PROTEST group No Nato Newport issued an apology on its Facebook feed late last night after the furore surrounding their plans for a pace camp in Pill.
Those plans have now been abandoned.
The statement said: "No Nato Newport was initially set up in the New Year in response to the decision to host the Nato summit in Newport.
"Historically (the) Nato summit attracts peace protesters from all over the world, invited or not.
"Public opinion of war has shifted in recent years, with the failure, though financially lucrative for a few, of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Nato is increasingly being viewed as a vehicle for US foreign policy into Europe and one that unsettles rather than keeps the peace. Additionally, many of the leaders within Nato are those that are inflicting increasing poverty within their own countries with austerity agendas, whilst spending billions of tax payers' money on the profitable business of war.
"We wanted to ensure these protests where organised by local people, those who know the area and wanted to ensure unlike those attending the Nato summit that the protesters spent their money within Newport, so it didn’t prove to be another lost economic opportunity for Newport, such as the Ryder Cup. We have grown to become a coalition of organisation, unions and individuals and over 100 have become signatories to our statement www.nonatonewport.org. We are a non-hierarchal group, no one person holds the power, and decisions are made by consensus.
"Therefore no one person holds the blame, some individuals have been publicly criticised for decisions made, which is wrong.
"In March it was decided that the main counter summit would be in Cardiff Bay City Hall, as the labour council there (and two of the three opposition parties) support our cause. Therefore a number of campaign members concerned that Newport was losing out, decided to book a local venue, for a more family friendly event. We booked Pill Millennium Centre as a community run venue. At this point a peace camp site had not been decided. We felt this needed to be a legal site with basic needs, such as sanitation provided by the council. In a democratic society if Nato can be so lavishly facilitated at our expense, why can’t the protesters as visitors to our city be welcome with very basic needs? Our solicitors Watkins & Gunn wrote to council requesting this, but the request was refused; we tried again to the same response. This took a long period of time, during this time we was waiting for a response from the council to advise us on the siting of the peace camp.
"Early in July as time caught up with us, we felt this was becoming a matter of urgency. At a meeting with police regarding the protest march it was raised. Tredegar Park and Pillgwenlly field were suggested as options. Contrary to reports we didn’t refuse Tredegar Park, we chose Pill fields for 3 reasons. 1. As a central location it made sense to the economic benefit to the city and walking distance from the train station. 2. As by now our booking of Pill Millennium Centre had grown from 1 day to 4 days of activities. 3. We genuinely believed this would offer the community hosting our activities so much more, breakfast and dinner served free of charge to anyone welcome, activities run by police checked professions to children and young people such as conflict resolutions to name but a few.
"We hold our hands up, this was naïve and we did not expect the reaction that followed. Communication started at that point with Newport City Council, we wrongly assumed they communicated with local Councillors. Members of No Nato Newport immediately started some outreach in the Pill community to engage the residents in our plans. The fraction of the community we spoke to were positive about our plans.
"Members of the campaign met before the residents meeting in Pill Millennium Centre, to discuss how to proceed. We agreed now knowing how important Pill fields are to residents and understanding their legitimate concerns, we felt that it was not appropriate to continue with plan for a peace camp in this location. A consensus vote was met. We compiled a statement to explain to the residents how to we got to this point, hopefully to dispel myths and set the record straight. Due to the heated atmosphere of the meeting this statement was not read, hence the feeling of confusion afterwards.
"Since this meeting members of the campaign have met with the council and plans has been established to host the Peace Camp in Tredegar Park.
"We whole heartedly apologise to the residents of Pill, no intention to upset or force a Peace Camp was ever intended."
Members of No Nato Newport