The reason I stood in the rain holding a bed sheet? Drones. There aren’t many topics, save Marmite, where very few sit on the fence. Either people think they’re an appalling invention, killing more people than we realise and terrorising people in Yemen, or they’re great because they save Our Boys (along with MoD money, cheaply training pilots who won’t need replacing).
Protesters outside the main gate of RAF Brize Norton, left to right, Sarah Lasenby, Margaret Downs, Nigel Day and Emma Anthony
The UK and France have this funny relationship, but let’s not get into that. They’ve both signed a treaty to get rid of nuclear weapons but the UK government has already spent billions making the parts to renew Trident, our current nuclear arsenal, despite the vote on whether or not to renew it being in 2016. On top of this, at a time of huge cuts, austerity and job losses especially within local councils, our Prime Minister David Cameron met with French President Francois Hollande at Brize Norton RAF base to make a deal on a new, more autonomous drone, at a cost of £120m to the taxpayer. I stood outside with a banner.
Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande at the summit at RAF Brize Norton
Don’t get me wrong – I work for a non-violence organisation called the Fellowship of Reconciliation so I think we shouldn’t have any weapons, let alone scary autonomous humming killer robots. FoR is about promoting non-violence as the means to transforming conflicts. We campaign in the UK for disarmament, social, economic and political justice, and support groups doing this abroad through our International Peacemakers Fund.
So I was standing in the rain for a number of reasons. I don’t like weapons – they don’t get us anywhere. I don’t like drones – they’re not as accurate as we’re told (just check out our drones quilt – they kill thousands of civilians) and their mere presence over villages in places like Yemen and Pakistan causes huge psychological damage to the locals. They don’t just dislike the noise they make overhead, but they know there is a reasonable chance of getting killed as collateral damage, when buildings are attacked if they contain “targets” – people carrying something which looks like a weapon or acting “suspiciously”.
Huge quantities of money are being directed towards warfare and away from welfare. Developing weapons to fight wars we shouldn’t be having in faraway places is making enemies and reducing our security. Al-Qaeda have tried to justify two attacks in Yemem on the basis of drones being controlled from those compounds, including a hospital. Drones clearly do not reduce terrorism.
I am extremely worried about the actions of the Government at the moment. Not only are they ignoring warnings about catastrophic climate change (we can’t burn more than one fifth of conventional fossil fuel reserves), they are bulldozing ahead with plans to frack the living daylights out of the UK. The recent Lobbying Bill is giving greater power to corporations and less to charities in the year before the General Election. They are renewing Trident prematurely and in breach of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
They constantly invite people back to the London Arms Fair who have been ejected for selling torture equipment, but have the peaceful protesters arrested. And the idea to convict people for “being annoying” – well, soon charities won’t be able to do anything at all.
I stood in the rain with my friends from Oxford Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament because I wanted Mr Cameron and Mr Hollande – and those passing by – to realise that we know they’re ignoring what matters – NHS, peace – and instead chasing profit regardless, and we shall not let them get away with it.
- To find out more about FoR, go to our website at for.org.uk or come to Peace House at 7.30pm on Thursday, March 13, for a talk, Q&A and tea.
- For more information on drones, visit dronewars.net