No Faith In Trident

We believe that nuclear weapons are an outrage, and that civil disobedience can make them a thing of the past.

We took part in a nonviolent blockade of Burghfield nuclear weapons factory (just outside Reading) on 27th June 2016, on the No Faith In Trident day during a month of direct action to disrupt production of weapons of mass destruction. Here’s why we took this action:

We were on trial at Reading Magistrates court from 14-16 December 2016, charged with Aggravated Trespass. See our Facebook event for more details.

Our case was dropped on the first day of the trial, and now we are now supporting our friends Put Down the Sword who are on trial in late January 2017, charged with Obstruction of the Highway. Follow their news here, and follow #NoFaithInTrident on Twitter.

We blockaded the factory along with friends from the Catholic Worker and Put Down the Sword (PDTS).

Many of us are Quakers, and we are grateful for the support of many people of all faiths and none who have shown their solidarity! Thanks especially to Trident Ploughshares, who called the month of action.

Find some ways you can join us in taking action against nuclear weapons here.

With thanks from Gillian, Hannah, Ellis, John and Sam

Solidarity with Put Down the Sword

Our friends from the Put Down the Sword affinity group, who also took action with us at Burghfield last June, are on trial later in January.

Join their solidarity event on 25th January, find info here on Facebook, and below.

We’re sending them lots of love and solidarity, and will see them in court!

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Back in June five members of Put Down the Sword were arrested “wilful obstruction of the highway” while blockading one of the entrances to AWE Burghfield, where the UK’s nuclear weapons are assembled. Two other affinity groups (from the Catholic Workers and Quakers) blockaded the other entrances meaning the whole site was shut to vehicles for a morning.

Put Down the Sword are in Reading Magistrates Court on 23rd, 25th and 26th January. We welcome supporters on any day, but are focussing on 25th January as the main day, and we’re putting on a series of seminars for those unable to get into the public gallery. The schedule for the day is as follows (although it will be flexible!)

9: Meet outside the court. Bring banners etc
11: Walk to RISC (10 mins)
11.30-12.30 How to bring change: exploring how to use direct action: Andrew Metheven, War Resisters’ International
1-2: Communal lunch with defendants
2-3: Jesus and non-violence: Woody Woodhouse, Methodist Minister
3-4: What next? Stop DSEI! Sarah Robinson, CAAT

We also have a solidarity fund to help with travel expenses etc for the defendants. Cash donations are welcome, or transfers to 08-92-86 17488437.

The (brief!) #NoFaithInTrident trial

czqyzj2xuaag7zs The “No Faith in Trident” Burghfield Protesters case was thrown out by District Judge Lacha in Reading Magistrates Court yesterday, 14 December. We walked free at lunchtime, much earlier than we dared hope.

The judge dismissed the case after the prosecution concluded because they had not proved Aggravated Trespass.

What happened in court?

Family, friends and supporters came during the day, which made the court a much friendlier place for us. Among other thanks to London Catholic Worker, Trident Ploughshares, Wandsworth Green Party, the Quakers and Put Down the Sword, and to Veterans for Peace who planned to attend on the second day.

Judge Lacha was quite an imposing presence, not only for us but for the prosecution and police giving evidence.

First, the Prosecution laid out its case then the Court was shown CCTV and video camera footage of the protest. We watched this in surreal silence for what felt like hours. The point was mainly to show we had been told to leave by the police.

Then the Prosecution called the police Sergeant who had been present on 27th June. He had led the Protester Removal Team which had done exactly what it says on the tin. When asked he said he did not consider the right to life in the context of policing a facility that makes nuclear weapons. John graciously thanked him for the conscientious way with which the Sergeant had unglued him from Sam.

He was also asked about his assessment of what was happening. This was the crux of it.

Under Section 69 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, a precondition of a guilty verdict is that the senior police officer present had a “reasonable belief” that we were committing Aggravated Trespass when he instructed us to leave.

But in his evidence, the sergeant said that he was following orders from a superior officer, his Silver Commander, who was not present at the scene. Indeed, he went further saying that his commander was having separate decision-making conversations. He said, “It was a direct order from my superior officer. I wouldn’t have questioned it.”

This suggested he did not form a “reasonable belief” on his own account and on this the case fell. The case was further undermined by the admission that the Pingewood gate was closed for the whole month of action, and not opened before or after our protest.

We also heard from Richard David Taylor, a Ministry of Defence official working at AWE. He explained that they were concerned about emergency access to the site through the gate. Under cross-examination he admitted that nuclear weapons are Weapons of Mass Destruction, and confirmed that nothing would be made public about the timing of when weapons were assembled. He implied there might be something “more sinister” behind the protest, which I assume was based on seeing Sam (joke).

This was largely academic however, because the police testimony had not done what I needed to for the prosecution. After the prosecution concluded, the Judge invited the Defence to make a submission of “no case to answer”, which was prepared over lunch.

The Judge concluded that the Sergeant “did not turn his own mind to it which is what is required by the legislation.”

Thanks to Bindmans Solicitors and Matrix Chambers for their help and support throughout.

What we didn’t get to say

Had the case continued, each of the five protesters would have testified as to what we did and why, and the Defence would have made its case. We could have talked about our commitment to nonviolence, our fears and horror at nuclear weapons. I would have described a recurring dream I have of driving towards a mushroom cloud, as well as encounters with Hibakusha (nuclear weapons survivors). Gillian could’ve described the many other protests she had done in the month of action.

We would also have introduced expert witness testimony from Dr Rebecca Johnson and Timmon Wallis. Rebecca’s clearly demonstrated the impossibility of a nuclear weapon being used legally, demonstrating we were attempting to prevent a greater crime. Section 69 also refers to whether there is deterring of obstruction of “lawful activity,” which begs the question of whether the assembly of Weapons of Mass Destruction is lawful.

Tim presented the grounds for a human rights defence, citing the many Quakers and people of faith who have nonviolently opposed violence due to the leadings of their conscience; we were expressing our right to freedom of conscience religion. I still hold these things to be true, even if they weren’t rehearsed in court.

Thank you Rebecca and Tim for your hard work! Next time!

So what next?

Well Britain still has its nuclear WMDs, and they’re only one totem of a system of war that’s far from abeyance. That isn’t going to change by itself.

Ellis Brooks

No case to answer!

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Amazing news: this afternoon we were freed because the judge said we had no case to answer!! She threw out our case after the prosecution concluded, because she did not believe that they had proved that we had committed Aggravate Trespass. In order for us to be found guilty, the prosecution had to prove that the senior police officer present had a reasonable belief that we were committing Aggregated Trespass. Actually, because the officer in his evidence said that he was only following orders from a more senior officer not at the scene, he did not form a reasonable belief on his own account. So the case was thrown out before the defence even begun!

We’ll put a fuller description of what happened tomorrow, right now we’re celebrating.

Thank you so much to everyone who’s been praying and thinking about us, and sending solidarity messages. It’s made a huge difference.

We’ll be supporting our friends from Put Down The Sword who are on trial in January. Follow their news here.

We’re even more inspired to use civil disobedience against militarism and weapons of mass destruction. Can’t wait.

Direct action against nuclear weapons at AWE Burghfield

How did I come to be lying there at 6am on the cold hard concrete outside a factory in Berkshire making weapons of mass destruction, my left hand superglued to an 88 year old man called John, my right hand protected within a lock-on tube linked to a chain of four others lying down next to me?

I guess it was the result of a long, slow, process. The more I have been spending time with Christian-Anarchists, getting exposed to the writings of Dorothy Day and Dan Berrigan and others, and going deeper into my Quaker path, I have felt a growing challenge to embrace resistance to ‘the powers that be’ as an integral part of my spiritual journey. So, when my friend Hannah invited me to be a part of a Quaker non-violent blockade of the Burghfield weapons factory on the No Faith in Trident day (27 June 16), part of the month-long protest called for by Trident Ploughshares, I said “yes”.

Standing in a rich peace testimony

The whole thing has been a huge learning curve for me, lots of new experiences, from learning how to build lock-on tubes to getting arrested and now facing trial. At times its been quite unnerving, like going into the cell. At times its been very funny, like unlocking and walking past the police to go and pee. But overall, its been a growing, enriching experience for me and really great to do this as part of a Quaker team, knowing that this small action stands in a rich peace testimony going back hundreds of years.

by Sam Donaldson

Reposted with thanks to quaker.org.uk