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Last Updated: Friday, 9 April, 2004, 20:04 GMT 21:04 UK
Marchers revive nuclear protest
The first Aldermaston march
Some 10,000 people joined the 1958 rally march to Aldermaston
Hundreds of people have begun a four-day march to Aldermaston to protest about nuclear weapons.

The protest, which revives a peace movement which began in 1958, started in London's Trafalgar Square.

Aldermaston's Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) provides the warheads for the UK's nuclear deterrent.

Campaigners fear "the next generation of nuclear weapons" are to be researched and tested there.

Scotland Yard said up to 1,000 people attended the London rally - much less than the thousands predicted - to hear speeches.

Speaking at the gathering, which was organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), veteran Labour politician Tony Benn said: "Fifty-nine years ago Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by the most terrifying weapons ever devised and tens of thousands were killed.

It makes me angry to see the number of people who have come to support the march today
Singer Damon Albarn

"That was a warning to the human race that we ignore at our peril," he said.

Bruce Kent, vice-president of CND, said: "This event is to wake up a sleeping population that is unaware of the dangers of nuclear weapons."

Mr Kent said he was not disappointed by the low turnout and the CND movement was as relevant as ever.

But Damon Albarn, lead singer of pop group Blur, who was not one of the speakers, said: "It makes me angry to see the number of people who have come to support the march today.

"I know it's Good Friday but people could give a little bit of thought, it's not even raining.

Monty's statue inspired veterans as the man himself inspired his troops all those years ago

"They don't bother at all. I think if there had been a bomb in London the place would be packed, like in Madrid but because there's not, nobody bothers."

In 1958, 15,000 attended the first CND march to mark its birth and an estimated one million took to the streets during last year's Stop the War marches.

Before the rally, CND chairwoman Kate Hudson said the supposed Aldermaston programme highlighted Britain's "nuclear hypocrisy", in claiming to want to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction at the same time as developing new ones.

She said: "The development of a new generation of UK nuclear weapons risks escalating the drive for other countries to develop their own WMD rather than encouraging them to disarm deadly weapons."

Actress Susannah York praised jailed Israeli scientist Mordechai Vanunu in her address.

Route of the Aldermaston march
Marchers set off on Good Friday and expect to arrive on Easter Monday

Vanunu has been in jail for 18 years in Israel as a whistleblower who revealed state secrets about the country's nuclear weapons programme.

She said: "One of the most courageous men in recent history, Mordechai Vanunu, is scheduled for release in 12 days' time.

"Mordechai Vanunu spoke out for us and you are speaking out for him."

About 400 people were registered to take part in the four-day march to the weapons plant but more were expected to join along the way.

Thames Valley Police predicted "congestion and disruption" along the march route and criticised organisers for not working more closely with them.

People living in Slough, Maidenhead, Reading and Oxford could be affected.

Supt Jim Trotman, area commander for west Berkshire, said the organisers had not sought the correct road closure orders for the route, which could put the safety of marchers and road users at risk.

Aldermaston pictures were provided to BBC News Online courtesy of BECTU History Project.

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