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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
No nukes is good nukes
No nukes
After years in the wilderness anti-nuclear protesters once again have a rallying cry - against the so-called "son of Star Wars", writes BBC News Online's Megan Lane.

How about this for a spot of unlikely 1980s revivalism - the anti-nuclear protest is making a comeback.

With the Cold War long since over - and issues such as globalisation to get aerated about - the heat had all but gone out of the campaign for nuclear disarmament.

Police watch protesters in Scotland
On guard at an anti-nuclear protest in Scotland
Yet when George W Bush took up residence in the White House, he brought the issue back to the boil.

His commitment to developing the National Missile Defence system, dubbed "son of Star Wars", has sparked fears of a new arms race.

The anti-nuclear camp, for years regarded as something of a spent force backed mainly by militant grannies, is unfurling its banners again.

Earlier this year, more than 1,000 protesters blockaded the Trident nuclear submarine base in Faslane, Scotland, and on Easter Saturday, some 3,000 people joined a CND demonstration outside Downing Street against Star Wars.

Star Wars II

The multi-billion dollar defence plan, initially conceived by the Pentagon in 1983, aims to create an impenetrable shield over the United States to guard against attack from so-called rogue states.

Too remote to be the next Greenham Common?
And if it goes ahead, the UK could find itself playing an important supporting role.

RAF bases at Fylingdales and Menwith Hill in the North Yorkshire moors are being developed as missile tracking stations.

Lionel Trippett, of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), says son of Star Wars has resurected the nuclear threat in people's minds.

"It's particularly because of Yorkshire. For years, our work involved poring over the small print in arms treaties - now there's something physical to rail against."

Double the numbers

Since President Bush took power in January, CND has signed up several hundred new members each month.

Tony Benn at CND rally in 1981
Heyday: Tony Benn at a CND rally in 1981
"Quite a lot are lapsed members coming back to us, but we're also getting a number of new members, including youth members," Mr Trippett says.

"Numbers dropped quite dramatically at the end of the Cold War. We went from about 400,000 paid-up members in the mid-80s to a bedrock of about 15,000 to 16,000 people a couple of years ago."

The organisation now has about 20,000 national members and a further 10,000 in local groups.

Not in our backyard

The 1990s were mostly barren years for the anti-nuclear campaign, even though thousands of warheads around the world remained live.

A handful of women stuck it out at Greenham Common, a former American military base in the UK, finally leaving last September almost a decade after the last of the missiles was flown back to the US.

Anti-Trident protesters Keith Wright - aka River - and Sylvia Boyes
No nukes: Keith Wright and Sylvia Boyes
But concerns continued to simmer, what with the French testing nuclear devices in the south Pacific in 1995 and new "nuclear states" emerging such as India and Pakistan.

And in January, anti-nuclear protesters Sylvia Boyes and Keith Wright scored a legal victory when they appeared in a Manchester court charged with attempting to trash a Trident submarine in 1999.

The pair argued they had tried to disarm the sub with hammers because nuclear weapons were immoral and illegal according to a 1996 ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

The judge said that such ideals were no defence - the jury disagreed, and acquitted the pair.

Clear and present danger

So the movement is experiencing something of a renaissance - although campaigners must surely wish there was no further need for their voices to be heard.

Greenham Common sign
The US has long had a military presence in the UK
Olivia Agate, a retired health visitor from Skipton, Yorkshire, was one of the 379 people arrested at February's Faslane protest.

A CND member for 25 years, she had thought of dropping out when Greenham was abandoned.

"At one time I felt we had achieved what we wanted, but then I read about the Tridents at Faslane and the American Star Wars national missile defence system and I realised there was still a threat.

"I now have grandchildren and I want the world to stay safe for them."

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