With the Quakers to Faslane


Our ex-secretary Fred Ashmore is a Quaker, and so I was able to arrange to go with him as an honorary Quaker to join others of this misnamed group of fearless Christians in an action at Faslane recently.  Faslane 365 is an ambitious plan started on 1st October for a one-year continuous blockade of the Trident base (see www.faslane365.org).

80 turned up to the meeting in Glasgow on the eve of the action.  It was decided this was enough to blockade both the main gate and the south gate.  I went in a 12-strong London based group to the south gate.  We left for Faslane the next morning at 6.30 to catch the busy early morning shift.  We were met by an ample force of police, and were warned at once that blockading the road would lead to arrest. Nevertheless they allowed us to form a ring on the road and dance and sing in the light drizzle for half an hour, during which time several cars were stopped and had to turn back, probably to enter the base at the alternative entrance.  Anyone not wishing to be arrested was free at any time to retire to the pavement. Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free, is a nice song.  When we eventually ran out of ideas, we did the hokey-kokey  - a rather ragged unrehearsed performance that could not have much impressed the police.  Then we were arrested, taken to a police station in Glasgow and charged with a breach of the peace.

We were given single cells.  The accommodation was sparse, rather claustrophobic for a new boy, supper and breakfast were just edible . . . but there is no point in elaborating on conditions that were expected to last only 24 hours.  The police handling of the Faslane protestors had been ‘fluffy’; those arrested on the simple charge of breach of the peace had been usually held for only 20 hours and then released without charge.  We were in fact not officially told of our release time until late evening.

The Quakers were marvellous, friendly, and immensely strong.  They welcomed me into their group and made the whole experience of action and arrest easy and enjoyable, even for one as timid as myself.

If the police in a country may be regarded as an indicator of the degree of its civilisation (and it is a guide that has been recommended as reliable), then the Scots must be near the top of the world league.  All the police we met (and we met many, at the base, during the transporting of us, and at the station) were friendly, easily provoked to conversation, and unthreatening. (One said that they were not a police force, but a police service.  Even so, they looked tough enough to deal with hardened criminals.)  Some intimated they would not be sorry to see Trident based outside Scotland.  This is not surprising.  The present Faslane action is tying up hundreds of police, and the residents of Glasgow have been complaining to their press that police are being diverted from patrolling the city’s streets.  They have a point.

Any action needs a lot of careful planning.  Ideally, the organisers would like the group to be large, able to take responsibility for blockading the base for two days. But with the ongoing blockade, small groups could turn up to encourage the blockers, and be arrested themselves if they so desire.  Check out the website, quoted above, or CND.  We stayed at a youth hostel in Glasgow www.syha.org.uk/SYHA/hostel_availability/av_701.htm.   



Harry Davis


Dancing in the rain blockading the South gate.



A group of hardened breachers of the peace waiting to be processed at the station.