Friends in last ditch anti-Trident protests

Quakers were among those protesting against Trident renewal on 18 July

Left: Gwithian Doswell of Oxford Meeting was in the front line at the demonstration. Right: Paul Rainey of Bromley Meeting and Jean Hale of Forest Hill Meeting. | Photo: Trish Carn.

Quakers across Britain joined protests in the days and hours before the ‘main gate’ vote on the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which took place on Monday 18 July.

Friends were scattered through-out a 500-strong crowd gathered in London’s Parliament Square on a hot, humid evening. Protestors of all ages (and some bemused tourists)  listened as a series of speakers, among them politicians, peace activists and representatives of faith groups, once more spelled out the reasons not to renew Trident.

Frank Boulton, of health charity Medact, described, in the starkest way, the impact of a nuclear attack. He told those gathered that were a nuclear bomb to hit parliament, 200 million people would be within the range of damage, and the consequences would be unmanageable by the NHS. The UK simply would not be able to cope, he said.

Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi, the international Catholic peace movement, praised the energy and creativity shown by campaigners. She stressed that it ‘is never permissible to use a nuclear weapon, or to threaten people with nuclear weapons’.

Hywel Williams, the Plaid Cymru member of parliament for Arfon, spoke of the government’s refusal to say how much renewing Trident will cost. He described the situation as ‘a blank cheque for a weapon of mass destruction’, and spoke of his concern that members of parliament would make their decision on Trident’s renewal on the basis of five-minute-long speeches.

Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, described Trident as ‘a weapon that we can never use’, while Marion Fellows, Scottish Nationalist Party member of parliament for Motherwell and Wishaw, spoke of the ‘obscenity of Trident renewal’.

Paul Parker, recording clerk of Quakers in Britain, listed many reasons for not renewing Trident, among them the cost, the potential better uses for the money and the system’s inability to keep Britain safe. He then outlined why Quakers oppose Trident’s renewal. He spoke of the importance of people, peace and human dignity, and the environmental impact of a nuclear strike.

Paul called on members of parliament ‘to take a step towards a more peaceful, a more secure, a more dignified, a more faithful and a more loving future’.

Despite protests the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, however, members of parliament voted by 472 votes to 117 to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system.

Echoing the significant involvement of Scottish politicians in the Parliament Square event, almost forty protests were held in Scotland over the weekend before the vote. Friends were among those participating. Inverness Quakers took part in a Trident No More demonstration at Market Brae steps in Inverness town centre.

Three Friends holding placards.
Some of the Quakers at the Trident No More demonstration in Inverness. | Photo: Sila Collins-Walden.

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