29 Février 2016
February 27, 2016
Saturday 27 February 2016 18.11 GMT Last modified on Saturday 27 February 2016 18.47 GMT
Thousands of protesters have assembled in central London for Britain’s biggest anti-nuclear weapons rally in a generation.
Campaigners gathered from across the world: some said they had travelled from Australia to protest against the renewal of Trident. Others had come from the west coast of Scotland, where Britain’s nuclear deterrent submarines are based.
As the huge column of people began moving from Marble Arch after 1pm, the mood was buoyant and spirited despite the cold.
Naomi Young, 34, from Southampton said: “You can’t use nuclear weapons. You would destroy the environment and kill hundreds of thousands of people. Why spend £100bn to buy a weapon unless you want to destroy the earth?”
Many waved placards with phrases including “Books Not Bombs”, “Cut War Not Welfare” and “NHS Not Trident”.
A common theme among protesters was the cost of renewing Trident during a period of austerity.
Kai Carrwright, 17, from Exeter said: “We are having to pay to go to university and yet they want to spend £100bn on something that can only lead to the destruction of life on Earth.”
The campaigners headed for Trafalgar Square where were addressed by the leaders of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green party. The true draw – cited as an inspiration by many of those assembled – was the leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, whose unswerving unilateralist stance has electrified the nuclear deterrent debate in a manner few could have foreseen.
As crowds built from midday close to the assembly point at Marble Arch, it quickly became evident that the event would mark the biggest anti-nuclear demonstration since 1983, when 300,000 gathered in London’s Hyde Park to demonstrate against the deployment of Cruise missiles at Greenham Common, Berkshire. Union officials, faith leaders, anti-nuclear activists and anti-war campaigners were evident. Stewards estimated the numbers ran into “many tens of thousands”.
Organisers of the march, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, were confident the turnout would send a robust message of growing support against renewing the nuclear weapons system – at an estimated cost of least £41bn – and argued that worries about job losses were a red herring.
Corbyn’s decision to address the rally later on Saturday has further exposed a faultline through the party, and he has been criticised by some for highlighting party splits on a key debate.
Entering the stage to rapturous applause, he said that no one should forget the “absolute mass destruction on both sides” that would follow a nuclear attack and reiterated his “total horror of nuclear weapons, should they ever be used by anybody”.
Corbyn said he was elected Labour leader on a manifesto in which standing against the renewal of Trident was a key component.
He acknowledged the party’s role in the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty and urged: “I want to see a Labour government that would adhere to all the articles of the non-proliferation treaty.”
The treaty had worked, given that most countries that did not have nuclear weapons at that time had not subsequently acquired them, Corbyn told the crowd. It was a credit to countries such as Argentina, South Africa and Brazil that both Africa and South America remained free of such weapons, he added.
The US, Russia and the UK signed the treaty, pledging their cooperation in stemming the spread of nuclear technology.
Corbyn, who said he joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament when he was 16, also made reference to those who questioned whether he should be attending the protest: “A lot of people said that maybe it was utterly relevant maybe you shouldn’t be there, but I want to be here because of my belief in a nuclear-free future.”
He said he chose to address the demonstration because he believed in a “different kind of politics in a different kind of world, a world that emphasises dealing with the crying needs of the poor and homeless in this country. Those that are going short and suffering public spending cuts.”
Earlier this week, union activists from the GMB attacked Corbyn over his stance on Trident, warning that tens of thousands of skilled jobs were dependent on parliamentary backing for renewal of the nuclear submarine programme.
He advocated re-investing some of the money allocated for Trident on keeping jobs in the affected areas.
Actor Vanessa Redgrave, Rou Reynolds of rock band Enter Shikari, and comedian Francesca Martinez also addressed the rally. Other high-profile speakers include writer and priest Giles Fraser, and the writer Tariq Ali.
The rally received support from a number of cultural figures including bands Young Fathers and Massive Attack. Fashion designer Katharine Hamnett recently unveiled a new Stop Trident T-shirt range while Portishead’s Geoff Barrow is currently mixing a single in support of the campaign.
The event also received significant international support with campaigners from Japan, the only country to have suffered an attack by an atomic bomb, urging Britain to work towards disarmament.
Gensuikyo, the Japan Council against A and H Bombs, joined similar organisations from France, Switzerland, Italy, New Zealand and the US in sending messages of support and solidarity to the CND, the organisers of Saturday’s demonstration.
The Successor programme to replace the four Vanguard nuclear armed submarines currently carrying Trident missiles is now priced at £31bn, with a further £10bn set aside for unforeseen risks.
A parliamentary vote on renewing Trident is expected later in the year.