Number 54 - December 1998


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NEWS IN BRIEF

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FEATURE: MASK UP FOR MOTHER EARTH

Masking up - Why? When? How?

At the Newbury Reunion Rampage in 97, two people leant against the wreck of a dumper-truck, cheerfully watching a digger burn. One (who'd clearly come prepared) was wearing an all-over stripy tiger suit. The other (who clearly hadn't) had removed her second layer of stockings and pulled them over her head. That is precisely the kind of scenario that springs to mind when you think of a good time to be masked up. It has obvious associations with criminal damage and large things being on fire. However, these associations mean that many people dismiss masking up as intimidating and counter-productive in other situations. Some feel it is never appropriate (except perhaps among consenting activists in their own homes while watching Land and Freedom!). Some feel that masking up is sometimes necessary but worry about the implications or are unsure about the issues surrounding it.

So is masking up a necessary and desirable tactic? Absolutely, and it is naive not to be aware of this. The surveillance directed against dissidents by the State is real. Masking up or otherwise disguising yourself is not about intimidation. It is about remaining safe while breaching bail restrictions. It is about not being trapped by warrants that you may be able to pay your way out of eventually but not before a particular action that you wish to be part of. It is about jail terms that you're planning to serve only after you've made arrangements for your kids. It is about avoiding civil injunctions that may make you liable to thousands of pounds in costs or several months in a cell. It is about the plain clothes copper by your side, the CCTV camera on your road and the footage being shot from the helicopter overhead. It is about getting away with it. Need any more convincing?

Different methods of masking up will suit different occasions:

CAMPAIGN BRIEFING - GREENFIELD HOUSING

So, we may have won the fight against the roads programme. But do we now we sit back and watch as 1000 square miles of British countryside are covered in concrete because…

THE WRONG HOUSES ARE BEING BUILT IN THE WRONG PLACES!

Thanks to the House Builders' Federation (HBF) and New Labour's obsession with creating jobs in the construction industry, developers could have shoved up nearly 5 million new homes by 2016, based on spurious household projections that seem to crystallise Thatcherite values of individualism. Lobbyists have conned the government into thinking that the only way to deal with a national housing crisis is by building new houses - despite the fact that thousands of homes stand empty. And so the government has foisted quotas of new houses onto local councils, effectively forcing them to give permission to new schemes that invariably local people don't want. There is a presumption that there will be a "trickle down" in the housing market to homeless people, despite the fact that rich people buy houses as financial investments not to live in and that most people will never afford a mortgage. This is one of the sickest symptoms of capitalism in this country - housing is treated not as a basic need, but as a commodity. A genuine desire by government to address the housing crisis would lead to changes in legislation, for example on social housing and rents.

HOMES FOR NEED NOT GREED

Typically the proposed houses are unaffordable to all but executive types, built without consideration of local infrastructure or ecological footprinting, not built to "Lifetime Homes Standard" and often come on the back of road schemes. It's cheaper for developers to build on greenfield sites than to renovate derelict urban areas. Brownfield sites suitable for housing are being wasted with temples to consumerism such as the Millennium Dome.

Local opposition to housing developments has been dismissed as "NIMBYism" or, in the words of one of the top housebuilders, Bryant Homes, "unreasonable obstructions". Housebuilders such as Beazer and Wimpey have even been asking for the government to abolish the planning system. Apparently we should trust them to "self-regulate". Yet planning regulations still penalise sustainable low-impact developments. The "lost village" of Brithdir Mawr in Wales has recently been discovered after having to camouflage itself from planning officials for years, and anyone who's tried to put up a straw bale house will tell you how difficult it is to get planning permission.

Groups campaigning against the government housing allocations in their area are forming super-coalitions and starting to hook up with those with direct action skills. Posh conservationists the CPRE recently published a helpful free booklet on how the planning system works (kindly sponsored by Esso, oh dear, and available by sending an A5 sae to CPRE Publications, Warwick House, 25 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0PP) while issuing a reminder that "the first local people know of plans affecting their local countryside can be when the bulldozers move onto the site - and by then it is too late to make a difference." (!) Tell that to the residents of the village of Sandy Lane near Bradford who have managed to stuff Bryant Homes by moving their caravans onto the site, hooking up with Bingley road protestors to jump on bulldozers, and putting up posters in their windows warning off potential buyers of the Bryant greenfield houses.

Campaigners in Hertfordshire are up against Persimmon Homes, who want to build 10 000 houses on greenbelt land to the west of Stevenage. While groups from the huge CASE (Campaign Against Stevenage Expansion) coalition are still arguing through the planning system, some of them are already organising a "beat the bulldozer" pledge: to add your name contact CASE c/o Dyes Farm, Langley, Hertfordshire, SG4 4PQ. The strength of the situation is that by working together we can build alliances with disgruntled local people all over the country…

INFORMATION FOR ACTION

Check the local press - there's bound to be an unpopular housing development near you. If possible, find out who the company behind it is and do some research on them (contact Corporate Watch for details of how). Most housebuilders have regional offices - an action at, on or in one of these hubs of corporate power may help remind the builders of the perils of ignoring local opinion.

You can also find out about campaigns in your area by contacting: URGENT, Box HN, 111 Magdalen Road Oxford OX4 1RQ Tel. 07000 785202, info@urgent.org.uk, http://www.urgent.org.uk. Protest groups are springing up all over the country which would benefit from input from hardened activists with a variety of tactics up their sleeves. URGENT (which stands for Urban Regeneration and Greenfield Environment NeTwork - you come up with a better inclusive acronym!) was set up earlier this year to bring together everybody concerned with this issue to share information and campaigning skills. To officially support the network and receive the newsletter and e-mail updates, preferably send a cheque for £10 (£5 for individuals) payable to "URGENT" to the address above. Or please help URGENT out with offers of office equipment / your articles / donations / newspaper clippings.

WHAT'S THE ALTERNATIVE?

How are we to house ourselves sustainably? Ideas abound within the grassroots movement with solutions ranging from squats to yurts, housing co-ops to boats, self-build to strawbale homes. So the construction industry can sod off - give us the land and the powers and we'll house ourselves quite nicely thank you.

Groundswell seem to be quite sorted for ideas: get in touch with them at the National Homeless Alliance 5-15 Cromer Street WC1H 8LS Telephone 0171 833 2071 Fax 0171 278 6685, email groundswell@home-all.org.uk. Other useful contacts are The Land Is Ours, the British land rights campaign network, and the Advisory Service for Squatters.

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FEATURE: JUNE 18, 1999

Let's get ready to rumble... When the G8 gather in Koln, Germany, to forward the military march of global capitalism, we too - the people of the planet - will be gathering in resistance, liberating our desires in financial centres across the globe.

Across the planet, across the various and diverse movements for social change, we have come to recognise that while our oppressions are different, we are not isolated in our struggles. Our enemy is not one transnational, one individual, one group, one government. Our struggle is more than sympathetic to other movements, it is interrelated. It is global capitalism that is the root of our social and ecological sufferings, and it is global resistance that is our strength.

While June 18th is about acting in unity for the realisation of our common aims, it does not mean uniformity of tactics. This action requires the full participation of individuals and groups to organise autonomous actions co-inciding across the globe. Groups in the UK are already conspiring to occupy and transform the City of London, using their experience and tactics of their choice to create ultimate effect. From mass actions to small affinity groups, the City will be alive with wanton delight as we take our pleasures in that which excites us most against that which we despise the most.

WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN...

The timetable for the day is under discussion and will continue to develop as more individuals and groups come together to share their ideas and enthusiasms. June 18th will encompass a wide range of activities: office occupations, giving out free food, street performance, leafleting, pickets, sabotage, and more more more. This is not 'Global Street Party 2' it is a number of actions, organised by a multitude of people . And everyone can do something - a few friends with a banner, an individual with spraypaint or superglue and a group trashing corporate property are all equally desirable. As as well as the autonomous smaller actions there will also be mass actions to be involved in.

To date... Through monthly meetings with activists from different groups, networking has begun.Information has already been distributed widely. 20,000 leaflets have been produced and distributed. Talks, discussions and workshops have been undertaken by individuals from the London meetings everywhere from Anarchist groups to student conferences. A number of groups whether from within the direct action movement and from mainstream organisations, are already discussing the ways and means to participate in this action.

Outside of our island networking has been equally intense. The proposal for action has been translated into a number of languages, and correspondence is underway with, amongst others; indigenous Colombian groups, international hacktivists, Radical French unemployed groups, the anti-MAI network, and activists in Bombay, Sydney, Tel Aviv, New York and Prague. It also coincides with a tour of Indian farmers/activists in Europe in resistance against the WTO and transnationals.

To do...

Dates before June...

Prepare for J18 discussions at the Earth First! Winter gathering in January. Come and share your ideas and participate in workshops at the open meeting in London in February. Plan an info week in your area for the last week of May - last minute inspiration for June 18th!

Contact: RTS, 0171 2814621, rts@gn.apc.org or London Greenpeace, 0171 7131269.

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SHELL ACTIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY

The 10th of November was world anti-Shell day and as usual it saw actions on Shell stations and the like around the world. Shell is targeted for its well known ecological abuses across the globe and especially for its continued dealings with the Nigerian military state, a state which is responsible for the deaths of over 2000 Ogoni people since 1993 and for the continued oppression and exploitation of this people and their land. Oil is Nigeria's biggest export by far and Shell must be brought to account for its continued propping up of the Nigerian regime.

In the words of Oronto Douglas, founder of the CHICOCO movement in the Niger Delta 'The multinationals, in collaboration with the military, have waged a vicious and relentless ecological war on our land'.

The 10th of November is the date of the execution of nine Ogoni activists in 1995 and has become the focus for anti-Shell activities. The EF!AU was informed of the following U.K actions:

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NEWBURY BYPASS OPEN

After a 3 year campaign of resistance the Newbury Bypass opened in the early hours of the 12th of November while activists slept soundly in their beds. A handful of people who managed to get to nearby Chively services was the only protest Newbury saw that night.

The campaign against the Newbury Bypass was the largest of its type in Britain to date. It saw the arrests of over 1000 people, the eviction of over 30 camps, the mobilisation of thousands of police and security guards and the destruction of countless pieces of machinery. All in all it is believed to have added well over £20 million to the cost of the road. Later in the same day South Downs EF! launched a revenge attack on Mott McDonald, the civil engineering company which designed the bypass. At 1.30pm, exactly 12 hours after the bypass had been opened, a group of 25 people occupied their offices in Brighton. Mott McDonald are also responsible for other socially and ecologically dodgy schemes. For example, the designing of 'civillian' airstrips in Iraq, power stations for the Suharto regime in Indonesia, and the M3 through Twyford Down. During the occupation 500 leaflets were given out in the surrounding area, explaining what was happening and why. Leaflets were also distributed to office workers stating that 'we all hate the boss'.

By the time police arrived most people had barricaded themselves inside the finance office and were busy re-organising the filing system. Rumours also suggest that a number of computer hard drives had been erased. No arrests.

The third anniversary of the Newbury evictions starting will see another reunion.

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BNRR UPDATE

On Wednesday 25th November 375 security guards, police and bailiffs surrounded the protest squats on the route of the Birmingham Northern Relief Road, Britain's first private toll motorway, announced to the world that the eviction had begun, then erected a new fenced enclosure next to the Moneymore squats.

Two days later the bailiffs disappeared, leaving only security guards. Activists are being allowed in and out of the buildings, but building materials and media are banned. For a while, over-zealous security tried to restrict supplies of food onto the site, but gave in on this when a group of sympathetic local people staged a cake-bringing protest! Numbers on site have been swelled by the publicity, with activists from the Crystal Palace and Faslane camps turning up in support.

Also, the land which the nearby Greenwood camp is being built on is believed to have been recently compulsorily purchased by the Highways Agency. This may mean that it could be evicted without first being taken to court to secure a repossession order. Site mobiles: 07970 301978/ 932224.

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BNRR SOLIDARITY SABOTAGE

The EF!AU has received a communique from 'Yorkshire ELF' stating that early on the 28th November activists trashed an earth-mover and two diggers on the new A1 - M1 link road, between York & Wakefield. The DBFO road is being built by Kvaerner (who own Balfour Beatty & BICC). Kvaerner & Autostrada are the firms behind the Connect consortium, who are trying to build the 'New M6' north of Birmingham.

Crowbars were used to force locked engines and cabs open, cables cut, engines sabotaged and graffiti sprayed. Damage is estimated in the £1000's and increased security and overtime have been caused. More importantly, solidarity has been shown, as the perpetrators explain: 'Although we cannot be at the BNRR protest site, we are still throwing spanners in the works. More people need to take solidarity direct action'.

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SILVER BIRCHES CAMP

The site in Epsom, Surrey, is still going with tree houses, tunnels and people to defend them. More people are welcome, though. Public support seems to be rising and evidence is being gathered against the council for corruption. Local contact 0411 306330.

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WORK STARTS ON AVON RING ROAD

Site clearance has now started on the proposed route of the Avon Ring Road. Contracts have been signed for the next three months. This road, if built, will become Bristol's M25 and the largest Local Authority Road scheme in the country. The latest section, Stage II,. is set to destroy a disused railway line, a swathe of Siston Common, and will be built on top of the Bristol & Bath Railway cycle path. A permanent camp has now been established and actions have started in resistance to this tarmac monster. Fresh campaigners and activists are needed for the first anti-road site with its own cycle path! Contact Kebele Cafe, 0117 939 9469.

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ARTHUR'S WOOD APPEAL

The residents of Arthur's Wood protest camp are now in court appealing against the eviction order by Manchester Airport. Legal aid for the appeal has been refused. It has been put in on the grounds that the airport has no full title to the land and so no right to order evictions. The title to the land lies with the National Trust who are by law required to resist all encroachment on the land's security and health but instead have granted the airport a license to use it. It would obviously be a great embarrassment to them if they as the legal owners would have to evict the very people who defend the land they are meant to look after.

Currently there are only a few people on site and with hundreds of trees due to be "reduced in height", to "aid visibility" for aircraft landing on the new 2nd runway, new residents or visitors, would be much appreciated. Info and Directions from 01565 873551.

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OFF THE RAILS IN OXFORD

Recently Railtrack began work piling up ballast mountains at their new 'virtual quarry'(storage depot), in New Hinskey, South Oxford. John Prescott has still not decided whether to grant an Article 4 Direction, which would mean that Railtrack would be brought under council planning laws. As a decision could not be retrospective, Railtrack made sure they went ahead and started the quarry as fast as possible.

Local residents have shown that they value the natural environment of South Oxford by preparing a Community Nature Plan (August 1998) with the support of the City Council. Recent surveys recorded 54 species of birds around Hinskey Lake, and 42 species around the allotments, both next to the Quarry site.

Local residents, furious about the development, bringing noise, pollution, and water run-off that may be toxic, have taken to direct action. On the 2nd day of work the gates were pad-locked shut, the one digger on site was trashed and the railway points were locked shut, preventing deliveries.

On 7th November, 130 people, most of whom have never done direct action took over the site, spelling the message 'STOP THE QUARRY' in 10ft high letters. Others have been to Railtrack's boss's house. As one said: 'he has made his presence felt in my life, so I will make my presence felt in his!' Further info on the web: www.oxquarry.co.uk.

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DAY OF ACTION AGAINST ZENECA

Zeneca Pharmeceuticals are the largest British company involved in genetic engineering, and therefore provide a wealth of opportunirties for action in this country. To kick off a campaign against them, two simultaneous actions took place in the South-West on the 23rd November.

At Avonmouth, near Bristol, a Zeneca plant was blockaded for 3 hours by 40 people. Activists locked on to 2 articulated lorries with d-locks at the main gates of the plants, causing a mile long tailback. Three other people climbed a 150ft tower to hang a banner, while Tragic Roundabout entertained the rest.

Avon police turned up but then went away again when they were told that the action was just over the Gloucestershire border and therefore outside their juristiction. Seems the 'county line' doesn't just work in cowboy films! When Gloucestershire police turned up, they didn't seem to be in too much of a rush to remove activists. Eventually they produced hydraulic boltcroppers and gave those locked on a choice of removing themselves or being cut off and then being nicked. Everyone opted for freedom rather than an extra 5 minutes locked on and a wasted d-lock.

Meanwhile, in Brixham, South Devon, another Zeneca plant was targeted. The intended office occupation was foiled as there was a large police presence when everyone arrived. However 2 people did manage to get onto the roof of the building. One was arrested for criminal damage as the plastic drainpipe she was climbing came away from the wall.

As the plant was on a sea-cliff, that was the obvious place for a banner proclaiming Zeneca's misdeeds. Activists abseiled down the 200 foot face and attached the banner to the cliff with climbing wedges. At the end of the action, they decided to leave it there for a while, figuring that Zeneca wouldn't be able to find anyone crazy enough to go and retrieve it!

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MUMIA MUST NOT DIE!

The order has been signed for the execution of African-American revolutionary prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Mumia has been on death row for 16 years despite overwhelming evidence that he is innocent. Mumia has faced execution before, in 1995, but international pressure, in the form of marches, riots and occupations of American big business, ensured a last minute stay of execution. Such solidarity is needed again.

On Saturday 14th November around 20 activists from the Northern Anarchist Network, held a demo in support of Mumia Abu Jamal at American Express (an obvious outlet of Amerikan capitalism) in Manchester. The building was entered and leaflets were handed to customers and to the public outside. Attempts to persuade the office manager to fax the Pennsylvania governor, who has pledged to execute Mumia as soon as he can, were sadly unsuccessful.

Contact: Anarchist Black Cross. Fax Governor Tom Ridge on 1-717-783-4429 demanding that Mumia be allowed a new trial.

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TOTNES COURT CASE UPDATE

The two women who were charged back in August with £605,000 of criminal damage for removing the controversial trial of genetically engineered (GE) maize at Hood Barton, next to Riverford Organic farm in Devon, had their charges changed today. They have now been charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage, and have been bailed to appear before Plymouth Crown Court on December 29th. Previously harsh bail conditions, consisting of nightly curfew and daily signings were lessened and they will now have to sign on twice weekly at their local police stations. They are still banned from entering Devon apart from attending court appearances.

150 people gathered outside the court on the day, and over 2,000 signatures have been collected by the local campaign, in support.

Ten other people that were arrested in connection with the action have had DNA samples taken and are still awaiting results from forensics to see whether or not they will also be charged. Contact: GEN.

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TARMAC WARNED OFF

On Nov 23rd EF! activists invaded a Tarmac building site in Nottingham and displayed a banner reading 'Keep Tarmac out of Bestwood'. Tarmac are planning to open a sand quarry in Bestwood,near Nottingham, and this action was done to keep the protest against them in the limelight. Footage of the action will be the final clip in a video sent to Tarmac explaining the opposition to their scheme. Contact Notts EF!

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BRYANT'S OFFICE OCCUPIED

On November 2nd, activists occupied the offices of Bryant Country Homes in Eynsham, Oxfordshire calling for "Homes for Need not Greed". Thirteen protestors stopped work for over an hour while they ranted about the building of executive housing on greenfield sites, abuses of the planning system, social housing, housing co-ops, the acts of enclosure and the free market economy.

The action was timed to coincide with the company's Annual General Meeting in Solihull and was in solidarity with local campaigns in Sandy Lane, Yorkshire and Tewkesbury. On the same day residents of the Sandy Lane village near Bradford protested at a nearby greenfield site that Bryant Homes are in the process of trashing.

House builders such as Bryant have been calling for virtual abolition of the planning system to allow them to steam ahead with plans to put 1000 square miles of British countryside under new houses by 2016. This system is already hugely weighted in their favour, penalising sustainable low-impact developments, while squatting is clamped down on to the benefit of luxury and greenfield developers.

Contact: URGENT 07000 785202, info@urgent.org.uk. Action for Social Housing 0378 454063. Sandy Lane RAGE (01274) 495264.

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TREES FELLED AT BINGLEY

The campaign against the Bingley 'Relief' Road near Bradford has faced several major setbacks recently. In the summer shake-up of the roads program, it was announced that the road was still to be built, but not for up to 3 years. The few people remaining on the 2-year old protest camp felt that their energies were better spent elsewhere, and decided to pack up the camp, rather than continue waiting for an eviction several years down the line.

The process of tatting down began, but various people who had been involved with the camp over its two year history stepped in, anxious not to see the campaign end. Sadly there simply weren't enough people to keep the camp open all the time. Then on the 4th of November, the local council seized the opportunity of a temporarily unoccupied camp to fell many of the trees on the site. All the trees with treehouses in were brought down, although many others remain on route. Of course, trees can grow back eventually, the road hasn't been built yet...

Contact Bingley Anti Road Campaign, c/o Leeds EF! for want of a better contact.

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SAVE THE CHESTNUTS

The campaign against a new six-lane road and business school, which resulted in the eviction of the disused LMS railway station in September, has not given up, and two large horse chestnuts,due to be felled to make way for the new road, have been squatted. The trees were planted 50 years ago to do something positive for this air-starved area but it seems that the council are only paying lip service to their notions of a greener Oxford. Contact: 07971 755823.

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NABURN OPENING DISRUPTED

The new 'designer outlet' out of town shopping centre in York, has been the scene of protests for 3 years now, including a tree camp in the summer of 1996. It finally opened its doors to the public on the 12th November, but US multinational McArthur Glen must have suspected that things were not going to run smoothly...

About 30 activists who had been involved with various stages of the campaign turned up for the big day, along with about 3000 mindless consumers. Some protesters were well known to security, and so were noisily carried out before the opening ceremony started. The ensuing struggles with security outside the centre intrigued the people queuing to go in, which meant they lapped up the campaign leaflets which were being distributed. As the opening ceremony was about to start, one woman felt the time was right to create a scene. Although it was totally unplanned, she flung off all her clothes and made a rush for the stage. Several other people followed, ranting and generally causing disruption. A school party was at the front of the audience, holding up the pictures they had prepared, but upon being confronted with naked flesh, their teacher decided it was wisest to usher them all out, adding to the havoc.

Finally the microphones refused to work, meaning the opening speeches couldn't take place - protestors got the blame although they might not have deserved it! In the end though, the ceremony was 'well bollocksed', which after all is the most important thing!

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ASHTON COURT

The latest move by Bristol Council was a letter to the activists, insisting on the right of the council to inspect the tunnels, together with someone from quarry contractors Pioneer Aggregates at that! They were laughed off but refusal will mean that an eviction notice or possession order will be served soon. In court, people have been let off charges for assault and aggravated trespass, others have been fined with £20 court costs. Several parties are planned: a Winter Solstice one on site, for December 21st, and a Prisoner Support Ceilidh on Jan 30th in St Werburgh Community Centre. Mobile no. 07970 423834.

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CITIZENS INSPECTORS ARRESTED AT BARROW

On Wednesday 18th November, seven peace activists and two accompanying journalists were arrested at the VSEL shipyard in Barrow, as the activists attempted a "Citizens' Inspection" of the Trident submarine, HMS Vengeance. The inspection was held in support of the "Bread not Bombs Ploughshares" group - currently in prison awaiting trial - who were arrested in the shipyard in September while attempting to non-violently disarm the Trident weapons system.

The aim of the "Citizens' Inspection", was to "identify and inspect the development of weapons of mass destruction by VSEL and the British government". The group believe that "such weapons - with their huge waste of resources, and with the threat they represent to life - are a crime against humanity, especially the world's poor". All the arrestees have now been released without charge.

Contact: Stephen Hancock on 01865 770833. Liverpool Catholic Worker: 0151 264 8741.

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WINTER GATHERING

Preparations continue for the EF! Winter Moot. Discussion documents should be with Notts EF! by now, if you haven't sent one do, but the agenda won't be distributed until January so we'd still appreciate opinions on the what we should talk about at the event.

The Agenda and a compilation of discussion documents will be sent to all EF! Groups with the January AU. Anyone else who wants one, send your address and 2x 1st class stamps to Notts EF! We are relying on local groups to distribute the agenda amongst their members and discuss it before Jan 29. We need Facilitators. Get in touch if you can help. Facilitation workshops will start on the evening of Thursday 28 January.

There will be childcare, provided by volunteers. We need people to contact us in advance (by Jan 7) if they are bringing children. If you do not tell us children are coming we will not be able to provide care for them. If you do we can explain what provision there will be and hopefully make it work for everyone.

The moot is in an urban community centre and dogs ae not allowed. Efforts are being made to find dog sitters for those who are really stuck. Again we must know by Jan 7.

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LEGAL DISCLAIMER

The editors of the Earth First! Action Update do not intend to encourage people to carry out any illegal action. The Action Update is for information purposes only.
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