Menwith Hill, England
13 October 2002
Report from Lindis Percy
The police presence was substantial. The weather was awful and there were a lot of other events on the same day. Nevertheless it was impressive that about 80 people came to NSA Menwith Hill on Saturday 12 October 2002. All entrances to the base were closed while the demonstration was on and traffic was diverted off the roads round the base.
Diana Wallis (Liberal Democratic Member of the European Parliament) spoke impressively and interestingly from the European perspective. She talked about the fact that democratically elected MEPs had been denied access to Menwith Hill for years. She was deeply concerned about the roles of MHS and particularly because of the pending immoral, unlawful, undemocratic and dangerous US led war against Iraq.
Ann Cryer (Labour Member of Parliament for Keighley) came to speak and rededicate a tree that was planted outside the Main entrance to Menwith Hill in memory of her late husband Bob (MP for Bradford South) who died in a car crash in 1994. He worked tirelessly to bring public scrutiny and awareness to the role and function of Menwith Hill. The tree was moved recently because of the road widening and changes to the security at the Main entrance to Menwith Hill.
A simple plaque was tied on to the trunk of the tree and Ann laid a posy of flowers at the base of the tree.
Ann was one of the MPs who voted recently in the House of Commons debate against the war on Iraq - although a vote was not formally allowed.
We are hoping that the plaque on the tree will not be stolen this time. The first plaque 'disappeared' the same day of the dedication in 1994 and despite letters of objection to the base it was never found.
We walked round the base stopping at various points while Lindis Percy talked about the history of protest, the base and the key roles that Menwith Hill will play in the American Missile Defense programme and the pending US led attack on Iraq. Attention was drawn to the two Space Based Infra- Red System radomes which were constructed in 1999. She also encouraged people to go for a walk in the base. Alistair Hurley gave a brief talk about the technology of the base.
Several people walked into the base. Anni Raw powerfully sang 'Keep your eye on the prize'. There were no arrests - one woman bravely (!) took all her clothes off during the walk to reveal a message - Quakers for Peace. She was hurriedly dealt with by a woman police officer and later reported with a view to prosecution for 'indecent exposure'.
A French TV unit were present during the whole of the demonstration and filmed and interviewed people. The local press and Press Association were there.
A police officer was overheard to say that Superintendent Craddock of the Ministry of Defence Police Agency (the British police force who are employed and under the operational control of the US Visiting Forces at Menwith Hill and other US bases) was called back from leave by the US base authorites and warned that if there were ANY breaches of security 'management heads would roll'.
How simple it was to close the base. We now plan other actions to keep the American Missile Defence programme on the public agenda and the deep concern of growing numbers of people concerning the US attack on Iraq.
We had encouraged people to take actions of peaceful civil disobedience which some people did for the first time. Menwith Hill must now expect more breaches of security and actions of civil disobedience. We know we can and intend to seriously disrupt the workings of this key US base.