Hundreds of people from varied walks of life are expected to arrive at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, Berkshire today (15 February) in an attempt to blockade the site.
A range of faith groups are involved in the event. Christian leaders expected to be present include three Church of England bishops - Peter Price (Bath and Wells), Stephen Cottrell (Reading) and Mike Hill (Bristol). They will be joined by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, Thomas McMahon.
The blockade will begin at 7.00am. An interfaith liturgy will take place at the Tadley Gate from 11.00am.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), who are running the protests along with Trident Ploughshares and the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Campaign, insist that the activism will be strictly nonviolent.
Many of the activists will protest lawfully, while others will risk arrest as they attempt to block each gate of the site with what CND describe as “Gandhi-style sit-down protests” from 7.00am. Campaigners are likely to use chains and handcuffs to link themselves together. It is thought that the police may use special cutting teams to remove them.
“Nuclear weapons are built to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians indiscriminately,” said Penny Stone, who has travelled from Edinburgh to Aldermaston to take part in the protests, “They are immoral, illegal and compromise the safety of everybody living in the UK and indeed the whole world”.
She told Ekklesia, “I feel it is my duty as a global citizen to do everything in my power to prevent the preparation and use of these dangerous weapons”.
While the activists hope to disrupt the production and preparation of nuclear arms, if only briefly, the protests are also intended to signal the level of public opposition to the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system.
The Prime Minister is committed to renewing Trident, but polls show a majority of the public to be opposed and the cabinet is reported to be split on the issue. Meanwhile, governments around the world are preparing for a major nuclear non-proliferation summit in May.
“At a time of economic crisis it is scandalous that billions of pounds are being squandered on new facilities at Aldermaston,” said CND chair Kate Hudson, “Trident is a Cold War weapons system which does nothing to protect Britain from the threats we face today”.