CND protest at the US Embassy, London

October 7 2000

from: Jean Stead, Grandmothers for Peace

Under the trees of Grosvenor Square, London, a small crowd of about 50 people gathered on October 7 to protest against National Missile Defence and all nuclear weapons. The United States Embassy in London, for those who have not seen it, is an imposing stone building overlooking the Square with pillars and broad steps leading to the entrance.

Grosvenor Square is in the centre of Mayfair, London's most fashionable area It is bounded by Oxford Street, Park Lane and Bond Street, with famous hotels like Claridge's and the Park Lane as its neighbours, and shoppers constantly passing through it on their way to the luxury stores.

It was the scene of huge demonstrations during the Vietnam War.

This demonstration was led by Dave Knight, the Chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the main anti-nuclear organisation in Britain, which started the famous marches of protest from the Aldermaston weapons centre to London in the 'fifties. Knight was supported by his vice-chairman, Matthew Pelling. Some of the original Aldermaston marchers were present, now elderly, but still passionate activists. The protesters had come from many parts of Britain, including faraway Scotland and Wales.

There was a police presence of London bobbies in their familiar helmets but no riot squads or police vans in evidence. Passionate speeches were made by Dave Knight and Helen John against the plans for nuclear weapons in space. "There must be a better way of resolving conflict than putting deadly weapons in space and allowing nuclear weapons to poison the earth, water and air," said Helen John. She was one of the founders of the women's protest against Cruise nuclear missiles in the 'eighties and was recently arrested for her part in protests at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, the "listening post" for any U.S. nuclear missile defence. She now spends most of her time campaigning at Menwith Hill.

After the speeches, Dave Knight and a small delegation handed in a statement and petition to the U.S. Embassy, accompanied by police.

This being London, the rain poured down relentlessly, defeating even the umbrellas which the demonstrators were rather uncharacterically having to carry. But Grandmothers for Peace International (British branch) made a proud first appearance outside the Embassy, armed with texts of the organisation's history and vision, written by its director, Barbara Weidner, from California, and application forms for membership. There were also badges sent by Barbara, and I was wearing my new GFP T-shirt! There weren't enough application forms and badges to go round all the people who asked for them. I'll have to do better next time. GFP leaflets were also handed out to passers-by. One of the policeman politely asked for a copy - "I may be a policeman but I have my own views." Perhaps it was for his grandmother. And, as a result, GFP now has some new members who have written to me asking to join and for more information. These will be followed up here and also sent to Barbara in California.

Dave Knight and CND have been very supportive of GFP and we hope that we will be able to support in growing numbers many more demonstrations in Britain.


Labour CND warns of new nuclear arms race

October 7 2000

from: Carol Turner [carol@caro50.freeserve.co.uk]

Labour CND warned today that the United States national missile defence (NMD) programme is could spark a new nuclear arms race, and urged supporters to join CND’s protest tomorrow, on Saturday 7th October.

The much-heralded delay announced by President Clinton in September simply hands the decision to begin the next phase of deployment over to the incoming president. Testing is already set to go ahead starting three months from now, in January next year. Peace campaigners will point this out when they gather at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square on Saturday to call for an end to US missile defence programmes.

The passage by the US congress of the 1998 National Missile Defence Act, supported in both Houses by Republicans and Democrats alike, signals Washington’s readiness to violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which has been the cornerstone of nuclear arms control since 1972. The US was one of only four countries to vote against a United Nations resolution calling for ‘full and strict compliance’ with the ABM Treaty. In October last year, President Clinton gave the green light for a massive $3.3027 billion to be to be spent on research and development.

By building a missile shield over the US, Washington is seeking the ability to launch a nuclear attack against an opponent whilst protecting itself from retaliation.

CND chair Dave Knight said: ‘Clearly this delay was caused by political sensitivity and technical problems rather than any concern that the project is fundamentally flawed and potentially destabilising.

‘The US presidential election campaign provides us with a "window of opportunity" to boost the existing opposition to missile de fence here in Europe and to work with our colleagues in the US. And the most appropriate place to get that message heard is outside the US Embassy.’

CND conference in September voted overwhelmingly to prioritise campaigning on this issue and to launch a vigorous national campaign to alert public opinion to the dangers of NMD.

CND supporters gathered in Grosvenor Square will be joined by CND Vice President Bruce Kent and Jeremy Corbyn MP for Islington North. The protest is called by British CND and supported by London Region and Labour CND.

This action is part of an International Day of Protest to Stop the Militarisation of Space. Yorkshire CND is organising an action at Fylingdales and the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB) is organising an action at Menwith Hill. Both are in north Yorkshire and required for the Pentagon’s NMD system.



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