Just after midnight on July 11, a military vehicle convoy which included lorries carrying Trident nuclear bombs, passed through the center of Glasgow, Scotland. Four Faslane Peace campers were arrested when they blockaded the convoy for an hour close to Loch Lomond. One of the activists climbed atop the vehicles.
Francesco Bertozzi (23), Heather Stewart (29), Jamie Watson (32) and another peace camper were arrested and spent the weekend in jail until an initial court appearance. They then learned that only one of them is being prosecuted, for breaching the peace and resisting arrest.
The convoy, which left the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Burghfield the morning of July 10 and arrived at the Coulport nuclear store at 2:30 a.m. on July 11, was tracked by Nukewatch (UK) and the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
UK nuclear weapons convoy
Published on Friday, 11 July 2014
A convoy of more than 20 military vehicles drove through the centre of Glasgow on the M74 shortly after midnight last night. The convoy included four special lorries which transport Trident nuclear bombs. The convoy was stopped for one hour near Loch Lomond by protestors from Faslane Peace Camp. One climbed on top of a nuclear transporter. Four peace campers were arrested.
Scottish CND coordinator, John Ainslie, followed the convoy as it drove along the M74 from Hamilton, through the South of Glasgow, then over the Erskine Bridge. Mr Ainslie said, “This is an insult to the people of Glasgow and the rest of Scotland. Only 10 weeks before we vote on whether to be independent, the UK Government have sent this massive convoy of Weapons of Mass Destruction through the centre of Scotland’s largest city. The convoy was probably carrying six Trident bombs, each one seven times more powerful than the bomb which destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. This should be taken as a clear reminder of why people need to vote Yes – to rid Scotland of these horrific nuclear weapons.”
The convoy left the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Burghfield around 9 am yesterday (Thursday). It arrived at the Coulport nuclear store at 2.30 am this morning (Friday). It was tracked by Nukewatch (http://nukewatch.org.uk) and the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
The photo shows one of the nuclear weapon transporters on the A82 near Bowling at 00:50 this morning. The whole convoy was filmed earlier on Thursday on the M69 near Leicester – http://youtu.be/HSOxOnF6LqM (nuclear bomb lorries from 4:20)
The convoy lorries can each carry two Trident nuclear bombs. Normal practice is for one lorry in the convoy to be empty. So a reasonable estimate is that the convoy was carrying six 100-kiloton nuclear bombs.
The UK government are currently upgrading Trident bombs to a new Mk4A design. The convoy was probably bringing new Mk4A bombs to replace older Mk4 bombs. The Mk4A upgrade programme is a significant enhancement of the capability of the UK’s nuclear force. It makes the bombs more effective.
We’re all recovering this week after a long weekend during which a fair share of the Camp were banged-up for blocking the nuclear convoy by the bonny banks of Loch Lomond last Friday morning. There’s been some press but our own account was curtailed due to our legal support / photographer / press relations multi-tasker being arrested for no valid policing reason and our support team being driven off on the same basis. So, without further ado, here’s the definitive-account-of-the-action-cum-DIY-guide-to-convoy-stopping.
1. Location, location, location
The most important thing when stopping a series of large vehicles carrying nuclear weapons is to do it safely. Location is therefore key. We picked a spot at the top of the hill where the military ‘haul road’ leaves the A82 by Loch Lomond. The steep gradient would slow down the trucks, and the section in question is nice and straight so they would see our traffic-control person clearly from a safe distance. There’re also some nice things to hide behind – this spot has been used before to covertly monitor convoy movements. Arriving as night fell, we observed a vehicle parked in a lay-by overlooking our assembly point. With our spider-senses tingling, we opted to be dropped-off out of sight of this potential servant of the Enemy and make our way back through the roadside woodland. This seemingly-rational decision almost led to disaster as our plucky band of supposed outdoorsfolk managed to get lost twenty yards into the tree-line, sustaining various injuries, including the near-loss of an eye, along the way. With messages from the support team indicating the approach of our target, we decided that we didn’t have time for further clandestine nonsense and retreated to the higher-profile, but more expeditious, route of a drainage ditch close to the road.
With our people in place we went over the plan. One would be traffic control, kicking things off by very visibly entering the road and bringing the convoy to a halt for as long as it took for them to be arrested and removed. Whilst this was happening, another two would go for the first warhead carrier, trying to get on top of and underneath it to see which approach proved most effective in delaying the beast. Meanwhile, our fourth agent would be taking action-packed pictures and legal-observing, staying out of the way and getting back to camp to get the word out pronto once everything was over. These roles were based on individual strengths and weaknesses – for example, our climber is a big feartie who has jeopardised actions in the past with weird outbursts of trepidation, so wasn’t suitable for the crucial traffic-control job. With each assigned to something they were comfortable with, it was time to break out our gear.
3. Tools of the trade
We’d decided early on that use of heavy equipment like tripods and tubes would need more people on the job in support roles, therefore sticking to things we could carry in our pockets or small bags. Our traffic controller got a hi-vis vest, a peace flag, and a head-torch for maximum visibility on the road. Our up-and-down guys each took lock-on clips (simple chains with carabiner clips) and superglue, with a great bespoke banner to the climber for maximum visibility. A phone with both camera and internet capabilities went to our documentarian-observer-porter-PR-person superhuman. Everyone ready, we immediately received another message – the convoy was near and getting nearer. With a last, lingering look at our sackload of doughnuts that we’d not now have time to eat, we wished each other luck and got into position.
4. Stop, in the name of love (and peace)
We heard the convoy coming long before we saw it, but minute-to-minute updates from our mobile support made certain we were primed for the push-off. Garbed in gaudy flourescents, and furnished with first-hand observation of previous convoys, the first stopper waited patiently for the approach of the lead police car in the main convoy before boldly stepping before it to bring the trucks to a stop and the action to a start. As predicted, the police gave this person their full attention, failing to notice the disturbance in the bushes as two more of the anti brigade made their way to an unguarded warhead carrier. With the first arrest complete, and a false sense of security, the convoy began to move off again — only to halt almost instantly as a clattering behind the cabin of the first carrier signalled the intervention of our climber. This also triggered the deployment of the remainder of the police escort, and a second arrest was made as the under-blockader was unable to go to ground whilst the target vehicle was still moving.
Gaining the roof of the truck, our get-up-guy broke out the banner and waved its demand at the increasing number of police who were milling around in some disarray – ‘GET YOUR BOMBS OFF OUR STREETS’. Meanwhile, our person of record took some snaps from what seemed a safe distance, as well as making calls to advise our support team and the Nukewatch network as to what was happening.
Thus began something of a stand-off, as the police progressed from running around autonomously taking on random tasks to a slightly more coordinated response. With no chance of a voluntary descent by our climber, a support team got their gear together whilst most of the rest of the cops set to beating the bushes with broom-handles in an attempt to flush out hidden hippies. This process slowly but inexorably brought them to our comprehensive support person and arrest number three.
Pre-empting the raising of the ladders, the last blockader broke out the glue and got sticky with it, attaching one hand to a sidelight at the front of the truck cabin. This precipitated another ten minutes’ running around by the forces of oppression, as a bucket was sought and soapy solution prepared therein. Finally a grizzled specialist mounted the cabin to unseal flesh from plastic, becoming the first of many police to lay hands on the persistent protestor. It seemed that they required assistance throughout the process of making their way from the cabin roof to the back of a police van, with a harness and ropes used to lower them to the ground and four or five police then required to move and search them before the cuffs finally went on and the back of the van banged shut.
5. Crime and (lack of) punishment
After a detour to shepherd the resurgent convoy safely to Coulport, what followed for our people was a long and uneventful weekend staring at the walls in Clydebank nick (some preferred to read). Brought to court in Dumbarton on Monday, three of the four arrested were pleased to be warned about their future behaviour, with the hapless climber given court dates for breach of the peace and resisting arrest charges. If you want to be there for that, the fun is scheduled to start on October 31st at Dumbarton Sheriff Court.
Since our return, we’ve been pleased and privileged by the many messages of support we’ve received. Thanks to all who sent them, and to the Nukewatch network who tracked the trucks, and to the roving support who stayed on top of them so we could get on top of them, and to the Campers left to manage the Camp whose celebration meal was a winning counter to the cardboard cuisine the prisoners had endured, and to the supporters who made their way to court to ensure a friendly presence, and to the former campers whose advice informed the action, and to anyone else we’ve regrettably failed to include in this list. All these actions are a mass team effort in some way. Here’s to many more, for as long as it takes…