by Emer Martin
Residents have threatened to form a human barricade to prevent missiles being installed on the roof of their homes during the Olympics.
More than 200 people attended a meeting in Bow last night to discuss the question “Do We Want Missiles in Our Communities?”
Inhabitants of a private gated development in Bow told the meeting that they were “terrified” and “would do everything in their power” to stop the installation of the missiles. The MoD declined an invitation to attend the first consultation meeting, and a spokesman told organisers that it did not want to talk to local people “until after the final decision to deploy the missiles”.
Residents living near the six sites earmarked for the surface-to-air Starstreak and Rapier missiles were informed of the plans in leaflets handed out in April. The weapons travel at three times the speed of sound and have a range of 3.4 miles.
Other sites are in Blackheath Common, the Lea Valley Reservoir, Oxleas Wood, Barn Hill in Epping Forest, and a playground in Waltham Forest.
Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said: “I wrote to the Secretary of State for Defence, making my concerns about this site clear. I made it clear that residents should not have been informed of these plans by leaflets handed out on a Friday night. Quite rightly, people are outraged about being informed in that way.”
Local campaigner Chris Nineham said: “If they were changing the parking regulations, they’d have a consultation period. You would have thought there would be some discussion when they decide to put a missile on the roof of your building.
“These missiles have a significant failure rate, and you have to ask, if they do fire them, what will happen?”
Brian Whelan, 28, who lives in the gated Bow Quarter block where a missile will be rigged on the roof of a water tower, is leading the campaign to block the installation of the missiles.
He said: “The Ministry of Defence have tried to claim 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 building and take to the streets to stop them. We will not be sidelined.”
Local resident and Respect spokesman Abjol Miah said: “We don’t want the missile on our doorstep. If that means standing outside to protect our doorsteps, we will do it.”
Alex Kenny, from Tower Hamlets NUT, said: “The militarisation of London raises important issues. We will be behind any protests and I think we can win this one. We will support any action against the instalment of the missiles.”
General Sir Nick Parker, in charge of Olympic operations, said: “We are practising for the worst-case scenario, not the most likely scenario.”