 40, from Todmorden; Amy Clark, 19, from Bradford; Matt Fawcett, 39, from Yorkshire CND; and Phil Wood, 20, from Bradford.
- Action AWE is a grassroots campaign of nonviolent actions dedicated to halting nuclear weapons production at AWE. Action AWE is committed to active nonviolence. It includes people of several religions and none.
- Operated by a consortium of Jacobs Engineering Group, Lockheed Martin and Serco, AWE Burghfield plays an integral part in the final assembly and maintenance of nuclear warheads for use in the Trident system. In 2011 Peter Luff, the then Minister for Defence Equipment, announced £2 billion of spending for redevelopment of the Burghfield and Aldermaston weapons factories. The total spending on Weapons of Mass Destruction in the UK will soar to over £100bn should the government take the decision to renew Trident in 2016.
- The UK government has an armed nuclear submarine on patrol and ready to fire at all times, with the ability to wipe out cities almost anywhere on earth within 15 minutes. The UK government has a stockpile of around 225 nuclear warheads, each with eight times the explosive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, that killed an estimated 140,000 to 200,000 people. Running the Trident nuclear weapons system currently costs £2 billion a year and has not seen any of the cutbacks facing other government spending and public services. The government will vote in 2016 to decide whether to invest in the UK’s Trident nuclear weapon system for another 30 years.Trident is not an “independent” system, but is dependent on technical support from the US.
- Eight people blocked the construction gate at AWE Burghfield at about 7.20am today. They are supported by a number of others standing nearby to offer support and to help with communication. Although many of those involved are Christians, they are happy to be working alongside other supporters of Action AWE of different religions and none.
- Polls consistently show that well over half of the British public are opposed to the renewal of Trident. The figure appears to be rising, with 79% opposing Trident renewal in a Guardian poll only last month. Please see http://www.cnduk.org/campaigns/no-to-trident/opinion-polls.