Hundreds of peace demonstrators, including Christian groups and nonviolence activists, blockaded the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston yesterday, to protest Britain's weapons of mass destruction.
The weapons research and development base is near Reading. Among those backing the action, organised by Trident Ploughshares, was the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CCND) and peace church members, including Quakers and Mennonites.
Protesters successfully blocked a number of gates at the AWE. Activists managed to stop the A340 for two hours using a tripod of scaffolding with a protester perched on top.
At one point, during the busiest period of the day, all gates were blocked.
One Christian affinity group blockaded a gate dressed in angel costumes and carrying flowers, toys and everyday items contrasting the lives of the victims of weapons of mass destruction with the clinical conditions in which those weapons are researched.
Activists attached themselves to gates and superglued their hands together. Police erected "modesty shields" so that the public could not see them while they tried to separate and remove the protestors.
"The police were friendly, but they obviously think they would look bad trying to force apart peaceful people carrying teddy bears!" a participant in the blockade told Ekklesia.
Nine protesters locked together also blocked a gate into the site for five hours, Trident Ploughshares said.
Thames Valley Police said around 150 people joined the protest which began at 6 AM. The demonstrators say that there were many more there - nearer 300 people.
A spokesperson for the police admitted that the protesters were peaceful. However, 33 people were arrested, mainly for obstruction of the highway, and taken to custody at Newbury, Loddon Valley, Maidenhead and Abingdon police stations. Another 20 carried out arrestable, non-violent actions.
Chief Inspector Robbie Robins of Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) claimed that "officers ensured that everyone who attended could exercise their right to engage in lawful protest, while at the same time making sure that members of the public could go about their normal day-to-day business."
"By normal day-to-day business they mean preparing weapons that maim. kill and destroy," a Christian protester commented. "This is the degree of disconnection from reality that is being required of those 'just doing their job' at AWE."
Trident Ploughshares says its aim was to disrupt and halt work at the weapons site which is also AWE's company headquarters. The action was a success, and more are planned.
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) chair Kate Hudson declared: "This is the largest blockade of Aldermaston for many years and signals an increased public concern about Britain's weapons of mass destruction."