Anti-nuclear protestors reunited to mark the 40th anniversary of one of the UK’s largest ever set piece civil disobedience demonstrations. Between May 31st and June 3rd 1983 demonstrators gathered at USAF Upper Heyford to protest against all nuclear weapons. More than 5,000 people took part and the police made 752 arrests.
On Saturday, June 3, the returning demonstrators held a meeting at the site of the peace camp on Portway. They then walked to the Heritage Centre on the former US Air force base which is now “mothballed”. Here there will soon be two new display panels with information about the 1983 blockade and other protests although there were calls for a more permanent commemoration, as at Greenham Common, to be established.
Steve Barwick, one of the founders of the peace camp and co-organiser of the four-day blockade, said:
“The four-day peace blockade really was an extraordinary event. A dozen peace campers, supported by a network of CND groups, organised the successful and entirely peaceful event by creating regional shifts of affinity groups all trained in nonviolence. And all from an era before mobile phones, emails or social media! The truth is I have never worked so hard in my entire working life as I did in the three months preceding the event!
“The reunion was a very worthwhile occasion in itself. It was also important as a reminder that the last time nuclear re-armament was happening people organised and protested. In the 1980s fear about a nuclear conflict were genuine, and rising, and people felt they had to do something to stop nuclear Armageddon. It is clear now that CND and events such as the four day peace blockade, helped change the climate of opinion and did contribute to the era of global nuclear disarmament, which sadly is now being reversed.
“With Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, recent nuclear sabre rattling by Vladimir Putin and small “usable” US nuclear weapons returning to Lakenheath, it is vital that voices for peace are raised again. The spirit of idealism and protest, which the Upper Heyford Peace Camp represented, and its message that peace is always the preferable option, remain absolutely essential today.”
The reunion achieved some excellent news coverage including this BBC Oxford Radio “mash-up” of archive news footage and contemporary commentary; and this BBC South Today report.