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Nottingham Students Get Strident

Workshy | 07.07.2007 11:21 | Faslane | Anti-militarism | Education

A report on Nottingham students' involvement in the recent anti-Trident peace camp at Coulport.

Twenty-first century students are an infamously apathetic lot. Fortunately, this isn't universally true and there remain a few, perhaps a growing number, prepared to resist the rising tide of militarism. One particularly inspiring example of this resistance is the burgeoning opposition to government plans to renew the Trident nuclear missile system.

The Strident (a portmanteau of “students against Trident”) “Tent State” took place between June 28 and July 3 at Peaton Glen Wood, ten minutes from the nuclear base and Faslane and five minutes walk from the ammunition depot at Coulport. The event brought together students (and others) from across the UK to participate in networking with others and engage in blockades at two key components of the UK's nuclear weapons system. A group from Nottingham travelled up to take part. (Some even cycled up, managing the journey in just over a week, particularly impressive given the inclement conditions.)

The camp was part of Faslane 365, a year long blockade of Faslane from October 1 2006 to September 30 2007. Faslane 365 has asked “a wide range of local, national and even international groups from all sections of civil society to come to Faslane committed to stay and make their visions for a just and peaceful future visible for at least two days.” Many have blockaded and on April 1, a group from Nottingham shut the main entrance at the North Gate for four hours.

To avoid confusion it is worth explaining briefly the different roles of Faslane and Coulport. The two facilities are separate, but located essentially around the corner from each other. Faslane, where Britain's Vanguard-Class submarines, which carry Trident missiles, are based is around eight miles (along a direct road) from Coulport where the the missiles themselves are maintained.

A number of the Nottingham students blockaded on Friday June 29, along with other from Bradford. Six people superglued themselves together in front of the North Gate, while two more used a concrete lock-on to block access to the South Gate. While there are two further entrances (the West Gate and another for the oil depot), these are rarely used, so the base was essentially closed-off for a short while.

Unfortunately, the police at Faslane are now very experienced with blockades and were quickly able to discover a design flaw in the concrete lock-on (i.e. it wasn't really big enough), allowing them to remove the obstruction to the South Gate within fifteen minutes. As well as arresting the two blockaders they also picked-up the legal observer, although it isn't entirely clear why (there are suspicions, but these are nothing more than speculation).

The North Gate blockade lasted somewhat longer, staying in the road for something like forty-minutes, but doesn't appear to have posed any problems for the police. When superglue was first utilised by a previous group from Bradford it came as a surprise, with the gate remaining blocked for two hours while the boys in yellow scrabbled around trying to work out how to remove the obstruction. Unfortunately, they now seem to have it sorted (various other groups have tried variations on this technique) and have been equipped with a spray which had the blockaders unattached within minutes.

The various blockaders were processed with those from the South Gate being sent to Dunbarton Police Office and those from the North Gate going to Clydebank. It appeared that they would be held to Monday, although it isn't clear whether this was because of the paperwork or a desire to prevent blockaders returning to the camp and re-offending. One arrestee particularly irritated the police by refusing to give their date of birth for several hours, resulting in their house in Nottingham being visited by local police. Events outside soon intervened, however. The incident at Glasgow Airport resulted in the police deciding to release any protesters they were holding (in order to free up cells), requiring nothing more than a promise that they wouldn't go back and blockade again.

After being approached by the police for a 24 reprieve, the camp gave an assurance that they would not carry out any direct action and would inform the police of any until midnight on Sunday July 1 and would inform the police of any other non-direct action-type demonstrations which they intended to hold. Several such events were held, including a candle-light vigil and tea party outside the gates at Coulport, the latter being attended by a sizeable number of people. Quakers attempting to make their way to the depot to hold a worship event were prevented from doing so by MoD police, however.

Students from Nottingham had also been involved in a blockade prior to news of the Glasgow incident coming through, but the police appear to have been ready for them. A police van parked across the entrance to the camp had prevented vans leaving in the morning and an overwhelming police presence had greeted those who attempted to blockade the North Gate during the evening shift change. A further eleven people were arrested. These people were released shortly after those who had blockaded on Friday morning, spending only a few hours in the cells.

With the camp's “assurance” coming to an end at midnight, all bets were off for Monday morning. With those who had planned to blockade on Sunday, presumably altering their plans to Monday, there were sizeable numbers involved, allowing activists to block the North and South Gates of Faslane as well as Coulport. Lock-on tubes, tripods, superglue, paint and an exercise ball were all thrown into the mix, resulting in the South Gate being blocked for around an hour and a quarter and leading to thirty-seven arrests. Surprisingly, after driving erratically towards the tripod, the police allowed those involved in that action to leave without arresting them. Amusingly, at least one police officer ended up covered in red paint and had to stand around at the gate in this state for several hours.

Throughout all this workshops on a number of topics, from queer politics to the NHS via environmentalism in Iceland, were taking place at the camp. Many groups and individuals were also networking on a more informal basis, while sat around the campfire or exploring the beautiful wooded surroundings. When a supply or support ship of some kind sailed past, many of the campers held an impromptu protest, including a mass mooning.

Those who travelled up from Nottingham are all now safely back. Those arrested are awaiting warning letters to be sent to their homes from the Procurator Fiscal (sort of like the Scottish equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service). These will state that while there is enough evidence to prosecute the person in question for Breach of the Peace, they've decided not to do so on this occasion. This is what the vast majority of Faslane 365ers have received and there is nothing to suggest that student blockaders will be treated any differently. Those involved seem to be generally positive about the experience with plans for the future already being concocted.


Faslane 365


Nottingham Student Peace Movement

Nottingham Young Greens

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