Olympic battle: Londoners to form human shield to keep missiles from homes

A Rapier missile defence system, which could play a role in providing air security during the Olympics, is shown to members of the media at Blackheath in southeast London on May 3, 2012 (AFP Photo/Carl Court)
Residents in east London have threatened to form human barricades to prevent missiles being installed on the rooftops of their homes for the Olympic Games.

Six sites in east London have been earmarked for the deployment of Rapier and Starstreak missiles, each with a range of over three miles and capable of travelling at three times the speed of sound.

During the Olympics, London will have more soldiers on the streets than at any time since the Second World War and that there will be more armed personnel patrolling the capital than the entire number of British troops serving  in Afghanistan.  This amounts to far more security than was in place at the Beijing Olympics.

Critics claim there has been a militarization of London in the run up to the games. Inhabitants of an upmarket gated development in the upmarket Bow Quarter, announced at the meeting on Thursday night that they would do everything in their power to stop the deployment of the missiles.

A local campaigner against deploying weapons in the Bow area, Chris Nineham, told RT that “they were a threat to the life and limb of people” who live there.

Other sites include Blackheath Common, the Lea Valley Reservoir, Oxleas Wood, Barn Hill in Epping Forest, and a playground in Waltham Forest.

The Ministry of Defence informed local communities of the potential decision in leaflets handed out in April and has declined to talk to local people until a final missile deployment decision has been made.  However, Nineham, who lives within a mile of one of the proposed sites, says he was never informed by the MOD.

Brian Whelan, who lives in Bow Quarter, where a missile is due to be set up on the nearby water tower, is leading a campaign to block the installation of the missiles. He told the London Evening Standard “The Ministry of Defence have tried to claim that I am a lone nutter, but I am not alone. There are a lot of people opposed to this. We will protest and if it gets to it we will ring our buildings and take to the streets to stop them.”

Chris Nineham, who is also vice president of the Stop-the-War Coalition and who set up the Stop the Olympic Missiles campaign, told RT that there had been no consultation from the Ministry of Defence or the Government with locals.

He said that a meeting of local residents on May 31st voted unanimously that the missile plans were not sensible.  Nineham believes that the government should not be able to dictate to local residents and is hoping that their campaign will see a reversal of the proposal. He added that if the government did not back down there were two legal challenges already in place.

According to Nineham, a senior source in the military said there was no credible intelligence of a terrorist attack on the games. Nineham said that in his opinion such a large scale deployment of force does not make London safer but instead encourages a reaction from those elements of world society who have a grievance with UK foreign policy.

Nineham added “it’s surreal, the games are talked about as if they have some strange military dimension to them and we’re losing sight that they are first and foremost a sporting event.”