Anna Battista | 26.04.2003 09:01 | Anti-militarism
It's 9.00 a.m. and the bus organised by the Scottish CND (Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) is ready to leave from Glasgow's George Square. It's a cold and misty day, but nothing seems to stop activists, politicians, students and ordinary people to spend one day of their lives in front of the gates of Faslane, the base for Britain's Trident nuclear missile submarines.
A poster on one of the bus windows announces to the passers-by "The Really Big Blockade" 22nd April, people jump on the bus, get registered and happily take their seats. The driver starts the engine, the red battered bus rattles along the streets of Glasgow and off we go. This is the second bus organised from Glasgow to Faslane, the first left a few hours ago, around 5.30 a.m., and the next one will be due at 12.30 p.m. In this way protesters will be keeping on arriving at Faslane creating three "waves" that will try to stop people coming in and out of the base.
During the trip, the passengers chat about today's action, about politics, about the war or about the next Scottish elections. After stopping in Helensburgh Pier car park to collect more people, the bus drops us a couple of miles from the North Gate of the Faslane base.
We walk along a solid net wall topped by huge tubular tunnels of barbed wire. Nothing can be heard around us and for a moment it feels like walking outside a concentration camp. The silence is suddenly broken by police cars and trucks patrolling the street. A truck with a group of activists rushes past us, following the police cars, the people on board wave while a rainbow peace flag taped to one of the windows blows in the wind. We keep on walking and start seeing behind the net, among the bushes that cover one of the most terrible secrets of the world, placards warning us not to trespass the nets, pointing out that behind those gates there is a "defence" weapon. When we reach big rocks on which we read in big capital letters "TRIDENT IS IMMORAL", "TRIDENT IS MASS MURDER" and such slogans, we understand that we're not far away from the gate.
Police are patrolling the gate adorned with banners and placards with various slogans, from "Don't Attack Iran" to the ubiquitous Italian rainbow flags announcing "PACE" (peace) to assorted slogans such as "Celebrate Hope", "Not in My Name", "The Big Blockade", "Remember the Children of Iraq", "TRIDENT: Vote Out" and "Trident Is Terror".
Drummers are producing frantic, irresistible rhythms; four old ladies dressed like flowers are sitting in a circle of people surrounded by the police; a few members of the clergy take pictures together with Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan; a guy dressed like a vampire casually stands next to a Scottish Socialist Party placard that reads "No Blood For Oil"; a group of young people carrying big arrows on which there's written "Force", "Famine" and "War" surround a few actors carrying placards on which they have painted faces of Iraqi people. When the rain starts falling, the demo goes on. People huddle together and start chanting "Say hey, say oh, say Faslane has got to go," or adding "Bush and Blair have got to go" and "We all live in a terrorist regime, a terrorist regime, a terrorist regime," sang on the notes on The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine".
"I think the people here today are all that's best in humanity because they believe in peace," SSP leader Tommy Sheridan states when we by chance end up under the same umbrella, "They believe in brotherhood, they believe in sisterhood across the world. I think it's hypercritical that this country bombs another country into smithereens in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction when we posses the biggest arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in the whole world and here they are behind us," he points at the gate, "It is important that ordinary people continue to protest and say no to nuclear weapons. I think the people here are having an effect on public opinion because they are making the public more aware of the presence of these weapons of mass destruction. But we're going to need political change before we can decommission these weapons, that's why the people of Scotland will hopefully decide to vote for political parties that actually believe in disarmament." An impromptu church service starts, distracting us and the police and when the rain stops more people are sitting on the ground in front of the gates. For a while the police seem to be rather amused by the carnival-like atmosphere: some of them are munching on sweets offered by the crowd, others end up using the cameras with which they are taking pictures of the crowd or filming them for their records, to take pictures of themselves. But, after a while, they go back to do their job and start carrying away a few protesters. People go limp when they are carried away, making it harder for the police to clear the space in front of the gate. Shouts of "No Justice - No Peace" follow after the protesters are carried away by the police.
A girl dressed like Dorothy out of "The Wizard of Oz" arrives with a range of colourful characters taken from the same fable and they all lock on to each other via a papier-mâché tube. A group of girl acrobats performs a few metres from them. Party leaders chain themselves to a group of eight people, three of whom are in wheelchair. All of them are later arrested, from the "wizard of Oz" characters to the politicians.
When the bus arrives to take us back to Glasgow, the demo is coming to its conclusion. A group of people are doing a sort of ritual forward and backward dance in front of the gates, clapping and shouting. Police claim that more than 100 people on the 700 protesters who turned up at the demo, have been arrested.
On the bus back home there are people from England, Scotland, Belgium and The Netherlands among us and there's also a Finnish bus following us on the way back to Glasgow. Some of us are getting off in the Helensburgh Pier car park to get more trains and buses. We are leaving the car park when I see a guy sitting on a bench reading messages on his mobile phone. He turns towards our bus while we're waiting at a traffic light, slowly raises his left fist and smiles. I smile at him and wave back. A Belgian and a Scottish guy start talking about today's action, I happily join in while the bus leaves behind a weapon of mass destruction base that for a day has been inundated with the colours of peace.