Monday 29 December 2008

Three arrested at Northwood: two for praying one for chatting

Catholic Priest, former British Marine and Catholic Worker Arrested in "Peace Break In" at Northwood Permanent Joint Headquarters.

Two Catholic peace activists were arrested Monday 8 a.m. after cutting through a perimeter fence at Northwood Permanent Joint Headquarters in suburban London. Fr Martin Newell 41 and Susan Clarkson 62 are from the London and Oxford Catholic Worker communities where they live and work with refugees from wars in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa. While the two were arrested praying inside the base, other members of Catholic Worker communities held vigil at the front entrance reading the names of British and Afghani war dead. Former British Marine Les Gibbons was arrested while engaging armed guards, M.O.D. police and other Base employees making their way to work at the base. During the arrests, sirens and public address messages from within the base could be heard announcing "Operation Round Up" and a return of all staff to buildings as the base's security response was put in place.

Northwood Military Headquarters is the command centre for all British forces deployed abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is a 43 acre site in suburban London accommodating over 2,000 military and civilian personnel. In recent weeks, two British soldiers committed suicide in Basra while the 136th. British soldier to die in Afghanistan was killed on Christmas Eve. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission estimates over 750 Afghani civilians have been killed by Western forces in 2008.

The Catholic Worker is an international pacifist movement focused on work with the homeless and nonviolent anti-war activity. The Catholic Worker has sustained a constant peace presence and nonviolent resistance at Northwood Headquarters since the initial 2001 bombing and invasion of Afghanistan. This recent action coincided with the Catholic "Feast of the Holy Innocents" that commemorates the massacre of the children by King Herod who saw the birth of Christ as a threat to his power.

The three arrested have been taken to Watford police station.

(Image: Les and police at Northwood)