A group of around thirty people have this morning (9 June) used cars to block all entrances to the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Burghfield, Berkshire. The event marks an escalation in protests at the site, which have become more frequent in recent months.
The protesters, about a third of whom are from Wales, locked themselves to the cars and to each other just before 7.00am. The base is now at a standstill, with no traffic able to use any entrance.
The protest is delaying construction work at the AWE that is going ahead in anticipation of the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system. Ministers have pledged £2 billion of taxpayers' money for the construction work even though Parliament will not make a decision on Trident renewal until 2016.
The use of cars, along with the blocking of all three entrances at once, indicates new tactics by the protesters, who are part of the group Action AWE. With the general election less than a year away, they are stepping up their calls for candidates to commit themselves to opposing the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system.
Action AWE's Hannah Brock said that Trident renewal would cost around £100 billion.
Shortly before locking herself to others at one of the entrances today, she insisted that “We have to act now to stop the British government in 2016 committing to spending £100 billion on these machines, whilst at the same time dismantling public services in front of our eyes.”
Action AWE, which includes people of varied religions and none, say they are committed to behaving nonviolently.
Brock, a Quaker who also attends an Anglican church, said, “If there is anything that defies Jesus' example of loving your neighbours and your enemies, it is surely the indiscriminate killing of millions of strangers with nuclear weapons.”
Two cars and a trailer are involved in the protest, with one vehicle at each of three ways in to the site. Of the people involved, around a third are from Wales, with others from Reading, Bradford, Cornwall, London, Norwich and elsewhere. Many are locked to each other, with others standing nearby to provide support and to liaise with police.
"We need to resist our anti-democratic, money-oriented, corporate-controlled government building new nuclear weapons," said Angie Zelter from Knigton (Tref-y-clawdd) in Powys, who is locked to a car on a road leading to the main gate.
She added, "The world needs a complete change. We need to prepare for peace, not everlasting war."
Burghfield is seven miles from the AWE's better-known site at Aldermaston.
“We're not calling for the Burghfield and Aldermaston bases to be shut down,” explained Action AWE spokesperson Andrew Dey. “We're calling for them to stop working on nuclear proliferation. These bases can be used for disarmament purposes. We don't want these people to lose their jobs.”
There have been several protests at Burghfield over the last two years, but they have generally blocked only one entrance. The latest protest was on 19 May.
Action AWE are calling on parliamentary candidates to commit themselves to voting against Trident renewal and supporting an international treaty to ban all nuclear weapons.
Updates on developments at the site during the day will be posted on Twitter by @ActionAWE.