On first being banged up.
All eleven of us, Quakers from Bristol, quickly sat on the wet road, the entrance to the nuclear submarine base, in the drizzly grey dawn. My mind was blank, fatalistic. Almost immediately I was picked up and placed at the side of the road. The others were carried off. After a few bewildered minutes I asked a policeman – they were all very friendly and as helpful as they could be – why I’d been left. "Ran out of people to do it." I spent the morning waiting for another group wanting to invite arrest. I held a banner to be read from passing cars: "Quakers say no to Trident." Several, going to work in the base, gave a timid thumbs up. The day wore on, cold and wet. I was chilled to the bone. I joined a group – mainly women from Horfield – who said they intended to sit, to get arrested. But they were unsure. Rumour was that we’d be in detention until Monday – three days. At last we decided to go ahead. I found myself in the lead, sitting. This time I was not fatalistic, but fearful. A voice towered above me. "Will you move?" "No". My voice seemed surprisingly firm. "If you do not move we will arrest you. Will you move?". Again, "No". Strong hands hoisted my feet into the air, then others the rest of me, and I was carried off. A few Friends clapped, and rushed to take photos. In the van, parked in a dripping wood, the cold and the anti-climax took over. I was shivering and felt numb, close to hypothermia. I asked that the van be heated – it was. I was the only detainee – the 8 women were in another van. We were held for about four hours. Conversation with the police was pleasant – they were interested in Quakerism. One argued in favour of Polaris, but all the others kept their opinions to themselves, though seemed sympathetic. Eventually talk flagged. I slept. When I needed a pee, two officers came with me, through the rain, to the porta-loo. At last we were driven the 30 or so miles to Glasgow, to Clydebank police station. Here we were ‘processed’ – our names, etc taken for the third time, but this time slowly as our details were typed laboriously into a computer, and all our possessions, including belt and shoes, everything except a handkerchief and a book, taken and carefully listed. All very polite, gentle, and apparently friendly. Then to a cell. A very loud bang as the heavy metal door slammed shut and one was suddenly completely alone in a stark, bare room. Intense emotions swept over me. A strange excitement then an awsome sense of total helplessness. No-where to hang my damp jersey. No-where to sit but uncomfortably on the thin mattress on the concrete floor. I paced. I lay. Eventually I found a comfortable position – on the stainless steel lavatory. It and the cell were clean, dry, and not cold. A man, banged up in a nearby cell, cried dreadfully, long and loud, like a bereft child. A woman screeched and swore. But mainly it was very silent. After a while I felt comfortable – especially after a hot, tasty meal, handed to me through an opening in the door. The friendly person kept calling me sir, offering more dinner, "Anything you need, just press the bell, sir." I slept, but was soon woken for fingerprinting and to be photographed yet again. Back to my cell, back to sleep, only to be wakened again. "The Police Doctor." He was a cheerful tubby man, very interested in Quakers and why we were protesting. Suggested he’d join us when he retired. Back to sleep, and to read what had seemed an excessively boring book: Walter Scott’s "Red Gauntlet". A lot of amusing content about early Quakers. Then yet again, around midnight the door was rattled open and the friendly chap said, "They’re letting you go". A constable told us formally that we were to get warnings, but that it was felt the cells, with many drunks expected, would be unsuitable for us. Again we were slowly processed, signing for all our possessions, and eventually were out in the cold night. Thank goodness for our volunteer van driver, waiting to take us to the Youth Hostel.
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