The 1980's had finished but Margaret Thatcher was still in power. however the poll tax or 'community' charge was a step too far and life was still busy.
Poll tax demonstration College Green, Bristol, 6 March 1990
International Women's Day, 8 March 1990
Day of action in Broadmead by the Women's Action Against Pornography – leaflets, postcards, petition and banner.
‘Liza and Sam took all the porn out of WH Smiths and took it to Broadmead police station and asked them to declare it illegal under the Obscene Publications Act. It didn’t work – they arrested us but let us go without charge as long as we promised not to do it again!!! We did (I wasn’t going to but the others were) and I shouldn’t think Smiths are going to prosecute us by now. The day went really well, we got another 700 signatures. Excellent! It was really good having the megaphone.
Liza and I went up and gave the petition in at Smiths Head Office on Tuesday 3rd April. They say that if we can conclusively prove the links between porn and sexual violence they’ll stop selling it.’
Still at it on May 24th, ‘four of us chained ourselves to a railing inside the shop, while others gave out leaflets, petitioned, et. I was very loud, read statements about the links between pornography and violence. We were arrested and then cut free by the police!’
Degree results 2.1 - got a job offer at Commercial Union as clerk on £7500 pa.
Poll tax demonstrations
‘The Poll Tax Demonstration in London on 31 March 1990 had about 200,000 people at it. We left when the police started charging into the crowd for no apparent reason early on, opposite Downing Street on Whitehall. I think they picked our part of the march because there were lost of anarchists there. It was quite frightening. Elizabeth and Evelyn were trapped in the Pizza place on the corner of Trafalgar Square with police and rioters fighting outside. Atlanta saved JoJo from being hit in the side of the head by a bottle, which broke on her arm, etc. Shops all over the West End were smashed and looted.
There have been anti-Poll Tax demonstrations all over the country. In Bristol people blockaded the race track then marched through the streets for an hour. It was wonderful! People were getting out of their cars and off buses and joining in.’
6 August 1990 The Independent reported that three women from Greenham Common had launched criminal prosecutions for assault against MoD police officers and USAF security police.
The summonses charged 4 MoD constables and 2 USAF officers with common assault and battery, an offence triable only by magistrates and punishable by a fine or up to 6 months imprisonment.
The women did not question that entering the base, where the 48 remaining cruise missiles are to be phased out by next May, is a civil trespass, but they claim they should be asked to leave and allowed to walk out. Force should only be used if they refuse.
Juliette McBride, a regular visitor, served a summons on Lt Col David Mills, head of USAF security who unlawfully detained her against her will. She said, ‘I was just walking on the common.’
They come after last month’s decision by the House of Lords that by-laws made under the 1892 Military Lands Act making unauthorised entry an offence were void because they excluded rights of access by 62 commoners (owners of property adjoining the commons. Because the bylaws could not be enforced against those without commoner rights, protesters who trespass on the base cannot be arrested. The ruling opened the way for more than 1000 women to ask for criminal convictions to be quashed.
Independent article: ‘Greenham women are still unpopular with residents but there is grudging acceptance that they have played their part in getting the weapons removed and keeping the issue of the common alive.
Jut as some residents were indifferent to cruise missiles, not everyone cares whether Greenham reverts to a common. But those that do, the presence of the Greenham women, their protests and their challenges to what purports to be the law may yet spawn benefits for the community that has always despised them.’
Went to a demonstration about the war in the Gulf.
Working and saving money for my trip, going to Greenham at weekends and days/weeks off.
Tuesday 23rd October 1990
Me and Dido cut down 20 sections then went to bed. At about 3 o’clock I was suddenly woken up by really loud pop music and bright lights shining on the tents. The fence menders had lined all their vehicles up and shone their headlamps on the woods and fence, and switched on someone’s car radio very loudly at the same time. Well almost everyone work and got up, most of us thinking it was vigilantes, me thinking it was the circus.
The fence menders were very happy as they were getting triple pay plus a call-out fee, which must have added up to more than a day’s pay. When they had gone 6 or 7 of us who were up cut it all down again! This time we cut along the bottom as well so that it couldn’t just be put back up again – ha ha! They completely replaced it with new very cheap fencing that won’t take 5 minutes to chop down!’
5th November 1990
‘I’m going to Nevada next week with Lorna and Jane VG to do an action to stop the UK testing a nuclear bomb on 14th November. Actually we have to fly on 9th – which is this Friday. I have to be back at the end of the week. I can’t get any time off work so I will have to pretend to be ill – with flu or something equally original.’
I recorded that we got charged and have to go back for the trial on 4th January 1991. I decided I wouldn’t come back for a while, deciding whether to go down to Mexico or stay in the States.
‘We did the action with a man called Michael. He was originally just supposed to be our guide, and to leave when he’d got photographs of us near to ground zero. In the end we decided that it was too risky for him to make his way back alone.
On Sunday (another man!) Charlie drove us out as far as practically possible in a large, high, four-wheel drive vehicle into the desert. This was made difficult by the fact that there were no roads, he couldn’t use his lights, we were trying to follow the dry courses of old river beds. The front would hit a boulder in the dark and would turn the wheels out of control in a second and the ‘track’ constantly kept petering out. We were then dropped at the mouth of Thirsty Canyon.
‘We were all three really knackered. Jane and I had got there Friday night and Lorna only the night before. Also we kept waking up at about 4.30am. It as really disorientating so it was quite difficult to keep a track of where we were. We didn’t make very much headway, then the next day had similar problems, as we started off climbing up a canyon that we would never have attempted to go up if we could have seen the solid wall in front of us.
On Tuesday then we got up at 3 am and by 7 am we had got back to where we knew where we were and how to proceed. I really enjoyed being in the desert. It was just neat being so far from everyone else in such a beautiful spot. It was lovely in the canyons and as we had plenty of time (to start with!) I didn’t feel harassed that we were making such bad progress. Tuesday morning we finally climbed the side of a canyon and went up the last few hills so that we were basically on the same level as the test site. It’s ironic but the bits I enjoyed most were the bits that Jane and Lorna found the most torturous! They were Michael’s best bits as well – scrambling and climbing up the canyon’s sides and scouting around hopping from foothold to foothold amongst the scree, seeing the best way to go. In the canyons we didn’t really see much wildlife – a jack rabbit at one point, an escapee black cow, and two tarantulas!! There were also butterflies and the bird song was lovely, especially the first sunrise. Jane met the tarantulas a good way up the steepest canyon we had to climb. (Her two phobias are heights and spiders!!) I saw the first one it was beautiful – lovely and furry and in a hurry to get away from us!! Lorna is scared of heights as well and I had to take her rucksack off her on the same canyon side.
Once we were on the plateau it was a completely different story – with Jane and Lorna forging ahead and me and Michael dragging behind. He had broken his leg in a motorcycle accident a year before and this was the first time he had had to put any real strain on it. Towards the end he looked like he was in agony with it, and was limping along at the back most of the time.
The last day we walked then from 3 am Tuesday morning up till about 6.30 am Wednesday. It was really difficult keeping going after dark, especially at one point when we spent quite a long time walking in the wrong direction towards what looked like a road, but in fact was just a strip of sand. When I say ‘roads’ what I really mean is jeep tracks which disappeared at intervals and at points just stopped. Also we were working from a map dated 1979 and a satellite picture from 1984 as well as another less detailed map of indeterminate age. The tracks were dependent on their being used, and when they weren’t the desert would grow over them in a few years – so eleven years made quite a difference. Eventually we got on the Pahute Mesa Road.
Amongst the huge quantities of equipment we had with us (my pack weighed 45 pounds at the same time that I weighed 116 pounds!) we carried scanners and receiver/transmitters.
On the scanners we could pick up 10 different stations including the weathermen employed to monitor conditions around the test area, the test control centre, local police forces and the private security guards – Wackenhuts, who were patrolling the area (in theory!)
I was listening in on the Monday when they announced that the dry run was still going to be held on the next day. That was the first indication that things were going to schedule and were not going to be delayed. Somehow we missed the actual dry run the next day, but we heard from Charlie that it had successfully gone ahead. I think they might possibly have been avoiding using the radios at that point, however. We periodically kept in contact with Charlie on the handset and using a ‘yaggy’ – a sort of directional TV aerial to aid transmission.
On Tuesday I found it really hard to keep on walking through the night, even when we got onto the Pahute Mesa Road. On reflection this was to do with not eating as much as anything else. Being tired and hungry and feeling quite faint meant that my worries about actually finding ground zero were heightened somewhat! We didn’t know exactly where we were going, although as it turned out we ended up within about 2 miles of ground zero.
It wasn’t until we were within about 3-4 miles of ground zero that we even came across any traffic or signs of life, then we had to pretend to be bits of desert, which worked very well. At one point I thought that we had been spotted, but they weren’t looking for us at all.
We had heard the evening before the test that the US Department of Energy were saying that it was all a hoax to delay the test. We broadcast that we would send a volunteer out to show herself to prove that it wasn’t. So at about half an hour before sun up we left Lorna and made our way up to a drilling rig with a light on top. We cautiously checked it out a bit, and it seemed like ground zero so we hid in a nearby little canyon for a few hours. After a couple of hours it became really apparent that Lorna was in the wrong place and that the security guards and helicopters were just going to ignore her.
At this time we were so exhausted that I actually fell asleep while I was waiting for the countdown to start – I can’t believe I did that! We were all in different cracks, gaps or caves, really well hidden in case anyone was looking for us – unfortunately they weren’t. The test was announced to be running half an hour late (maybe because of Lorna – but it’s difficult to tell!). At about 10 to countdown – began 9.03 am we scrambled to the top of the gully and could see helicopters circling around an area beyond the mountains on the other side of the valley. That was ground zero around two miles away.
At this point we just went for it, climbing and jumping down the side of the cliff to the valley floor, abandoning our packs and running towards the road. I was so tired that from then I could hardly run at all, but just had to hurry onwards. At one point there was a deer by the side of the road watching us. I clapped my hands to try and frighten it and get it run away. The sight of it made me want to cry with rage at what they were doing.
As we were leaving the gully I thought that we just had to get out of there and get to ground zero. All I was thinking about actually, believe it or not, was that Lorna was out there by herself. Wherever she was she was in danger of serious injury/death and that the only way to save her was to get to ground zero. I wasn’t really afraid for me, Jane or Michael at all. When we got up to the site I paused for like 2 seconds, but still crossed into ground zero first, grounding myself in case they were prepared to go ahead and murder us. When I saw the deer it seemed as important to get there and save its life as it was to save Lorna. I wasn’t really concerned about Michael and Jane – they were in a similar position as myself, knew where to go and had as much control as I did over getting there.
On this desperate dash to ground zero, which lasted for about 35 minutes, Jane was quite freaked out by the situation. I felt really calm, although determined and forward striding. I was concerned that she was so wound up as you really needed to be able to relax and let it flow, if that isn’t being too much of a hippy.
Anyway she had a bit row with Michael which I missed as I couldn’t keep up with them, as she didn’t care at that point whether we got picked up or not by the helicopters. Also she was lighting flares and waving her space blanket. (I got mine out too in solidarity). At one point she gave me a big flare to hold which I did – but accidentally set the arm of my jacket (which the bastard police took!) alight with it!
I was listening in on the scanner to the countdown. It stopped twice (because of technical hitches?) before they finally stopped it at the point when we entered ground zero.
Well, I stayed with Jane at Ground Zero for about 35 minutes, radioing, waving to the helicopters etc. After a while we could talk to Lorna, then see her waving as she came over the mountain pass. She had picked up my cardigan that I had thrown down on the ground on the way over the top of the pass. Michael went and sort of hid nearby but was spotted by the helicopters fairly quickly.
They kept buzzing Lorna, who eventually had to lie on the ground for her own safety. We were then handcuffed, blindfolded and driven away very quickly from the site.
I was quite funny when we got arrested. They weren’t going to get out of their helicopters, so had to wait for over half an hour for the Wackenhuts to come and get us. When they arrived Lorna was stuck on the edge of ground zero, because of the helicopter hovering over her. I stayed with Jane at ground zero as she was still really shaky and Michael went off and hid in the bushes nearby.
A truck came up and then another and the two guards came over to get us. This was about the only point that I really got into using the radio! When they went to handcuff us they accidentally put both pairs on me and handcuffed me in front. We then picked up Lorna and finally Michael. My handcuffs were rearranged, we were blindfolded and driven away extremely fast! About half an hour later we were parked somewhere or other when we felt the blast go off and shake the car. The explosion measured 5.1 and was followed by two more earthquakes the next day in California and a volcano in SE Asia. My god!