‘Keep Space for Peace’ demonstration close to NSA Menwith Hill

Saturday 4 October 2008

CAAB Report 224.

Despite the terrible weather and other events happening on the same day, people came to the eighth annual ‘Keep Space for Peace’ demonstration which is part of a week of international protest against Missile Defense called for by the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space (www.space4peace.org). The police were in excess – on foot, on horses, on bikes, in cars and waiting in the side roads in vans. Extra Ministry of Defence Police Agency officers were on duty on the base.

Again, a section 12 notice (Public Order Act1986) was served on everyone at the demonstration which prohibited anyone from ‘processing on foot on the A59’. The police would not allow anyone to step on the grass verge of the laybye and threatened arrest if anyone did and escorted off. We have again contacted Liberty about these restrictions which fell beyond the conditions of the notice.

There were wonderful musicians – Karl Dallas, Sunhumble, Ylem and the Peace Artistes. The speakers were Rebecca Johnson (Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy) and Colin Challen Labour MP for Morley and Rothwell.

Rebecca Johnson focused on the dangers of weapons in space and said that interceptor missiles sited in Poland are still missiles. The Russians see them as a direct threat that requires counter measures. We live in a dangerous world.

Colin Challen talked about the excessive policing of the demonstration which did nothing to reduce the suspicion that there is something to hide. He said that it is incredibly important and worthwhile to continue to protest against Missile Defense. He will continue to raise the issue in Parliament. It was essential that there was Parliamentary scrutiny concerning Missile Defense.

A small delegation including Rebecca Johnson and Colin Challen drove to the main entrance at Menwith Hill with a message of concern addressed to Mary O’Brien (US Base Commander). This had been signed by those at the demonstration. We wrote to Mary O’Brien (sent by recorded delivery) the day before to say that this is what we intended to do.

The US Commander was nowhere to be seen nor any American representative. Terry Moody ( Inspector Ministry of Defence Police Agency) received the letter and assured the delegation that it would be given to Mary O’Brien [David Ranson – (Inspector MDPA ) confirmed at the Tuesday evening demonstration on 7 October that it had been given to Mary O’Brien personally].

The police were clearly expecting us to go on a walk round the base (prohibited by the section 12 notice) and when they thought we would, boths ends of the laybye were blocked by the police. There were police at 10 metre intervals on the length of the grass verge of the laybye where the demonstration was held. This site had been chosen this year so that it was more visible to the passing traffic.

We had no intention of walking in procession round the base but instead, drove in convoy in a series of cars, holding the upside down US flag from the passenger window- leaving the police standing. The convoy was led by a cyclist – causing a long tail back of cars.

The demonstration ended early because of the heavy rain.

Thank you so much to all who came, to Martin Schweiger, to the excellent speakers, the talented musicians and Lunch Out Lils who supplied the delicious food and to all who helped to organize the demonstration. We would also like to thank Dave Tetley (PC Liaison officer – North Yorkshire Police for the past five years) for being so courteous and helpful.

Lindis Percy and Laila Packer