Ujima Community Radio carried a lunchtime interview with Rebecca. Almost twenty people attended the late afternoon meeting organised by the UWE Politics & International Relations Society. This was followed by over fifty people at the evening meeting organised by the Left Unity at Bristol University. The audience comprised mostly students but included local residents, B-CND, anti-nuclear power campaigners, and Quakers. We were very happy some students were drawn to the meeting wanting to debate their concerns about nuclear power. And researchers from the Physics Department came to discuss their views on the AWE work they do. Unfortunately we needed a longer discussion time to do justice to everything. We were delighted the Morning Star ran an article and said they’d tried twice to contact the university for comment. http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e370-Bristol-alumnus-who-advised-Blix-slams-link-to-Aldermaston#.VHxX0sm3J0g.
“I pulled out of my physics course after finding that the Bristol physics department was hand in glove with the atomic weapons makers at Aldermaston, and I’m outraged that this immoral collaboration is still continuing,” said Dr Rebecca Johnson. “The only legally justifiable research is in verifying nuclear disarmament and ensuring that existing weapons are safely and securely dismantled and eliminated.”
We’ve not heard of anyone trying back-to-back meetings at both Universities. Certainly the timing was tight, especially fighting across town in the traffic. But as both universities are implicated in the AWE nuclear weapons funding this seemed to make sense, and was worth the extra effort for reaching more students.
The Medact report “ATOMS FOR PEACE?” was published early in 2014. It revealed the University of Bristol is one of five ‘Strategic Partner’ universities linked to AWE and received approaching half a million pounds a year plus a professorship post. UWE receives more modest funding but given its arms-trade and military links is doubtless keen increase this. http://nuclearinfo.org/article/awe-aldermaston/atoms-peace-investigation-int-links-between-uk-universities-and-atomic
In May Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for South West, appeared for a photo-opportunity outside the Wills Memorial Tower and criticised Bristol University for accepting nuclear weapons research funding http://actionawe.org/action-awe-e-u-candidate-join-bristol-campaigners-to-protest-nuclear-weapons-research-funding-at-bristol-university/
We seem to have a building campaign now. We’re wondering what next?
Rebecca has a special interest in Bristol. She enrolled to study physics in the seventies but left when she discovered the nuclear weapons links. As Vice President of national CND she’s keen to return to Bristol do more on this topic. 2015 is looking busy for Rebecca as she’ll be standing as a green candidate for Camden and Brent constituency in the May General Election.
But current ideas involve planning some sort of “dialogue forum” early in the New Year. Paulette North discussed arranging a two hour slot on Ujima Radio and inviting in representatives from the Universities to discuss their work.
Perhaps we could run a nuclear power & nuclear weapons debate in conjunction with CND, Trade Unions and the Green Party in Bristol? Maybe we could maybe roll this into a “hustings” meeting of prospective candidates for the General Election?
Whatever ideas develop we also need to be building support for the movement in general. Plus specifically the WRAP UP TRIDENT demonstration in London on Saturday 24th January, and NVDA as part of the BURGHFIELD LOCKDOWN in March 2015 http://actionawe.org.
One arms event just wasn’t enough for Bristol Against the Arms Trade last week. Following the protest at the Defense Procurement in Cardiff, CEO of major arms company QinetiQ, was in Bristol speaking to students as part of UWE’s “Distinguished Address Series”
QinetiQ, 6th largest UK arms company, work mainly on military applications — weapons, guidance systems, military aircraft technology etc, branching out into surveillance & security technologies (including technologies considered for ID cards), and ‘energetic materials’ (i.e. explosives) among other areas. QinetiQ make a mint supplying arms to the beheading-regime in Saudi Arabia and run the UK Drones test centre at Aberporth in West Wales testing Israeli-developed drones that have killed hundreds in Gaza.
At a time when Bristol prepares to celebrate its Green Capital status in 2015, residents and UWE students were keen to show the business of death is not welcome in our city and staged a protest outside our City Hall where the event was being held. We engaged with the many passer-bys on the busy main street at rush hour, assisted by our couple of Grim Reapers and over 50 letters to the council were signed against the event being held in the council building.
As the demo was ending Bristol elected Mayor George Ferguson had the decency to come down to speak to us. Whilst refusing to give a concrete pledge to stop the council building being used for such talks in the future, Ferguson did admit to being “spiritually on your side” and welcomed a follow up conversation on turning Bristol’s “swords to ploughshares”. Bristol Against the Arms Trade have taken him up on this offer by writing a follow up letter requesting a meeting with him to turn his rhetoric into action.
Underneath it’s nondescript acronym, the DPRTE- or Defence Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportability exhibition- claims to be one of ‘the UK’s leading’ arms fairs. The event brings together a whole host of companies looking to find out what’s new in the world of warfare. In its own words, it ‘provides a unique promotional, educational and engagement platform’.
Last year the DPRTE arms fair took place at the University of West of England (UWE) in Bristol. Bristol Against the Arms Trade and students from UWE were of course there to greet them. Major entrances to the campus and the conference building were picketed, traffic chaos across the north Bristol fringe ensued, exhibitors and visitors to the event were delayed, and lectures at the University were cancelled.
After the vigorous protests against the 2013 arms fair, the embarrassed organisers chose not to hold the event in Bristol. The traffic chaos and walk of shame past shouts and placards seemed to have been enough to deter the organisers from returning to our city and 2014’s DPRTE was held in Cardiff last week.
We were, of course, there to greet them.
Major exhibitors of 2014 included our Bristol based friends BAE Systems, the world’s 3rd largest arms producer, who have a very special relationship with both the UK government and the Saudi dictatorship. We also saw Airbus, the 2nd largest arms producer in Europe, whose markets include the authoritarian regimes of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kazakhstan.
As delegates arrived at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena they were welcomed by a crowd of peace activists, Quakers, banners, intimidating photographers and a couple of Grim Reapers. Passers-by stopped to chat to about the event taking place in their city and were even treated to an amazing free breakfast courtesy of Food Not Bombs.
We’ve yet to find out where next year’s DPRTE will be held and whether our shouts were loud enough to kick the arms fair out of Cardiff as well as Bristol.
Wherever it is, we will of course be there to greet them.
Check out QinetiQ.com for their delightful defence and security products…
Drone warfare combines perpetual surveillance with arbitrary lethal attack, targeting some of the poorest communities on earth. Take action next week.
For events diary see http://childvictimsofwar.org.uk/ground-the-drones-week-4-11th-october/