Peace campaigners want US missiles removed from British soil
Some 30,000 women ringed the nine-mile perimeter of Greenham Common cruise missile base in Berkshire yesterday in an emotional demonstration against nuclear weapons.
In such an inaccessible part of the country and in appalling weather conditions, it was a remarkable show of strength of the anti-nuclear lobby.
Police kept a low profile and in some places must have been outnumbered 1,000 to one by the demonstrators. Colleagues with riot shields had been ferried into the base on standby before first light but there was not a single incident.
Men were excluded from the demonstration and told to run the creche, prepare food, and keep out of the way.
At dawn marquees and tents began to be built at each of the eight gates into the base. The men were confined to Gate 8, making such things as wax torches and sandwiches.
By noon the area was jammed with more than 60 coaches and thousands of cars. The weather improved and people were having to walk up to three miles to reach the base and join the demonstration.
The women were asked to attach some token from their lives to the nine foot perimeter fence to show that they had been there. Many chose photographs of their children.
Ms Joan Ruddock, chairman of CND, said: “This is a fantastic achievement. No one can claim this has been stage-managed; it is a spontaneous demonstration by women from all over the country. It is a tribute to those who have endured the horrific winter conditions in the peace camp for 18 months to keep this protest alive.”
But not everybody at Greenham yesterday was happy about the demonstration. At Newbury and Crookham Golf Club’s 19th hole, the members were angry. The stewards threw out the press and said: “You lot make mountains out of molehills. If you did not write such rubbish we would have not have to put up with this mob.”
Long-suffering local residents Roger and Carole McGuire had their front drive used as a car park. They have had their house invaded by hippies in the past and had an airgun pellet through a window.
Today will mark a new phase in the demonstration. Seven hundred women have pledged to take part in civil disobedience – sitting or lying down at the entrance gates to the base in an attempt to shut it down. They have all accepted that they may be arrested and will go to prison if they refuse to be bound over.
[The women’s 19 years presence outside the RAF base was a significant factor in the decision to remove the American missiles in 1991]