THIRTEEN people were arrested during the biggest protest seen at a North Yorkshire "spy base" in 20 years.

Police said "a tiny minority" got involved in trouble when more than 1,000 demonstrators converged on the Menwith Hill base, near Harrogate.

Three people have since been charged with breaching bail conditions, criminal damage and possession of an article with intent to do damage.

They were due to appear before Harrogate magistrates. The remainder have been released without charge.

Isolated incidents of stone-throwing, fence-climbing, trespass and petty vandalism were dealt with by officers taking part in a huge police operation, involving members of six forces, supported by Ministry of Defence officers.

But most of the protesters flew tin foil kites and metallic balloons in an attempt to disrupt communications at the listening station on Saturday.

Organiser Neil Kingsnorth, of Yorkshire CND, said the protest was an "extraordinary success" with many more people joining in than had been expected.

Police temporarily closed part of the A59 as hundreds of colourfully-dressed participants marched around the four-mile perimeter of the base.

Laura Potts, of York Against The War, said: "It's enabling people to think about what's happening in our name in other parts of the world. Protests like this give people an opportunity to do something about their grief and anger in a safe and controlled way."

Lindis Percy, of the Campaign for the Accountability of American Air Bases (CAAAB), said the protest was the biggest she had witnessed at the base since the mid-1980s.

She said: "Although the foil protest is largely symbolic, we must remember why we are here. On a beautiful day in North Yorkshire, people at this base are involved in the bombing of the Iraqi people."

Protester Jeremy Clines, chaplain at York St John College, flew a U.S. military signal kite at the demonstration, a kite similar to ones used in the Vietnam War by stranded airmen.

"Peace has broken out in York, North Yorkshire and all over the country," he said. "While war has only broken out in Iraq."

Milan Rai, author of the book War Plan Iraq, said non-violent direct-action protests, such as this, could cause "enormous problems" for this country's leadership.

Deputy Chief Constable Peter Walker, who led the police operation, said the six-hour event was "overwhelmingly peaceful".

He said: "The only disappointment has been the behaviour of a tiny minority who tried to take advantage of the situation."