Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth was blockaded on the morning of 1 November in an action called by the Plymouth-based Trident Ploughshares (TP) group, The Tamarians. Devonport Dockyard refits, maintains and upgrades the submarines which carry Britain's Trident nuclear weapon system, which has been declared illegal under international law. The yard is also increasingly becoming the dumping ground for old and out of service nuclear submarines, posing a further radioactive contamination hazard to the quarter of a million people who live nearby. The aim of the blockade was to close all gates to the shipyard from 6am. Fourteen people were arrested during the action.
Other reports and photos: Photos from Blockade | Demo at Charles Cross Police Station | Anti-Trident Protest in Pictures | More pics from Monday's action | Pics from Swiss contingent | Links to press coverage | Dan's pics
A Press Release issued by TP on the morning of the blockade stated: "Eleven non-violent activists [since revised to 14] have been arrested at the Trident Ploughshares Big Blockade of Devonport dockyard after several hours of blockading Camelshead gate. Albert gate at the time of writing remains blocked. This is a protest of the refit and continued use of the immoral, illegal and expensive Trident weapons system. Additional actions are taking place in London and Wrexham, as well as the occupation of Drakes Island declaring it a nuclear free zone."
Activists used a variety of blockading methods, including attaching themselves to a car and joining themselves together with metal arm tubes and superglue. Those arrested were taken to the Charles Cross Police station in Plymouth, where 30-50 supporters gathered outside and staged a colourful demonstration in solidarity with those in the cells. All of those arrested were bailed. Some were charged with offences under Section 14 of the Public Order Act, while others are likely to be charged at a later date.
Trident Ploughshares and the Tamarians
Part of the international Plowshares movement, Trident Ploughshares (TP) is a campaign to disarm Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system in a nonviolent, open, peaceful and fully accountable manner. It opposes all nuclear weapons and rejects violence as a means of resolving conflict. The Tamarians are a TP group based in Plymouth.
In a recent press release, the Tamarians explained the blockade as follows:
"On Monday 1st November 2010, from 6am, local and national anti-nuclear campaigners will be gathering at Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth to non-violently and peacefully attempt to impede the on-going work related to the Trident nuclear weapons system... As Trident is used by the UK government to 'project force into the World', this constitutes a real and on-going threat to other nations. TP insist that the continuous deployment of armed Trident submarines is an on-going criminal act. They also say that the UK government's stated policy of Trident Replacement runs contrary to its obligations under the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty."
One of those taking part in the action, Dan Viesnik, has walked from London, raising awareness of the blockade along the way.
Current nuclear work at Devonport Dockyard has already led to radioactive contamination of the environment and increased levels of cancers among the local population. Plans to create a nuclear dump at the dockyard, cutting up highly radioactive nuclear submarine reactors close to a large population would greatly increase the health risks to a quarter of a million Plymouth residents. The Tamarians argue that Devonport is "ideally placed to become a centre of excellence in renewable and sustainable technologies of the future that would provide stable, secure and expanding work opportunities. This would be a huge improvement over the current situation where an ever-dwindling number is employed in the genocidal technologies of the past, facing uncertain job prospects, and subject to the whims of political change... The only way to 'Save Our Dockyard' is to cut out the cancerous growth that is Trident... nuclear weaponry is poison for the soul and Trident is poison for the epeople of Plymouth, who deserve a better legacy than a radioactive one."
Why is Trident illegal?
Trident is an indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction. Its purpose is not to destroy military targets, but to devastate a wide area and kill or maim large numbers of civilians, as happened when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Trident is also hugely expensive. The government continues to spend vast sums of money on Trident and to plan for its replacement while cutting important public services and jobs on grounds of cost.
On 8th July 1996, the International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons. The Court concluded that: "the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law" (para 2E) and "states must never make civilians the object of attack and must consequently never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets" (para 78).
It is clear that the use of Trident would result in a massive number of casualties across a wide area, mainly civilian. The use or threat of using such weapons is therefore illegal and would be likely to breach the following Declarations and Conventions: Declaration of St. Petersburg, 1868; Hague Convention, 1907; Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948; Geneva Conventions, 1949; The Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977.
Vigils in solidarity with the blockaders and timed to coincide with the blockade are taking place at Manor House, London, organised by the London Catholic Worker, and on Regent Street, Wrexham, organised by Wrexham Peace and Justice Forum.