Keep Space for Peace Local Action at Fylingdales
25 September, 2004
From: Dave Webb
About 3 or 4 hundred people gathered on the North Yorkshire Moors at the start of 'Keep Space for Peace Week' in the UK. Although the weather forecast had been bad (which probably kept many people away) we actually had some sunshine and blue skies - although it was (as usual) a bit breezy at times. We were assembling in the usual place for a Fylingdales demonstration - about 1/2 a mile down the road from the base entrance in a side track off the main road near the road bridge by Eller Beck.
People gathered from around 11am and came from all corners of the country - Newcastle, Penzance in Cornwall, London, Sheffield, etc... This was a national demonstration organised by Yorkshire CND and National CND and featured a special appearance by Thom Yorke from the band "Radiohead" who has taken a very serious interest in the campaign. His presence attracted more than the usual amount of photographers and reporters - I'm not sure how film and rock stars can stand the continuous barrage of camera lenses and microphone shoved in their direction. Part of the job I suppose.
CND had erected a large tent in case the weather turned - always a consideration on the bleak and wind swept North Yorkshire Moors - inside there was information, games (pin the interceptor on the incoming missile - surrounded by decoys - and spot the missile) T-shirts, posters, etc. outside there was the wonderful countryside with the pyramid radar prominently positioned to remind us of why we were there.
The radar is being 'upgraded' now for use as part of the US global missile defense system and will soon be plugged in to the network that is to be used for missile tracking, targeting and battle management. Fylingdales sends data directly to US Space Command in Cheyenne Mountain and also forms part of the Space Surveillance Network which tracks all space objects orbiting Earth and would therefore be integral to any anti-satellite or space war programme.
The entertainment included a drumming workshop, good company and great food. There were speeches introduced by Neil Kingsnorth (Yorkshire CND campaigns worker and chief organiser of the day) from Jackie Fearnley of the Fylingdales Action Network, Dave Knight (Chair of the Advisory Board of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space - most probably the longest title of anyone present), Kate Hudson (National CND Chair) and Thom Yorke. Together they reminded us of the role of Fylingdales and the continuing push by the US military for full spectrum dominance and control of space for war fighting. Jackie spoke of how the Global Network had helped develop links with No Nukes North in Alaska (among others) and we thought of them protesting outside Fort Greely later that day. Dave told everyone about the extent of the Keep Space for Peace Week demonstrations - 100 actions and events in 10 different countries. Kate Hudson emphasised the importance of the base in the plans of the US military - missile defence ensuring there could be no retaliation from a nuclear first strike policy, new nuclear weapons designed to be used in the battlefield and the US Space Command desire to be "Masters of Space". Then Thom Yorke spoke from the heart of his concerns: that Blair dared to go to war, despite huge opposition, without a proper debate. He couldn't understand how Blair and Bush could be planning for "Star Wars" or why people were not taking these issues extremely seriously. He was pleased to be associated with the campaign and has offered help in the future.
At around 2pm we started the march from Eller Beck to the base. The police held up the traffic on the major road that we were walking.
This was a historic event as for the first time we were to walk a public footpath that took us right up to the inner fence that surrounds the radar pyramid. Usually protests have been confined to outside the gate at the main road end of the service road that leads into the base. A long time campaigner had recently discovered details of an ancient footpath that ran through the base and we therefore exercised our right to access that path as far as we possibly could.
There were plenty of police to escort us and they made sure that we did not stray from the confines of the narrow footpath - carefully marked out by a series of wooden posts hammered into the moorland.
At the fence three of us were allowed outside of the footpath to address those present through a megaphone - although this was rather difficult as there was considerable interference from the radar, or some other electronic system, that made the megaphone sound more like a Geiger counter. At this point Jackie Fearnley read out the statement of support that had been sent from Stacey Fritz from No Nukes North in Alaska. A statement had been sent from the Fylingdales Action Network to Alaska for their protest demonstration on the same day.
We then reversed the journey back up the road to Eller Beck escorted by the police (who had been extremely pleasant and helpful all day). We then packed up and dispersed to our various homes.
It was a good day for meeting people, talking, enjoying the beauty of the Yorkshire Moors (as one protestor's sign said: "More heather less Bush"), showing our deep concerns about the huge costs involved in the escalation of highly dangerous, unreliable and expensive technology as a supposed solution to 'terrorist and rogue state threats', rather than the promotion of schemes to feed, house, care for and educate the world at a fraction of the cost.
The weather stayed fine - let's hope that's a good omen.
The Alaskan Keep Space for Peace Statement of Support
Alaskans are gathering at Fort Greely on this day to demonstrate our profound dedication to global cooperation, arms control, and a livable world for future generations. The
missiles are right across the road, but we’ve come to preemptively deploy a fantastic Peace Dove instead. We think the dove has a much better chance of ‘Securing the High Ground’ as the
motto on the Fort Greely sign says.
(See local news reports)