UK Anti-Nuke Campaigner In Court Over U.S. Flag Incident

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

London ( - A British anti-nuclear campaigner was appearing in court Thursday in connection with a protest during which she allegedly trailed a U.S. flag on the ground, forcing an American citizen to drive over it.

Lindis Percy, 59, is charged along with a fellow protestor, Anni Rainbow, of obstructing the highway leading to Menwith Hill, a northern England military facility used by the National Security Agency, and one of two UK bases likely to form part of any future American national missile defense (NMD) shield.

A month after the protest last December - which co-incided with the belated announcement that President Bush had won the election - prosecutors added another two charges against Percy after studying video footage of the demonstration.

She was charged with contravening the Public Order Act, in that she had trailed a U.S. flag on the ground in front of cars driven by American citizens, and within sight of people who were "likely to be caused harassment alarm or distress" by her action.

An additional charge added a racial motivation, saying Percy's action had been wholly or partly motivated by hostility towards "members of a racial group, namely citizens of the United States of America based on their membership of that racial group."

Percy said before appearing Thursday that the prosecution had several days ago informed her that it was dropping the racial charge, but pressing ahead with the public order count.

"By bringing this case it seems that the flags of other countries are afforded more protection under UK law than that offered under the law of the country they represent," Percy said ahead of the appearance at the Harrogate Magistrates' Court, near Menwith Hill.

Among those expected to be called to give evidence are American employees at the base and members of the UK Ministry of Defense police.

Percy and Rainbow are co-coordinators of a group called the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB).

They are opposed to British bases being used as part of NMD. Menwith Hill and another base in north England, Fylingdales, are expected to become part of the system, which is intended to protect the U.S. from any future missile attack from "rogue" states like North Korea or Iran.

Percy said in an interview earlier she regularly uses an American flag daubed with the slogan "Stop Star Wars" in CAAB demonstrations.

NMD has been nicknamed "Son of Star Wars" in reference to President Reagan's original space-based defense proposals.

The U.S. base at Menwith Hill is thought to be a key component of the NSA's controversial Echelon spy network, which European lawmakers allege has been exploited to benefit U.S. businesses vying for international contracts.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow