Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Aiding the blockade

From academic seminars to birthday parties, there are no end of ways to blockade Faslane, writes Hilary Wainwright

February 1, 2007
5 min read


Hilary WainwrightHilary Wainwright is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective and a fellow of the Transnational Institute. @hilarypepper


  share     tweet  

If you are going to hurl your body at the gates of nuclear insanity, do it in Scotland and cause maximum disruption to the Faslane base. The Scottish people are with you (over 70 per cent would like to see Trident scrapped, at the last count). And the local police mutter the threat of an impending arrest – ‘ I have to warn you …’ – like a schoolchild dutifully but mechanically reciting the school motto.

In my experience, at any rate, they even enter into the spirit of things in the cells, opening the hatches of our solitary cells for us to hear the singing of a fellow arrestee – or maybe this is a custom in the Dunbarton nick and they do it for the more tuneful drunks as well? These policemen and women would rather not be spending their time arresting poets and professors for, ironically, ‘breaching the peace’, or cutting samba players and others out of ingenious lock-ons – protesters locked together via metal tubes, or with their arms stuck into barrels of concrete, for example.

‘We want to be getting on with real policing,’ the officer in charge at Dunbarton police station, told me. With elections due in May, the police’s political masters, the Scottish executive, can’t risk toughening police tactics and Westminster has to accept the electoral calculation. After the election – well, things could get interesting.

If the polls are right and the SNP and pro-independence parties win the majority, and if public pressure keeps the SNP to its commitment over Trident (see page 24), then there’s a constitutional crisis in the making and the police will be bystanders as the blockades gather momentum. If New Labour manages to be in a majority again, policing could well get tough, and out of the hands of the local constabulary, with whom the steering committee of Faslane 365 are in regular contact.

It’s the importance of developments in Scotland, which has long been a weak link for New Labour, that makes joining a blockade at Faslane so worthwhile. You really could help to make a difference to the success of the campaign. You can be part of the protest in your own way. If your profession can be adapted to blockading, like the 30 academics arrested for holding a seminar to halt the traffic into the base, then practise your trade. Across the country, there are more than 100 local blockading groups, including many organised around different professions, such as health workers, clergy, academics, students, comedians and actors. If your friends are likeminded and enjoy purpose in their pleasure, make it the venue of your birthday party, as has one anti-Trident protestor, Kathleen, already.

The Faslane 365 steering group encourages blockading groups to be as autonomous as possible, deciding their own theme and tactics, organising their own training, accommodation, food and so on, but offering all the support they need. The Manchester group, for instance, put on several local training sessions and built up a 50-strong contingent. They made the 11- hour journey on a 1950s’ double-decker bus, with the advertising panels reading ‘Manchester says No to Trident’, ‘What would you spend £40 billion on?’, ‘Nurses or Nukes?’ and ‘Trams not Trident’.

Considerable local publicity is generated in their own towns and cities by these groups and there is growing national coverage, both sides of the border. The ‘elected representatives’ blockade gave that a boost last month with MEPs, MSPs and MPs all doing a stint in the cells. International publicity is growing with groups joining the blokades from Germany, Canada, France, Japan and Belgium.

The Faslane blockaders are also disrupting the base itself. Protestors regularly hear internal tannoys announcing that one of the two main gates has had to be closed. A cleaning contractor has refused to go in when the protest is on, and it’s likely there are other reverberations too.

The Faslane protest is also acting as a catalyst for protest at other Trident-related sites – Aldermaston, Devonport, Plymouth – as well as the London march on 24 February. But there’s a lot more to do. One in every three days for the next three months is covered by a promised blockade, but there are still plenty of gaps. There are gaps in constituencies of support too: for example, union banners are still noticeable more by their absence.

Anyone going to Faslane will get all the support you need – as a group or as an individual – from training for the blockading on the evening before, through legal support, to a good send off when you’re released from the nick. And there’s a need for people to join the protests whether or not they are willing to be arrested.

Go to www.faslane365.org for all you need to know.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Hilary WainwrightHilary Wainwright is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective and a fellow of the Transnational Institute. @hilarypepper


#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes

Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference

Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going