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Clergy to join Big Blockade of Faslane base

STEPHEN FRASER | 04.02.2002 10:58 | Peace not War

CLERGYMEN are planning to force sheriffs to send them to jail as part of a new wave of direct action against the Faslane nuclear base on the Clyde.

SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY 3rd February 2002

Clergy court prison over nuclear base


CLERGYMEN are planning to force sheriffs to send them to jail as part of a new wave of direct action against the Faslane nuclear base on the Clyde.

Ministers and priests, many of whom have convictions or charges pending from previous demonstrations at the base, have told Scotland on Sunday they will seek arrest by blocking entry roads to the base.

They hope their actions, due to begin in eight days, will force sheriffs to impose custodial sentences, helping to mobilise public opinion against the government.

Their move will also clog up Scottish courts, which are still processing more than 100 cases from a similar campaign last February.

Organisers behind the three-day campaign to blockade the base say they expect a record turnout, with protesters attending from across the UK.

They have been touring Scotland since Hogmanay to round up recruits and give instructions on non-violent protest techniques ahead of the protest.

The Rev David McLachlan, a parish minister from Elderslie, is planning to participate in the knowledge he still has charges pending for an arrest last year.

He is contesting a charge of alleged breach of the peace for blocking the road and says he is preparing himself to go to jail. He said: "I was offered a deal where if I paid a £50 fine, the case would be dropped and I would not have a criminal record but I was not prepared to accept I had been guilty of a breach of the peace. I did not pay that fine - as I felt it would have been accepting a guilt I did not feel - and I am not prepared to pay a fine in future."

McLachlan admitted his friends and family had urged him to pay up and stay out of trouble this year, but he said he felt he could not stay away from the event.

He said: "I don’t fancy going to prison but ultimately, if that is what it takes to highlight the evil of nuclear weapons, then that is what it takes.

"As human beings, we have a duty to oppose things that are evil. To threaten other people with annihilation is a nonsense and is not something Jesus Christ would have condoned."

He admitted his decision is a ploy to mobilise public opinion and force the British government to change its policy on nuclear weapons.

"The politicians are showing no sign of acting on this evil so we are forced to find ways of drawing people’s attention to what is going on here on Scottish soil," he said.

McLachlan’s Kirk colleague, the Rev Norman Shanks, who works for the Iona community, is facing arrest for the third time in three years of attending the event.

He is adamant he will not pay any fine and is reconciled to the prospect of jail. "There is a well-established tradition of Christian protest that states there is a higher authority to whom one owes obedience than the law of the land, whatever that law might state."

The clergy are part of a 20-strong core group of ministers and priests who have protested at the blockades ever since the annual event, normally held in the second week of February, was launched in 1999.

The 20 are regarded as the most committed among a wider group of about 200 clerics who have attended the event.

Scottish Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan and Lloyd Quinan, the Scottish Nationalist MSP, have confirmed they will participate in the blockade even though both have charges pending over a protest at the base in October last year.

The event, held over three days for the first time, is expected to attract record numbers. Last February it was attended by around 800, and resulted in 385 arrests.

Numbers are expected to be swollen by anti-war activists and opponents of globalisation.

David Mackenzie, a protest organiser, said: "We have always linked our action to the whole problem of global oppression and the excessive power held by the West over the rest of the world. The other thing that concerns us is the way in which the US does not appear to care about international law when it suits them, as in their treatment of prisoners from the Afghan conflict."

He said non-violent protest workshops have been held in Edinburgh and Glasgow to preserve the demonstration’s peaceful reputation. He added: "We are trying hard to ensure everyone who attends this event has respect for the other people there and does not cause trouble."

The Crown Office and Strathclyde Police said ministers and priests would be treated just as any other protesters. A police spokesman said: "If demonstrators block the gates, whoever they are, then we will arrest them."

A Crown Office spokesman said anyone behaving unlawfully would be arrested and prosecuted.



Display the following 2 comments

  1. dress up as the church — an atheist
  2. Get into it — e bye world