On the 25th January 2000 the trial of Rosie James and Rachel Wenham began in the court at Lancaster Castle. They faced charges of £1m worth of damage to the Trident nuclear submarine Vengeance in Barrow shipyard on the night of 1st February 1999. The two swam out to the submarine and used hammers to disarm equipment on the conning tower. They also sprayed messages of peace, and hung a banner on the submarine declaring ‘Women Want Peace’. In reply to cross-examination regarding the Vengeance action, Rosie made it clear that she expected to be arrested, charged and tried for her actions. She said, ‘We were not criminals running away from what we did; what we did was true and right and proper, and we feel no shame in taking it before a court of law.’
The Anti-nuclear Weapons Ploughshares Movement
Posted by Chris Hart
The Ploughshares Movement is an anti-armaments movement that advocates active resistance to war and practices symbolic protest that involves the damaging of weapons and military property. It also sometimes involves the symbolic pouring of blood onto weapons. The name ‘ploughshares’ refers to the text of prophet Isaiah who said:
‘And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more’ – Holy Bible, Isiah 4.
The Ploughshares Movement is an anti-armaments movement that advocates active resistance to war and practices symbolic protest that involves the damaging of weapons and military property.
Ploughshares actions are made by people committed to peace and disarmament and who nonviolently, safely, openly and accountably disable a war machine or system so that it can no longer harm people. The underlying appeal is the universal call to peace, to abolish all war and to find peaceful ways to resolve our conflicts. It recognises the violence that war always is and calls upon the biblical example of Christ and other religious and humanitarian figures to resist violence and the deep immorality of threats to kill. Ploughshares actions share common elements:
Absolutely nonviolent to people
Each actor claims personal responsibility for her or his actions, never fleeing the scene but rather standing accountable
Making some effort, big or small, real or symbolic, to turn swords into ploughshares
The movement first gained public awareness in the early 1980’s when several members damaged government weapons property in the USA and were subsequently convicted and spent 10 years in custody. In Britain the most high profile action was a Seeds of Hope Ploughshares action carried out by 4 women who caused £1.5 million worth of damage to a British Aerospace Hawk jet at Bae Warton, Lancashire. The plane was prevented from being exported to Indonesia where it may have been used to continue the internationally opposed genocide being committed in East Timor. The women were acquitted in a landmark case at Liverpool Crown Court in July 1996 having argued that their act was justified in law as they were preventing British complicity in genocide.
Ploughshares actions are made by people committed to peace and disarmament and who nonviolently, safely, openly and accountably disable a war machine or system so that it can no longer harm people.
A new and specifically British version of the movement, Trident Ploughshares, was publicly launched in May 1998. Trident Ploughshares aimed to train and enable international global citizens to dismantle the British Trident nuclear weapon system. The justification and mandates for their disarmament actions include:
The Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of 8th July 1996 that confirmed the general illegality of nuclear weapons and concluded that States are under an obligation to bring to a conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects;
The failure of the British Government to implement Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which promised nuclear disarmament by the nuclear powers;
The long-term opposition of the vast majority of the world’s peoples and States who have called for global nuclear disarmament ever since the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.
In April 1998 security at the Trident bases, near Glasgow, was tightened after protesters ‘borrowed’ a police boat from inside the high security area by the Explosives Handling Jetty at Coulport and drove it for 40 minutes around the Lochs into another High Security Area in Faslane, where they landed a woman only yards away from two Trident submarines. ‘We were putting it to its right and proper use – taxpayers expect police equipment to be used to uphold the law,’ said Angie Zelter, one of the activists, ‘That is what we did, we used the boat to investigate the ongoing British conspiracy to commit war crimes and grave breaches of international humanitarian law with weapons of mass destruction.’
To date well over 70 Ploughshares actions have taken place around the world.
Lancaster Castle Trial
Rosie James and Rachel Wenham’s trial was moved to Manchester as the defense barrister argued successfully that it was hard to find an unbiased jury in Lancaster as so many jurors had connection to the armaments industry. After 3 years and two trials Rosie and Rachel were neither found guilty nor innocent as both trials had hung juries; and to proceed further was considered not worth the public expense.
To date well over 70 Ploughshares actions have taken place around the world. In September 2014 there was a protest outside the Trident base in Faslane as part of the Scottish Referendum campaign where a continuous peace camp has existed since 1982. Indeed on September 16th 2014 peace camp activists swept past security in an amphibious assault. Two boats made it under the radar allowing one activist to make a landing near a Trident submarine.
Despite these actions, both Trident weapons and constant warfare are still a part of our global landscape and one of the largest parts of the North West economy.