Christians and others block gate to Berkshire's nuclear weapons factory

By staff writers
19 May 2014

Traffic is being diverted at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Burghfield in Berkshire this morning (19 May), as critics of nuclear arms have blocked a major gate into the site by locking themselves together.

Many of those involved are Christians. They have been singing hymns while lying in the gateway.

Eight people, aged between 19 and 40, lay down in the gateway at 7.20am, causing traffic intended for the facility to queue up along the road.

Police have been called and are diverting traffic but have not yet tried to move or arrest the blockaders.

The eight lying in the road are supported by others standing nearby to offer support and to liaise with police, site staff and the public.

They are taking the action just ahead of European elections and a year before the general election. They want all candidates to commit themselves to opposing the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which polls show is opposed by the majority of the public.

Burghfield is one of the AWE’s two sites, seven miles from the better-known Aldermaston site.

The Christians are working alongside other supporters of Action AWE, a grassroots campaigning network, which is open to people of all religions and none.

They say that they felt led to take action due to the failure of governments to halt the evil of nuclear weapons production or to respond to public opinion.

“The nonviolent Christ entered situations of violence and brought love, light and truth,” said Andrew Dey, an Anglican, before he lay down in the road. “In the same way, I believe Christians should be taking action against weapons of mass destruction, such as the Trident nuclear weapons system.”

As he lies in the road, Andrew is chained to Hannah Brock, a Quaker from London, who said, “I cannot stand by while the British government gives itself the power to murder millions, into the next generation. This isn’t the way of Jesus.”

Others blocking the gate include Chloe Skinner, from Sheffield, one of a group of Christians recently acquitted of aggravated trespass at the London arms fair.

Another blockader, Joanna Frew, is a member of the United Reformed Church. She described Trident as “the opposite of everything that Jesus teaches us about being co-creators of life and loving your enemies”.

Frew, who is Scottish but currently living in London, explained, “Political and religious leaders in Scotland are opposed to retaining Trident at Faslane. We have a real opportunity over the next year to say that it is no longer acceptable and that we don’t want an illegal renewal.”

The blockade includes two students from Bradford University: Amy Clark and Phil Wood.

The other two blockaders are Catherine Bann, a mother of two from Todmorden and Matt Fawcett, from Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Operated by a consortium of Jacobs Engineering Group, Lockheed Martin and Serco, AWE Burghfield plays an integral part in the final assembly and maintenance of nuclear warheads for use in the Trident system.

In 2011 Peter Luff, the then Minister for Defence Equipment, announced £2 billion of spending for redevelopment of the Burghfield and Aldermaston weapons factories.

Polls consistently show that well over half of the British public are opposed to the renewal of Trident. The figure appears to be rising, with 79 per cent opposing Trident renewal in a Guardian poll in April 2014.

You can keep track of developments at the Burghfield blockade today by following @ActionAWE and @PutDownTheSword on Twitter.

[Ekk/1]

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