The Easter demonstration against Star Wars was surprisingly successful (see below) and those of us who braved the cold and wet returned with a modest sense of achievement, but turning out onto the streets is not possible for — nor congenial to — everybody, and I want to urge people to look at all the other ways in which absolutely anyone can make a contribution to our campaign. The old cliché is perfectly true — every one of us can make a difference.
Firstly: keep up your CND subscription, both locally and nationally. You will remain informed and stay in touch (and some day your personal circumstances may change and you may have time to become more involved — you never know!). We need to be able to show that we have a significant membership behind us when we write letters, lobby our M.P. etc. on behalf of the group, so your sub counts.
Come to the Fête of the Earth — and publicise it and bring your friends if possible. Buying your plants from WDC/CND puts money directly into the campaign instead of into the profits of Homebase or B&Q (and they will probably be better plants as well).
When you use the new Trident second-class stamps, remember to use the stickers we have sent you. Buy a CND badge from the Peace Table or at the Fête. As soon as you pin it onto your jacket you become a walking reminder to the rest of the world that CND still exists and is still needed.
All of these small things are worth doing, but if you do have a little more time to spare by far and away the most useful contribution you can make is through letter-writing. Suggestions for letters are often made in our Newsletters. We also subscribe to the ‘Lobby’ Newssheet produced by the CND Parliamentary worker Sam Akaki and to the letter-writing group organised by Jenny Maxwell of West Midlands CND. Both these provide regular and excellent briefings on specific topics, making it very easy to write regular, effective and carefully targeted letters. Letters in April went to Greenland supporting the protest of the local people against the US plans to use the Thule base for ‘Star Wars’ radar.
If you would like to join the WDC/CND letter-writing team, just let me know on 8543 0362.
‘Just say NO’ was the theme of the Easter CND protest against the US plans to use Fylingdales and Menwith Hill for National Missile Defence (now renamed Ballistic Missile Defence [BMD] to soothe European sensibilities). About a dozen of us from Wimbledon and Mitcham went up to London to join the crowd of several hundred near the gates of 10 Downing Street.
The banners made a brave display, people had come from as far afield as Abingdon and Exeter to join in, and Dave Knight and Bruce Kent spoke eloquently to remind us why we were all there, but the event only really came to life when Dave Knight issued a challenge to move over to the other side of Whitehall — that’s where the Government offices are, he said. The amiable law-abiding crowd spilled slowly across the road, completely halting the traffic. There was no need to sit down (as reported in the ‘Morning Star’) — all the tourist buses were brought to a standstill for us by a single obliging policeman. So we went on blocking the road, confident that we were getting maximum publicity among the Easter holiday-makers. When the policeman took the decision to redirect the traffic rather than to redirect the demonstration (all those buses made a U-turn back the way they had come) we couldn’t believe our luck and started an impromptu march down Whitehall to Trafalgar Square. Again, the traffic was held for us across the road into the square (could that policeman have been a secret sympathizer?) but then police reinforcements arrived and started to take us seriously. Dave Knight explained that as we hadn’t applied to have a meeting in Trafalgar Square we weren’t planning any further action, and we all dispersed peaceably.
Next day there was a picture on the front page of the early editions of the Observer and today (20·4·2001) the Guardian G2 section features a cover picture and long leading article about the whole NMD question. CND is certainly back on the map!
Reporters: Muriel Wood, Gill Studd, Joanna Bazley
Enclosed with this Newsletter you will find a sheet of stickers for use with the 2nd class stamp in the new commemorative submarine series, which shows the Vanguard Class (i.e. Trident) submarine. [N.B. not the 1st class stamp, which shows a completely different submarine.] These stamps were issued on April 10th and will only be on sale for a month so you will need to go down to the Post Office and get some quickly!
The idea is to place the sticker on envelopes next to the stamp when you send out letters — letters to anyone, not necessarily political letters, because the envelope will be handled by all sorts of people in its journey through the post, providing us with a wonderful opportunity to spread our message.
The idea is the brilliant brainchild of George Farebrother of the World Court Project.
The other news from the World Court Project is not so positive — the judgment in the Edinburgh High Court was more or less totally negative. (This was the Government appeal following the case of the three Ploughshares women acquitted by Sheriff Gimblett at Greenock Sheriff Court.)
“The United Kingdom deployment within and outwith Scotland of Trident nuclear warheads, and the Government’s current defence policy, do not in our opinion include any ‘threat’ to use such warheads in the sense in which a threat is equiporated to use, so as to be illegal as a matter of customary international law or international humanitarian law.”
Of course the Government probably had to be let off the hook somehow. The argument on the legality of British nuclear weapons has been aired in the highest court in the land, which in itself remains a breakthrough. One is tempted to question further the concept of “threat equiporated to use”. The police might take a different view from the Scottish judges when confronted by an armed burglar, to take a more everyday example — and what about the ever-present possibility of accident? Perhaps a case of ‘the Law is a ass’?
We had a stall at the William Morris birthday celebration held at the William Morris pub in Merton Abbey Mills, with participation from a wide range of green and environmental organisations. There was music and poetry, and also some more serious contributions in the spirit of William Morris and his Socialist idealism. It was a happy occasion and an excellent opportunity to take our message to a slightly different audience from usual. One particularly treasured encounter was with a young man who had strayed upstairs with a group of (slightly drunk) friends to see what was happening, and stayed to discuss NMD despite the taunts of his companions — having bravely told them to ‘get lost’. Congratulations to chief organiser Auriel Glanville of FoE, and especial thanks to almost the entire extended Wood family, who stayed on until 11pm, and to Keith Spears who helped with transport.
At the end of March judgement was given in the High Court in London on the challenge to the Radioactive Discharge Authorisation from the Environment Agency to the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston. The judge concluded that although the Environment Agency had indeed acted unlawfully in failing to re-consult MAFF before granting the authorisations for radioactive discharge into the local environment, the statutory regulations (the health and safety provisions of the Euratom Treaty) were deemed inapplicable to military activities!
We now have the ridiculous situation whereby the public can without question be exposed to the hazards of military plutonium discharges, despite the requirement for any equivalent civilian establishment to submit “an independent evaluation of the justification for a polluting practice” to the Environment Agency. There are raised levels of childhood leukæmia around Aldermaston and Evelyn Parker [01635 253231] and Pam Vassie [01189 780148] are continuing the campaign to clean up the site and reduce the discharges to zero.
Events are programmed to take place throughout the long weekend of 10th–15th May — so you can visit the WDC/CND Fête of the Earth on May 12th and still take part. All welcome, not just intrepid activists! See Diary for details.