Protesters serenade Lockheed Martin outside firm's UK HQ

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fourteen peace activists from pressure group Trident Ploughshares, dressed mainly in Santa hats, with the occasional nuclear weapons inspector or reindeer, descended upon the low-key London based UK Headquarters of American arms giant Lockheed Martin on Thursday.

Activist hanging banner on nearby railing.
Image: Jules Mattsson. (Additional photos on Flickr)

Activists, campaigning for nuclear disarmament and against the government’s plans to replace the trident nuclear missile system, leafleted passersby; informing them of Lockheed’s low key presence in the area and of the government’s plans to expand the Trident system, involving investments of as much as £75 billion (US$121.8 billion).

Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms manufacturer, create the warheads and delivery mechanisms of Britain and America's nuclear capabilities. They lead the UK-based consortium to develop a replacement to the UK Trident nuclear missile system. Many believe that the UK plans to replace the Trident system go against international obligations in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT).

The NNPT calls for countries without nuclear weapons not to develop them, and countries with them to negotiate the elimination of their weapons. Negotiations since the treaty's inception have concentrated on reducing stockpiles, not the elimination of nuclear weapons. In 1996, the International Court of Justice said that, "there is an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control".

Trident's proposed replacement is currently under preliminary work and will be developed at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) near Aldermaston. The AWE is currently privately owned, publicly funded, and two-thirds owned by American interests. The UK-based share is held by Serco Group.

Several members of the public stopped and signed a Christmas card for Lockheed Martin. The protesters' festive greeting called for Lockheed Martin to invest their skills and finances in people and peace, as opposed to into weaponry. Many also signed petitions against the government’s proposed Trident replacement system, calling for the £75 billion to be invested elsewhere. Surveys on the British YouGov site indicate 65% of UK citizens would prefer the funds be spent elsewhere.

While protesters were leafleting on the street, Lockheed alerted police to the demonstration. According to police on the scene, Lockheed staff were alarmed by the sight of a bike helmet clipped to our reporter's camera bag; citing this as evidence of intent to breach the peace. Police reassured Lockheed that no breach of the peace was likely to take place and left.

Activists hand over Xmas Card.
Image: Jules Mattsson.(Additional photos on Flickr)
Lockheed the big bomb maker
Does some very nasty work
Building new nuclear weapons
Carlisle Place is where they lurk

—Protester's Christmas song.

After leafleting for over an hour, activists moved to Carlisle Place, where Lockheed’s office is located, to present the Christmas card and sing. The building on Carlisle Place is an offices complex shared by several firms, previously owned by the Catholic Church. Lockheed Martin refused to allow a delegation of one activist and our reporter into the building to present the card to their reception. Nor was anyone prepared to accept it at the door. The card was accepted by the building manager, otherwise unaffiliated with Lockheed, on the assurance that it would be presented to the firm's reception.

Activists singing to Lockheed.
Image: Jules Mattsson.(Additional photos on Flickr)

The building security guard and premises manager stayed at the entrance after accepting the card, to listen to the campaigner’s renditions of suitably modified festive songs and ensure free passage of visitors and staff in and out of the building. The activists started with a song to the tune of Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, the alternative lyrics being, "Lockheed the big bomb maker Does some very nasty work Building new nuclear weapons Carlisle Place is where they lurk".

While singing, one of the activists; dressed as a nuclear weapons inspector with a Santa mask, lay down on the pavement in front of the building, with flowers resting atop his black body bag. Singing continued for over fifteen minutes before activists said their final goodbyes to building staff and security cameras and retired to the nearby Stop the War Coalition offices for hot refreshments.

According to the Premises Manager, Lockheed Martin's lease on their Carlisle Place offices expires in less than two years time. Lockheed will likely not renew the lease, instead relocating due to the location becoming public knowledge, and a target for further demonstrations.

More photographs of this action are available on Flickr.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

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