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vine and fig planters in Newbury 'court' Gig

planter les | 16.02.2006 01:31 | Anti-militarism | Anti-racism | Free Spaces | South Coast

Post-Protest: Vine and Fig Planters take their 'turns' at Newbury Magistrates Court

My reflection on planting and the court gig.

In the early hours of the 5th of August 2005 (the day before the 60th Anniversary of devastation let loose on Hiroshima and Nagasaki), a group of fig and vine tree planters found themselves booked for planting vine and fig trees inside and outside the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston. One way I have thought about it was that it was like alternative container gardening.

Inspired by the ancient prophecy of the prophet/poet Micah, about 'turning swords into ploughshares' and 'everyone sitting underneath their vine and fig trees in peace and unafraid', ...the planters took vines and fig trees to Aldermaston, so beginning the conversion of the base for such a time (how else will we ever get to sit under the trees and chill if we dont get them planted like now, for later?')

One tree had already been planted as a memorial to Anthony Walker 'inside' the base the previous day (4/8/05), he was very much on my mind when we went there in August, I'd rather that he remained alive.

Our actions had arrested the attention of the local Ministry of De Fence Police (who minister to The Fence). The beginning of the transformation of Aldermaston from a dangerous Research and Development Facility for Britain's nuclear weapons into "something useful for life" had begun.

As the planters worked on the beginnings of their 'groundforce - type' transformation (the plantings) the Ministry of De Fence police flocked to the private view, only to be greeted with grape juice and figs etc instead of banners. Soon the attention of the police was pleasantly arrested and then planters were kindly offered police station accommodation (and those yummy veggie breakfasts i oftem mention) for up to 36 hours whilst they were booked to appear again at Newbury Magistrates court on 7-9th February 2006.

7-9th February Gig
The court gig was packed out, and indeed wonderfully organised at the convenience of the both CPS and Ministry of de Fence Police (MOD), it drew much support, and admission was free throughout.

Asplanters we determined to explain why we had started to initiate the change many of us long idealistically to see. We started to do it ourselves not relying or trusting trade unions to pass motions, or MP's to ask questions or a government to halt a process for further questiuons. We aimed to initiate ourselves what wanted to see occur, and risk the consequences ourselves.

At the court the prosecution and police focussed on the fence (that appears to be their job) and the planters focussed on the plants and plantings and why a nuclear research plant was not required in a world of increasing violence and terrorising. One police officer was genuinely praised for the quality of her photography, I asked her 'are you aware that your photographs are highly esteemed?' She had taken photographs we planters wished we could have taken ourselves, thus perhaps unintentionally diverting much attention from the fence alterations to the vision of transformation. We would encourage further collaboration of this nature, the photography highlighted that ALdermaston needs transforming from a resaearch factory ofr nucleur weapons to a peace garden. Her pictures had been distributed to all planters as evidence - and remain works of true art which can be viewed on the internet and were exhibited in a recent support gig at Southampton, they are both compassionate and beautiful; and very much appreciated.

In court planters took turns to explain their reasons for making a gateway, and why it was necessary to start the transformation of the place when there was increasing concern about the extensions to Aldermaston AWE building of a lazer facility to test mini nukes raised "no objection" by local councillors on what ought to be a national matter, (*see below).

Whilst the arrestees were taking turns on that stage they also welcomed the opportunity to answer questions about transformation planting, its necessity as well as inviting the MOD & CPS to join in future plantings - ripples will occur, this I believe why not?

The court venue was itself transformed by supporters knitting and drawing pictures, which were then neatly placed about the court room during the gig, and presented to both the CPS and the Police and other attendants in appreciation of the planning for the event and inconvenience.

The outcome was that the magistrate found each defendant guilty of 'criminal damage' to a value of £1805. She also explained that issues like nuclear weapons are not for the court. The prosecutor wanted us to pay a fine consisting of compensation for the alleged altered fence and court costs. All planters (who maintained we merely enhanced the fence to make it a gateway for planting to occur) turned down the offer of paying, for ethical and moral reasons. The magistrate who had been patient with us, our eloquence, silences, laughs and weaknesses delivered her appraisal of our event: "a four week prison sentence, suspended for six months, and retribution for the fence of £201 each", and we handed over thankyou cards.

So, further planting is to be expected within the six months period which takes us to Nagasaki day 9th August 2006 - perhaps the police will join in, well some of them, or maybe a soliciotor or magistrate somewhere, or maybe you yourself are intrigued about how to get in on doing a bit of transformation yourself. Believe you can enhance dangerous places, that you can make a difference yourself, whether you have an 'inside' or 'outside' locus of control, and 'adapt up' to that belief.

Nonviolent ripples will occur, and as plants take time to put down roots and get established, others need planting.

Peace and figs to all,
Planter L.
*Please note that concern about the work of AWE on a new lazer facility has been highlighted by consistent hard slog by the women from the Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp, NIS and others from 'Block the Builder Campaign'.

planter les
- e-mail: les.gibbons1@ntlworld,com
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