Chelmsford TUC

Time for Peace

We are very proud that amongst the leading peace campaigners in Chelmsford during the 1930s were delegates to the Trades Council.

During this period they organised several events to promote peace and wore the white poppy that had been developed by the Co-operative Women’s Guild. From 1958 onwards peace campaigners in Chelmsford were largely associated with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament but they also united with others, including delegates to the Trades Council, to oppose wars in Vietnam, the Falklands, Iraq and Kosovo.

The Trades Council is affiliated to CND and, given that some of its affiliates were employed by Marconi, we always contended that their skills should have been used to develop alternative products. Alas, our advice was never heeded and Marconi’s presence in Chelmsford is now a distant memory.

To mark the UN International Year for a Culture of Peace the Trades Council invited Bruce Kent, President of the National Peace Council, to address its 2000 May Rally.

In 2001 delegates to the Trades Council were active in giving support to two brave campaigners for peace. On 3 November 2000, Father Martin Newell and Susan van der Hijden of the Catholic Worker Community in Amsterdam, non-violently disabled a convoy vehicle at RAF Wittering that was specifically designed to carry nuclear warheads to the Trident submarines at Faslane. They painted the words "The Kingdom of God is Among You", "Drop the debt, not the bombs" and "Love is the fulfilment of the Law". They then went in search of the guards to tell them of their action. Both Susan and Martin were charged with burglary and criminal damage, and held in prison for over six months. When they came to trial in Chelmsford on 21 May 2001, supporters of Jubilee Ploughshares, Bhudists, and other peace campaigners, travelled to Chelmsford from the USA, Sweden, Holland, Australia and many parts of the UK to show their solidarity; among them was our good friend Bruce Kent. During the trial a vigil was held every day in the shopping precinct and during the evening a social function took place.

On 25 May, the jury, after deliberating for three hours, found both defendants guilty on the charges of burglary and damaging property by ten to two. They were then released. The barrister defending Father Martin Newall remarked that he had suffered considerable hardship during his time in gaol; not only had it been his first offence, he had been moved to several prisons and both defendants had been virtually isolated from their families. In sentencing them the judge remarked that both were "people of good character" but that they had put the "public purse to considerable expense". Supporters later remarked that the cost of Trident was also a considerable drain on the public purse. Despite having signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Britain and the USA are now going ahead with research and development of a new generation of nuclear weapons. The General Secretary of the UN told us in 2004 that the world is a more dangerous place following the invasion of Iraq. He is right and we have to continue campaigning to defeat this new threat to humankind.

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