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Early estimates had Saturday's crowd in the "many tens of thousands." (Photo: @GreenpeaceUK/Twitter)

Tens of Thousands Join UK Anti-Nuke Demo Billed as Biggest in Generation

'We are not alone,' Jeremy Corbyn tells crowd. 'There are many people around the world...who have wanted a non-nuclear future for their country and their planet.'

Deirdre Fulton

In what was called "Britain’s biggest anti-nuclear weapons rally in a generation," tens of thousands took to the streets of London on Saturday to protest the UK's nuclear weapons system—Trident—and to call for global disarmament. 

According to the Guardian, "Campaigners gathered from across the world: some said they had traveled from Australia to protest against the renewal of Trident. Others had come from the west coast of Scotland where Britain’s nuclear deterrent submarines are based."

Organized by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the demonstration comes ahead of a parliamentary decision on whether or not to replace Trident, the UK's nuclear weapons system, comprised of four submarines carrying up to 40 nuclear warheads apiece. Such an endeavor would cost least £41bn, UK government officials have said.

"Taken together with government figures for calculating the lifetime cost, it looks like the whole sorry project will cost at least £183bn," CND general secretary Kate Hudson pointed out in an op-ed published Saturday. "At a time of swingeing government spending cuts this is clearly outrageous."

Indeed, Labour MP David Lammy said in announcing his support of the rally last week: "For me the renewal of Trident is inextricably linked with the lack of resources and austerity we see across the country."

He cited the "closure of care homes, the closure of children's centers, no new services and chronic shortages in housing," before adding, "I could not in all conscience vote for renewal worth £31 billion or more when this happening."

Other political figures, including longtime anti-war activist and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, also backed the demo. Speaking to the crowd on Saturday, Corbyn said the demonstration was "an expression of many people's public opinion."

"We are not alone," he declared. "There are many people around the world...who have wanted a non-nuclear future for their country and their planet."

Though Corbyn's decision to speak at the rally was controversial, the left-winger said: "I want to be here because of my belief in a nuclear-free future... a world that emphasizes dealing with the crying needs of the poor and homeless in this country, those who are going short and suffering public spending cuts in this country, but also a globe in which we address the grotesque levels of inequality."

As Rajesh Makwana, executive director of civil society group Share the World's Resources, argued this week, decommissioning Trident would be a "bold and essential step" toward a global goal of "general and complete disarmament."

"Renewing Trident would not only undermine international disarmament efforts for years to come," he wrote, "it will reinforce the hazardous belief that maintaining a functional nuclear arsenal is essential for any nation seeking to wield power on the world stage."

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