Anti-nuclear campaigners picket base

Two hundred peace campaigners picketed the main entrance of RAF Lakenheath yesterday in protest against nuclear weapons stockpiles claimed to be kept on the base by American forces.

Two hundred peace campaigners picketed the main entrance of RAF Lakenheath yesterday in protest against nuclear weapons stockpiles claimed to be kept on the base by American forces.

Members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) gathered outside the USAF station near Brandon and heard their vice-president, Bruce Kent, say: “We know that today there are at least 100 nuclear bombs here 10 times more powerful than Hiroshima.

“I believe all bases with nuclear weapons ought to go and we should begin negotiating the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

“The public attitude is changing all the time and our job is to help recognise that this thing is a dinosaur and it's time that we got rid of the lot.”

Later, he responded to nuclear disarmament critics who argue that these weapons are necessary as a deterrent, especially with countries like Iran believed to be developing them, by saying: “What follows from that is everyone should have nuclear weapons.

“That idea is so bad there must be something wrong with the argument. There is no way that we can say we are entitled to them and the Iranians cannot have them.

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“The essential thing is to begin negotiations to get rid of the lot, which would begin some quite radical thinking about sovereignty, inspection of bases, satellite observation and all sorts of practical steps will be required. All this is not impossible.”

As he spoke, he was flanked by protest banners announcing “Action for Peace”, “Nuclear Power? No thanks” and “Peace” while a few yards behind him was the official air base plaque bearing the slogan “48th Fighter Wing, The Liberty Wing, RAF Lakenheath - Ensuring Freedom's Future”.

Among protesters was Davida Higgin, 79, of Norwich, a CND member since the organisation was formed in 1958, who said: “Demonstrations like this are so important because they raise the awareness of members of the public to the problems of nuclear weapons.”

Martin Roche, 64, of Yarmouth, said: “We feel it is very important for us to stand up and be counted and let everyone know what is going on.”

About 20 police were on duty at the good-natured and peaceful protest and USAF security staff patrolled the perimeter with quad bikes, Humvees and squad cars.

The number of protesters diminished by about half during a fierce thunderstorm and prolonged hailstorm, but the remainder were allowed to mount a symbolic two-minute blockade of the base entrance in a gesture pre-arranged with police and the Ministry of Defence.

Organiser Mell Harrison said: “I'm delighted with the way this went. By the number of people who stayed through the rain, hail, thunder and lightning, you can tell how passionate they are about the need to get rid of nuclear weapons.”