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The BBC's John Thorne
"Greenpeace had caught the base unaware"
 real 56k

The BBC's James Helm
"Around 40 people are still inside the compound"
 real 56k

Helen Wallace, Protester
"We are calling on Tony Blair to send a strong signal to President Bush to stop this dangerous plan"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Protesters occupy radar base
Water tower at Menwith Hill radar early warning base
Protesters have chained themselves to a water tower
More than 100 demonstrators have broken into a major British defence site in North Yorkshire.

Greenpeace activists entered the Menwith Hill base, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, at 0500BST in protest against American plans to use it as part of the so-called "Son of Star Wars" national missile defence programme.

Some have chained themselves to buildings or hidden around the site, while others are demonstrating by the main gate as workers arrive at the listening station.

North Yorkshire Police say they are at the incident, and a Ministry of Defence spokesman has confirmed that some arrests have been made.

Star Wars ... could be so devastating for the world that only direct action will do

Eleanor Gordon
A Greenpeace spokesman co-ordinating the protest said: "At the moment we have 20 people on top of the radar building, 15 on top of the water tower and another 15 in various locations around the base.

"We will stay there for as long as we possibly can."

Reports suggest that demonstrators were on the site for almost an hour before security teams reacted.

'Dangerous plan'

Protester Helen Wallace told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that she was among the group chained to the water tower.

"There are around 20 people here on top of the tower, and other people chained down below," she said.

"We are going to stay here continuing to make our point that Menwith Hill is part of Bush's dangerous Star Wars plan."

Menwith Hill
President Bush wants to use Menwith Hill for missile defence
Greenpeace says one group of protesters walked straight through the main gate playing the Mission Impossible theme tune.

Some carried flags emblazoned with the message "Star Wars Starts Wars", while others dressed as missiles.

Other teams scaled three-metre fences topped with razor wire to get in.

Protester Eleanor Gordon, 30, of Manchester said: "About 30 went in through the main gates. There were only one or two security guards on duty and they were just overwhelmed.

"My team headed in the direction of a water tower and some climbed up, while others chained themselves to the bottom.

"I was locked to the bottom with chains and a padlock but eventually a group of four security officers came along, used bolt cutters to cut the chains and escorted me off the site.

Protesters outside Menwith Hill
Protesters gathered by the main gate of the site
"The protest may seem drastic but the effects of the Star Wars programme could be so devastating for the world that only direct action will do."

Greenpeace UK executive director Stephen Tindale, who is at Menwith Hill, said President George Bush's proposed missile defence programme was "a disaster".

He called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to turn down American requests to use UK-based sites at Menwith Hill and Fylingdales, North Yorkshire.

He said President Bush needed the two sites as the "eyes and ears" of his planned Star Wars system.

"But Bush can't install the system without Tony Blair's approval.

"We urge Mr Blair not to kowtow to Bush on such a crucial issue. He must say no to UK involvement."

He said Greenpeace had been planning the operation to enter the base for six months, but added that he had been surprised at "how easy it was to get in".

"We decided to do it today because we thought tomorrow, being American Independence Day, they would be expecting us."

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22 Jun 01 | UK Politics
'Star wars threatens new arms race'
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