Six members of the nonviolent campaigning group Trident Ploughshares have been arrested after blocking the entrance to a meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly at Edinburgh International Conference Centre. They said that they could not “stand idly by as NATO leaders plot further bloodshed and destruction”.
They were expressing opposition to the war in Afghanistan and to what they see as the hypocrisy of the NATO leaders who held a minute's silence as a “mark of respect to all those who have been affected by the conflict in Afghanistan”.
The activists said that they were “outraged by the very idea that those directly responsible for conducting this war could somehow show respect for the 7,000 civilians who have been killed, the five million refugees and the countless numbers of innocent people affected”.
Trident Ploughshares attempted to enter the Centre with a banner reading “We will not be silent”. Their protest took place shortly before the UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband and the NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen were due to speak.
They report that they crossed a series of barriers but were prevented from entering the building. They managed to block the entrance for fifteen minutes before being arrested.
They were visible to parliamentarians on their way into the session. Passers-by heard them calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan.
Those arrested - Sylvia Boyes, Irene Willis, Matt Bury, Brian Larkin, Jane Tallents and one other person who does not want her name made public - were held overnight and released the following morning without charge.
“NATO is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children” said Trident Ploughshares in a statement issued shortly after the incident, “To claim to 'respect' those affected while planning to send in yet more troops, which will inevitably lead to more civilian deaths, is an affront to the Afghan people and an insult to the families of those who have been killed”.
They insisted that “every time air and drone strikes kill civilians more people will turn against NATO and the UK and the US. Eight years of war have failed to accomplish anything”.
They added that “We should be putting more resources into humanitarian aid, building schools and hospitals, providing doctors and teachers. That is the way to build peace, not by sending in more troops”.