Better active today, than radioactive tomorrow

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June 13, 2012 by SCNCC

Anti-nuclear activists teamed up with community radio station WBAI on Tuesday to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the largest demonstration in the history of New York City. On June 12th, 1982 1.2 million people flooded Central Park calling for nuclear disarmament.

On Tuesday, activists marched through lower Manhattan in the rain, holding up radio’s blaring anti-nuclear anthems and speeches. The broadcast was part of a special addition of WBAI’s Ecologic. In the studio with host Ken Gale were Chris Williams, author of the book Ecology and Socialism; Alice Slater with Abolition 2000, an international group promoting nuclear disarmament; and Minori Nakamura, a Japanese-American  social worker and a member in Todos Somos Japan, a network that coordinates solidarity actions with those effected by the March, 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi atomic plant.  Gale is a veteran of the million plus Central Park demonstration.

He remembers, “We filled the entire great lawn with people. There were huge masses of people marching up First Avenue, up Second Ave, up Third Avenue, up Lexington Ave, up Madison, up Fifth, up Sixth, up Seventh, up 8th. Going across the Queens Borough Bridge. Going across the Brooklyn Bridge. There was just an amazing number of people!”

On June 12th, 1982 1.2 million people flooded Central Park calling for nuclear disarmament.

Chris Williams connected the nuclear disarmament march of 82′ to Tuesday’s march against nuclear power, “Nuclear power was born of nuclear weapons. That’s where the programs come from.”

Slater explained that nuclear power was used by the Eisenhower administration in the fifties to make the bomb expectable to people, adding “And they knew all along that every nuclear reactor is a bomb factory. That’s how… nuclear weapons [proliferated].”

Whether Hiroshima and Nagasaki or Chernobyl and Fukushima, the nuclear age has shown the terror it can reap on people and the earth.

Thanks, in part, to a campaign launched by energy corporations to convince Americans nuclear power is a “green” alternative to the pressing climate crisis caused by the abundant use of fossil fuels, the nuclear movement has dwindled since 1982. Never mind that many of the conglomerates who operate nuke plants, such as Southern Company, also run those that are coal-fired. Or, that fossil fuels are used at every stage of the nuclear process, from the extraction of uranium to its transport, to fueling on site transformers at atomic plants.

This campaign has even convinced some notable environmentalists of nuclear power’s necessity, including global warming awareness champion James Hansen.

Yet, what Tuesday’s event lacked in quantity (it consisted of about sixty protesters), it made up for in quality.

WBAI’s correspondent on the scene, Robert Knight, and his crew of engineers stalked the demonstrators as they roved from Tompkins Square Park, through the Village and arrived at Union Square. Both the rally and the studio were broadcasting simultaneously so that chants of “no nukes” were amplified by the radios the activist carried in their hands. At one point, Williams started a chant–“Not another second, not another hour, we can’t live with nuclear power”– from WBAI’s headquarters and it was taken up by the demonstrators.

After protesters took over several streets as they marched through the East Village, police “escorts” arrived; first, a black detective’s vehicle, next two SUVs. Then, after the crowd cut the opposite way on a one way street, about ten uniforms met them on the corner, forcing the rowdy throng onto the sidewalk. The police attention actually helped the march snowball. People milling around Astor Place saw the swirling red lights, heard the ruckus, got curious, and tagged along.

Both on the soaking streets and in the cosy studio, activists called for solidarity with Japan and for the shuttering of Indian Point, a nuclear plant located just twenty-five miles from New York City, which many fear could be a Fukushima on the Hudson River.

Indian Point’s operator, Entergy, has been granted hundreds of safety exemptions by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission despite the fast that the corporation takes in a million dollars a day and can easily make updates and repairs. Everyday radioactive gases are emitted from Indian Point, including strontium 90, cesium 137, iodine 131, and tritium—all carcinogenic.

As the numbers of those rallying against nuclear power in the US have diminished, they have swelled elsewhere. In India, hundreds of thousands have mobilized in militant opposition to the Kudankulam plant in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. In Europe, anti-nuclear activists have frequently blockaded trains transporting nuclear waste from Germany to France, clashing with police and sending a clear message that nukes and their by-products are not welcome. In Japan, the anti-atomic movement has ballooned in the wake of the meltdowns at Fukushima.

American anti-nuclear activists have drawn inspiration from their comrades abroad who have shown that mass action has an impact. Germany opted to shut down all of its nuclear plants by 2023 due to mass pressure. The construction of the Kudankulam plant, which began back in 1988, has been delayed for decades, in large part because of active opposition from local residents. Despite the horrific toll of Fukushima, citizens across Japan have raised their voice for a society that harnesses the power of the wind, tide, and sun, rather than radioactive decay.

“On May 5th of this year all the nuclear power plants [in Japan] were shut down for regular check-ups,” said Minori Nakamura. “But the check-ups are taking a longer time now because there is so much pressure from the people [not to restart the reactors].” Large-scale marches, sit-ins, and occupations across the country have so far prevented nuclear fission from resuming on the island.

Organizers of Tuesday’s action hope their innovative model of radioactivism will spread and galvanize the struggle against atomic power in the US. They encourage activists across America to get in touch with their local community radio stations where ever they exist and organize a radioactive demonstration of their own.

One in three Americans lives within a fifty mile radius of a nuclear plant, or 118 million people, according research based on 2o10 Census data. These plants were built back in the 60s and 7os to last forty years. Many are nearing or have surpassed their intended life-spans. Then there’s nuke weapons labs and storage facilities. Chances are, even if you can’t find a community radio station on your dial, there is some major radioactivity taking place near you. But, by grabbing your friends and neighbors, hitting the streets, and broadcasting the no nukes message the old fashion way–with your lungs–you can join the radioactivist movement and help prevent the next Fukushima before it occurs.

Click here to listen to Tuesday’s radioactive protest.

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