The Burghfield wing of the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Berkshire has seen its biggest protest in years, with the three road entrances to the site blocked for nearly five hours this morning (9 June).
Opponents of the Trident nuclear weapons system locked themselves to cars and to each other to prevent traffic entering the site to carry out construction work. Although there have been protests at the site in the past, this is the first time that an unannounced protest has blocked access via all three roads.
Protests at the site have escalated in recent months, as Britain gets closer to a general election that could determine the future of Trident.
Two people were arrested as police forcibly cleared one of the entrances at around 11.00am. The blockade began just before 7.00am and finished around noon.
Twenty-nine people were involved. About a third were from Wales, with others from Reading, Bradford, Cornwall, London, Norfolk and elsewhere. The oldest participant was 82.
The Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn took to Twitter during the morning to declare his support for the protest.
The construction work at the site, where aspects of Trident are developed, is due to a government gift of £2bn to the AWE's sites at Burghfield and Aldermaston. This is in anticipation of Trident being renewed, even though Parliament will not make a decision on Trident renewal until 2016.
Those arrested are Peter Chan from Reading and Jane Picksley from Herefordshire. They are in police custody and it is not yet known if they will be charged.
The people blocking the site are members of Action AWE and Trident Ploughshares. Both groups include people of varied religions and none.
They are all committed to active nonviolence. They are calling on all parliamentary candidates to commit themselves to voting against Trident renewal.
“Today we effectively shone a spotlight on the expensive, deadly and unnecessary work that the AWE profits from,” said Hannah Brock, a Christian member of Action AWE, after police had cleared the gate where she had been locked to other protesters.
Brock added, “It was an empowering experience, and we hope that it inspires others to take peaceful action to stop Trident renewal before 2016. This is crucial if we are to prevent £100bn being spent on weapons of mass destruction, enough to fund every A&E department in the UK for the next 40 years.”
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