Protest not likely to affect Lakenheath bazaar
September 30, 2006
RAF LAKENHEATH, England — Organizers for this weekend’s annual holiday bazaar — which draws hundreds to the base and raises thousands of dollars for charity — expressed little concern about a plan by activists to protest outside of the base on Sunday.
Longtime bazaar organizer Jessica McCollum said the protesters have for years been a fixture at the RAF Lakenheath front gate during the annual bazaar.
“It’s never been any reason to make us think twice,” she said. “It’s never been an issue.”
The protesters will arrive at the invitation of the Lakenheath Action Group, which describes the scheduled three-hour Sunday event as a “political cabaret” and “the biggest demonstration the base has ever seen” on its Web site.
The group asserts the base is home to more than 100 American nuclear weapons and actively lobbies for their removal. As policy, 48th Fighter Wing officials decline to confirm if the largest Air Force base in the United Kingdom is home to nuclear weapons.
A wing spokesman acknowledged that base officials are aware of the planned protest, but as policy the base does not speak about security measures.
Local British officials will take the lead in securing the protest, according to 1st Lt. Aaron J. Henninger.
“The base and local officials work in close coordination to ensure that the assembled group can safely voice their opinions in an unimpeded fashion,” said the wing statement.
McCollum said the protests have been largely peaceful, low-key events in the past, and she expects the same this year.
This year’s protest comes on the heels of a series of arrests of protesters targeting U.S. Air Force assets across the United Kingdom.
A 68-year-old Yorkshire woman was arrested earlier this year by the Ministry of Defence Police twice in one day for trying to break onto RAF Lakenheath, the second time with a claw hammer.
Roughly a dozen protesters were arrested in August in Scotland for breaching security at Glasgow’s airport and breaking into a Delaware Air National Guard C-130 aircraft.
Dozens of protesters also camped adjacent to the gate of nearby RAF Mildenhall for nearly a month this summer in protest of the alleged shipment of arms from America to Israel via the 100th Air Refueling Wing.