Trident Rally is Britain's Biggest Anti-nuclear March in a Generation
February 29, 2016 Mark Townsend / The Guardian & Natalie Bennett / The Huffington Post
Thousands of protesters assembled in central London for Britain's biggest anti-nuclear weapons rally in a generation. Campaigners gathered from across the world: some said they had travelled from Australia to protest against the renewal of Trident. Others had come from the west coast of Scotland, where Britain's nuclear deterrent submarines are based.
Trident Rally is Britain's Biggest Anti-nuclear March in a Generation Mark Townsend / The Guardian
LONDON (February 27, 2016) -- Thousands of protesters have assembled in central London for Britain's biggest anti-nuclear weapons rally in a generation.
Campaigners gathered from across the world: some said they had travelled from Australia to protest against the renewal of Trident. Others had come from the west coast of Scotland, where Britain's nuclear deterrent submarines are based.
As the huge column of people began moving from Marble Arch after 1pm, the mood was buoyant and spirited despite the cold.
Naomi Young, 34, from Southampton said: "You can't use nuclear weapons. You would destroy the environment and kill hundreds of thousands of people. Why spend £100bn to buy a weapon unless you want to destroy the earth?"
Many waved placards with phrases including "Books Not Bombs", "Cut War Not Welfare" and "NHS Not Trident".
A common theme among protesters was the cost of renewing Trident during a period of austerity.
Andy Pomphrey, 67, from Hampshire, said: "It's such an excessive amount of money for a weapons system when the NHS and junior doctors, are struggling."
Kai Carrwright, 17, from Exeter said: "We are having to pay to go to university and yet they want to spend £100bn on something that can only lead to the destruction of life on Earth."
The campaigners headed for Trafalgar Square where were addressed by the leaders of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green party. The true draw -- cited as an inspiration by many of those assembled -- was the leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, whose unswerving unilateralist stance has electrified the nuclear deterrent debate in a manner few could have foreseen.
As crowds built from midday close to the assembly point at Marble Arch, it quickly became evident that the event would mark the biggest anti-nuclear demonstration since 1983, when 300,000 gathered in London's Hyde Park to demonstrate against the deployment of Cruise missiles at Greenham Common, Berkshire. Union officials, faith leaders, anti-nuclear activists and anti-war campaigners were evident. Stewards estimated the numbers ran into "many tens of thousands".
Organisers of the march, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, were confident the turnout would send a robust message of growing support against renewing the nuclear weapons system -- at an estimated cost of least £41 billion -- and argued that worries about job losses were a red herring.
Corbyn's decision to address the rally later on Saturday has further exposed a faultline through the party, and he has been criticised by some for highlighting party splits on a key debate.
Entering the stage to rapturous applause, he said that no one should forget the "absolute mass destruction on both sides" that would follow a nuclear attack and reiterated his "total horror of nuclear weapons, should they ever be used by anybody".
Corbyn said he was elected Labour leader on a manifesto in which standing against the renewal of Trident was a key component.
He acknowledged the party's role in the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty and urged: "I want to see a Labour government that would adhere to all the articles of the non-proliferation treaty."
The treaty had worked, given that most countries that did not have nuclear weapons at that time had not subsequently acquired them, Corbyn told the crowd. It was a credit to countries such as Argentina, South Africa and Brazil that both Africa and South America remained free of such weapons, he added.
The US, Russia and the UK signed the treaty, pledging their cooperation in stemming the spread of nuclear technology.
Corbyn, who said he joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament when he was 16, also made reference to those who questioned whether he should be attending the protest: "A lot of people said that maybe it was utterly relevant maybe you shouldn't be there, but I want to be here because of my belief in a nuclear-free future."
He said he chose to address the demonstration because he believed in a "different kind of politics in a different kind of world, a world that emphasises dealing with the crying needs of the poor and homeless in this country. Those that are going short and suffering public spending cuts."
Earlier this week, union activists from the GMB attacked Corbyn over his stance on Trident, warning that tens of thousands of skilled jobs were dependent on parliamentary backing for renewal of the nuclear submarine programme.
He advocated re-investing some of the money allocated for Trident on keeping jobs in the affected areas.
Actor Vanessa Redgrave, Rou Reynolds of rock band Enter Shikari, and comedian Francesca Martinez also addressed the rally. Other high-profile speakers include writer and priest Giles Fraser, and the writer Tariq Ali.
The rally received support from a number of cultural figures including bands Young Fathers and Massive Attack. Fashion designer Katharine Hamnett recently unveiled a new Stop Trident T-shirt range while Portishead's Geoff Barrow is currently mixing a single in support of the campaign.
The event also received significant international support with campaigners from Japan, the only country to have suffered an attack by an atomic bomb, urging Britain to work towards disarmament.
Gensuikyo, the Japan Council against A and H Bombs, joined similar organisations from France, Switzerland, Italy, New Zealand and the US in sending messages of support and solidarity to the CND, the organisers of Saturday's demonstration.
The Successor programme to replace the four Vanguard nuclear armed submarines currently carrying Trident missiles is now priced at £31bn, with a further £10bn set aside for unforeseen risks.
A parliamentary vote on renewing Trident is expected later in the year.
(February 25, 2016) -- The people of Spain, Sweden, Canada, Mexico and almost all of the world's other countries didn't wake up this morning and feel unsafe because they don't have nuclear weapons.
They did wake up in a less secure world because of the existence of these hideous weapons of mass destruction.
Trident nuclear weapons don't protect us in Britain, or any other nuclear power, from terrorism, stop the devastating effects of climate change or promote human rights and democracy around the world -- the true foundations of future security.
As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Britain is, or should be, committed to working to rid the world of nuclear weapons -- an effort that's been stepped up recently by the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on the issue.
It is backed by 138 countries -- we were one of the few in opposition. And we did not attend the talks -- a disgraceful snub to an important international effort.
We have 1% of the world's nuclear weapons. That's militarily insignificant, even though the missiles on one Trident submarine (what we have operational at one time as standard) could kill 10 million people and start a nuclear winter.
Getting rid of them could have a massive positive impact, a huge boost to rid the world of this danger and move the hands of the Doomsday Clock further away from midnight.
When talking about Trident, it's tempting to focus on the price-tag. The cost, at the latest count of £167billion, is enough to fully fund A&E services for 40 years, employ 150,000 new nurses, build 1.5million affordable homes, build 30,000 new primary schools or cover tuition fees for four million students.
But that isn't the biggest issue here. The biggest issue is the future security of the world.
Despite David Cameron saying he'd use the nuclear button, even the proponents of Trident agree that these are unusable weapons, but their very existence creates the risk of use.
And concerns about the risk of misunderstanding, mishap or hacking leading to the firing of a nuclear weapon are significant. So are safety concerns: William McNeilly, a member of the Royal Navy who was until very recently stationed at Faslane, published a report last May with details of 30 serious breaches.
Trident is a danger, not a security measure.
We're currently in a real period of political change -- from the election of (anti-Trident) Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader to the success of the left-wing positioned (and strongly anti-Trident) SNP over rightwing Labour in Scotland -- even the surprising progress of Bernie Sanders, with some very different ideas about US foreign policy in the US Democratic race.
And we're coming up to the major decision on Trident replacement.
Now is the time to step up the pressure for Britain to get rid of Trident and not replace it.
That's why I'm confident the CND national demonstration against Trident on 27 February will be big, very big.
Green MP Caroline Lucas will be there, as will many Green Party members.
We've consistently maintained complete opposition to nuclear weapons over decades, in line with our principles and values.
And we've got a government that -- having won the vote of just 24% of eligible voters -- doesn't have a mandate to make the massive, dangerous decision of replacing Trident.
Please join the call to scrap Trident -- on the streets of London, online, in your conversations with friends, classmates, colleagues and family.
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