Above Photo: Peace campaigners demonstrate against the US’s use of Britain as a platform for its nuclear arsenal. Steve Sweeney.
Hundreds gathered at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk yesterday to reject the presence of US nuclear weapons in Britain after a report detailed Washington’s plans to deploy warheads across Europe.
Protesters arrived from Bradford, Sheffield, Nottingham, Manchester and Merseyside with banners opposing Nato, raising them at the airbase’s perimeter fences.
Veterans from previous struggles including Greenham Common stood alongside those attending an anti-nuclear demonstration for the first time.
Malcolm Wallace of transport union TSSA made the journey from his Essex home to stress the importance of stopping the US from placing nuclear weapons on British soil.
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) general secretary Kate Hudson welcomed those that had made the journey to the base in the East Anglian countryside.
The organisation’s vice-chair Tom Unterrainer explained that though the nuclear missiles were housed in Britain, they would not be under the democratic control of Westminster.
“They could be launched without consultation, no discussion in our Parliament, no opportunity and no room for dissent in our democratic institutions,” he told the crowd.
The demonstration was organised by CND and Stop the War after expert Hans Kristiansen discovered details of the nuclear missile plans in a recent US Department of Defence financial report.
It is not known when the nuclear missiles will arrive, or even if they are already at Lakenheath. The British and US governments will neither confirm nor deny their presence.
Stop the War’s Chris Nineham gave a rallying speech in which he reminded the crowd that it was people power that forced nuclear missiles to be removed from Lakenheath in 2008.
“It is because of what ordinary people did — what you did — and we can do it all again,” he said.
Calling for more mobilisations, he said that in order to believe Nato is a defensive alliance, “you have to indulge in a kind of collective amnesia” that tells you that Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria never happened.
PCS union spokeswoman Samantha Mason echoed the slogan of the Italian trade union movement, who walked out on a 24-hour general strike on Friday and said that their British counterparts should follow suit with the demand to “lower your weapons and raise our wages.”
There was a strong showing from the Communist Party of Britain and the Young Communist League, who called for clarity over the nuclear status of Lakenheath and for the closure of all US military bases.
“We demand of our government the immediate confirmation of whether or not Britain is to once again play host to US nuclear weapons and if so, we demand the immediate withdrawal of these weapons,” the league said.