Thousands of anti-nuclear campaigners converged earlier today at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, near Reading. Today’s demonstration comes on the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the historic first march to the nuclear bomb factory on Easter Monday 1958. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament said 5,000 activists from across the country took part in a colourful, peaceful demonstration that surrounded the 4.5 miles base perimeter with protesters. MPs, veteran campaigners and celebrities addressed the crowds at what was the biggest protest at the Berkshire site in 20 years.
The ‘Bomb Stops Here’ protest saw campaigners gather at 6 of the gates to AWE, with each adopted by CND-supporters from a different area of the country and themed to mark a specific decade of anti-nuclear activism from the 50s to today. Bands, theatre groups and mobile sound systems added to the peaceful carnival atmosphere.
Coaches brought campaigners from around 60 towns and cities as far apart as Aberdeen and Penzance, with the many international campaigners including a Japanese delegation with survivors from the nuclear attacks of 1945, who yesterday marched from the former US-base at Greenham Common, to AWE.
Speakers including designer Vivienne Westwood, MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Jon Trickett, MEPs Caroline Lucas and Jill Evans, original marchers including Walter Wolfgang and Pat Arrowsmith addressed crowds alongside a survivor from the 1945 atomic bombings.
Campaigners carried ‘lollipop style’ placards of the CND symbol, similar to those used on the original march, which was the first time that the universally recognized symbol was used. Speakers addressed each gate in turn, many from a traveling float, before the crowd of thousands spreads out along the fence-line to surround the four and a half mile perimeter fence. Once surrounded, the gates to the base were symbolically sealed, and a ‘moment of noise’ rang out. Anti-nuclear messages and banners were attached to the fence, a form of protest upheld after the High Court recently ruled that byelaws banning such activity should be quashed. Other byelaws banning the long-standing peace camp from being held next to the base perimeter were upheld in a new restriction on the right to protest.
Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “Today’s huge protest has been a great success, bringing thousands of campaigners old and new to the base at the heart of Britain’s own weapons of mass destruction programme. This has been the largestdemonstration here in two decades, reflecting how public opinion nationally and internationally is turning against nuclear weapons. These are weapons of mass destruction which can kill hundreds of thousands of people with each bomb dropped. They represent death and destruction for humanity, not a way forward for peace and security. We call on our government to end Aldermaston’s role as a factory of death – not to pour billions into redeveloping it to make new nuclear weapons.
“The majority of Britons don’t support the costly replacement of Trident [see poll below] yet £5bn is being spent to upgrade Aldermaston. Parliament has not yet taken a decision to build new warheads. Why then are vast sums being poured into the Atomic Weapons Establishment in pre-emption of this? Our government must turn away from nuclear weapons. They are not what the people want.”
Local Police released an attendance figure much lower than the number of activists known to have arrived at the base via the organised transport, which was booked to near capacity.
Notes to Editors:
1. For further information and interviews please contact Ben Soffa, CND’s Press Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859
2. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere. www.cnduk.org
3. Speakers: Kate Hudson (Chair of CND), Vivienne Westwood, Jeremy Corbyn MP (Vice-Chair of CND), Jon Trickett MP (Compass group of MPs), Caroline Lucas MEP (Green Party, SE England), Jill Evans MEP (Plaid Cymru, Wales), Bruce Kent (Vice President of CND), Pat Arrowsmith (organising secretary of first march), Walter Wolfgang (organising committee of first march and Labour National Executive member), Andrew Murray (Chair of the Stop the War Coalition) and a Japanese survivor from the 1945 atomic bombings.
4. A More4/Populus poll of February 2007 showed 72% of the public either supporting scrapping Trident now, or to keeping the current system, but not currently committing to having nuclear weapons in 20 years time.