Cyclists take anti-cuts message to Berkshire nuclear weapons factory

By staff writers
March 27, 2015

A group of cyclists have set off from London this morning (27 March 2015), heading for the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) based at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire.

On their two-day trip, they will meet communities affected by government cuts and visit the offices of arms companies profiting from government subsidies.

AWE is where warheads are developed for the Trident nuclear weapons system. Protests against Trident are becoming increasingly frequent as the general election approaches.

The cyclists began at 8.30am at the offices of arms giant Lockheed Martin in Regent Street. The US-based company is one of the owners of AWE. Supporters joined them and several passing members of the public expressed their support.

“A few weeks ago I was invited to join Wheel Stop Trident,” said Nikki Ray, who lives in New Malden. “I said yes because nuclear weapons don’t make us any safer. Our safety and security are threatened when vital public services are cut by government – while billions are spent on Trident.”

On their 60 mile journey, the 10 cyclists will visit Ealing Hospital, which is facing the closure of its maternity unit, and meet local residents campaigning to save it.

They will also visit the sustainable community Grow Heathrow and a renewable energy site near Reading. Tonight, they will stay overnight with Slough Quakers.

“Ealing hospital's future is still uncertain,” explained Laura Stringhetti of Ealing Save Our NHS. “The government tells us that austerity is necessary as there is no money left, while there is money for nuclear weapons and wars."

Welcoming the cyclists' plans, she added, "I support initiatives such as Wheel Stop Trident as we need to raise awareness that the money is there but the priorities are all wrong.”

The participants in Wheel Stop Trident are from various parts of London, as well as Yorkshire, Hastings and Gloucestershire. They include people of various religious traditions and none.

As they leafleted Lockheed's employees this morning, the cyclists explained that they do not want anyone to be put out of a job and instead want public investment in alternatives to the arms industry to provide people with meaningful work.

They quoted the recent Arms to Renewables report by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which sets out how the skills of arms industry workers could be used in developing renewable energy.

“I'm cycling from London to Burghfield because nuclear weapons do nothing towards the real security threats, such as climate change, that will only become more acute in the future,” explained Andrew Dey, a Christian peace activist from Bradford, who now lives in London.

The ride comes the same weekend as a group of young Quakers gather in Reading to plan activism against Trident. A Christian protest against Trident will also take place at AWE this weekend, marking Palm Sunday, on which Christians remember Jesus leading a march in Jerusalem.

Parliament is due to make a decision in 2016 on whether to renew Trident, at a cost of up to £100 billion. Campaigners point out that polls consistently show a majority of the British public to be opposed to Trident renewal.

Although a decision on Trident renewal has not yet been made, the government has already spent millions on new facilities at AWE. Recent revelations showed that the new developments are already over-budget and behind schedule.

*Arms to Renewables here: https://arms-to-renewables.org.uk/#page_0

[Ekk/1]

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