Monday 15 June, 2009 - It was a glorious morning as five separate groups made their way towards Aldermaston. At 6.30a.m., Trident Ploughshares (TP) affinity group the Muriel Lesters arrived at North Gate to find it had not been opened yet for the park and ride coaches so they further locked it with their own chains and some super-glue and arranged themselves as comfortably as possible in their lock-ons and hung their peace banners.
There were five of them locked on, including one in a wheel chair plus a lone supporter. A policeman soon arrived and asked them, in amazement, why they had chosen that particular gate (it being rather out of the way and not a usual target for demonstrators). They ingeniously replied that they had never blocked that gate before! They were then told that they were doing nothing illegal and could stay there all day if they wished! Well we know we are doing nothing illegal and that the real criminals are those building illegal weapons of mass destruction inside the fences. And the Muriel Lesters also knew, unlike the police, that they were an essential part of an overall blockade and that other gates were being blockaded. They remained where they were.
At 7a.m. women from the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp pushed their heavy lock-ons into place at Home Office Gate, and three women locked on, slowing traffic down whilst the East Anglian group drove two cars into Tadley Gate completely blocking it. The two cars had been carefully provided with lock-on tubes fixed to the back-seat floors so that when the cars were positioned the supporters in the front could get out fast and the two in the back seat just opened their doors and then sat in the road and put their arms in the tube. Thus two people locked-on to each car and the rest of the supporting group spray painted CND signs on the cars and hung banners saying ’Nuclear Weapons are State Terrorism’.
Meanwhile, two intrepid cyclists managed to padlock shut both sets of gates at the Main Gate and then rush off without getting arrested in order to support the other groups. They were soon joined by two other cyclists and throughout the morning not only gave good support but also got lots of ideas about how to do some bicycle blockades another time. They put up their banner that said ’Bikes Block Bombs - No Trident’ at the Tadley Gate.
At 7.30a.m. two combined TP affinity groups calling themselves the 'Birthday Group' (it was Alison’s 60th birthday) manoeuvred a caravan into the Boilerhouse Gate stopping the line of traffic that had been directed around to that gate. There were four locked to each corner of the caravan sitting on the ground with their arms in concrete lock-ons that were fixed inside each corner of the caravan. One other blockader locked himself to the side of the caravan. Then the banner went up saying 'No Trident Replacement' and the birthday cake came around.
Streams of traffic were trying to get into the various gates and having to move slowly around the base trying to find a way to get in. The base had been successfully blocked at five gates and although the locks were broken within minutes at the main gates and traffic trickled in past the concrete blocks at Home Office Gate nevertheless three gates were blocked for between two to three hours. The hardest to move were the two cars as it was difficult for the cutting teams to remove the tubes within the restricted space inside the cars. Once everyone was removed the cars and the caravan then had to be towed away.
Eleven people were arrested and taken along to Loddon Valley Police Station. The five at North Gate had been released last of all, cut out and then plonked on the grass and instead of being arrested they were left free to join the supporters from the other blockading groups. We all sat down and shared food and drink and our experiences of the day. We had had a kind dedicated press person who got out the press releases for us as he cycled round collecting people’s pictures and another support person who had driven me around to take pictures and to get an overall picture of what was going on. We were able to do a couple of interviews including one for the local radio. You can find local press accounts here at http://www.newburytoday.co.uk/News/Article.aspx?articleID=10297 and at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/berkshire/8101261.stm
You can also find pictures of the blockades at http://aldermaston.net/media
In all eleven people were arrested and taken along to Loddon Valley Police Station. They were not kept inside too long and we were all re-united at around 4p.m. After more chatting and de-briefs we all set off home - tired but happy.
The eleven arrested were all charged with wilful obstruction of the highway either with or without a motor vehicle and were given rather stiff bail conditions to stay well away from Aldermaston and Burghfield that some of them may challenge in court. They have to appear at Newbury Magistrates Court on the following dates:- seven on the 25th June, two on the 26th June, one on the 30th June and one on 2nd July. If anyone lives near the court then some court support would be welcome for the actual court cases. You can contact me if you want to do this and I will let you know the dates.
Any groups reading this who want to be involved in the next hidden blockade do contact me........we need to keep the pressure on Aldermaston and try to persuade our Government to fulfil its promise to the world community to disarm its nuclear weapons not make new ones.
Love and peace and hope, Angie Zelter.