Press cutting

Seventy arrests at anti-war blockade

Tom Ebbutt at Northwood Varsity, 24 January 2003

Cambridge students were among the 70 protestors arrested on Sunday at a peaceful protest outside Britain's Military Headquarters. They were members of the four hundred anti-war protestors who rallied outside RAF Northwood, near London, to make clear their opposition to the impending war in Iraq.

Activists fastened themselves to the gates and others sat in the high-way in an attempt to bring the base to a standstill. The group locked onto the main entrance were attached to a 5-foot pair of purple Y-fronts that had the slogan "war is pants" emblazoned on them. Their mascot, a purple doll bearing the words "pants to war", accompanied them during the lock-on.

After gathering at 10am at Northwood tube station the protest moved along a predetermined route towards the military site after the police received a court judgement allowing them to contain the protestors within a defined area.

After being stopped at a police blockade 200 meters from the central gate the marchers were eventually allowed to continue on to their target. Upon reaching the base's perimeter some activists began a sit-down protest whilst others began to sing anti-war songs and read poetry. A steel band also joined in the fun. The protestors attached to the gates were removed, shivering from the cold and wet, at 1pm after four hours locked on. One appeared close to hypothermia.

At the same time another team had fastened themselves to the only other entrance of the base, meaning the sole remaining way in or out of the control centre would have been by helicopter. After an hour locked on the team were removed and arrested. The sit down protest was broken up at 4pm when the majority of the arrests were made. The arrest tally is the largest at an anti-war protest since the Gulf War in 1991.

Jonathan Stevenson of Caius, a member of CamSAW and one of those arrested said the most important military base in Britain was a vital part of the worldwide protests, but it will only make the Government sit up and listen if it helps get thousands of people taking direct action against the war." Jonathan, an English student, was arrested while working on his essay as he took part in the peaceful sit down protest. Varsity learnt this week that he managed to complete the book before his deadline but was unable to complete his essay before time ran out.

The blockade was organised by Voices in the Wilderness UK, ARROW (Active Resistance to the Roots of War) and the D10 group. The protest was the second day of a weekend of non-violent direct action at Northwood. The previous day hundreds of activists had taken part in "Operation Internal Look" photographing the base in breach of the Official Secrets Act.

Richard Byrne, one of the weekend's organisers, says that the Government has to be made to listen to the arguments against the conflict. "To stop this war people have to move from dissent to defiance. If this Government backs the US war on Iraq they will encounter civil disobedience on an unprecedented scale."

Information leaked to Varsity shows that Cambridge anti-war protestors plan to bring Cambridge to a standstill in the event of an attack on Iraq. Following the news of a declaration of war there will be a meeting in the Market Square at 12.30pm followed by a procession down Regent Street to the War memorial where a wreath of white poppies will be laid to remember those who have died in previous wars and those who will die in this one. This will be followed by what was described as "an act of civil disobedience" in protest against the Government's failure to listen to the views of the country The groups all hope that these plans will never have to he used.

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