They're in there for us; we're out here for them!

IssueOctober 2010
Feature by Jack Cohen-Joppa, Felice Cohen-Joppa

Thirty years ago this October, the first issue of the Newsletter of the National No-Nukes Prison Support Collective (later renamed the Nuclear Resister) reported on just one anti-nuclear civil disobedience action – that of the Plowshares Eight.

On 9 September 1980, eight US activists made their way into a General Electric factory in Pennsylvania, where they hammered and poured blood on nuclear missile nose-cones. This action inspired a global movement, and scores of similar acts of direct disarmament have been reported in the 157 issues of the Nuclear Resister published since then.

Dubbed by an early reader a “chronicle of hope”, the newsletter began with the aim of providing comprehensive reporting on arrests for anti-nuclear civil resistance in the United States, and encouraging the essential support for the activists jailed for these actions.

In 1990, coverage expanded to include reporting on anti-war arrests in North America, plus overseas anti-nuclear and anti-war resistance.

Each issue lists the names of activists behind bars and their prison addresses. It is a testimony to the persistence and commitment of these movements that there have always been resisters in jail, every day, through the last 30 years. Building on this reporting, the Nuclear Resister helps network the anti-nuclear and anti-war resistance movements. Contact information for action groups and a list of upcoming actions are regular features of the newsletter.

Online, the new Nuclear Resister blog at provides more information to a growing number of people, including up-to-date prisoner addresses, breaking news, links to action groups, and a sign-up for the free monthly e-bulletin supplements to the print edition.

Over the past three decades, the Nuclear Resister has reported on more than 100,000 anti-nuclear and anti-war arrests during thousands of actions in the US and around the world, and encouraged support for at least 1,000 men and women imprisoned for these acts of conscience – people who have received sentences ranging from two weeks to 22 years.

Writings from many of these prisoners have been included in almost every issue, along with stories of direct actions against nuclear power, nuclear weapons, nuclear testing, uranium mining, war, military recruiting and torture.

The powerful history of a significant movement for social change emerges from the stories of war tax resisters, military refusers and conscientious objectors; bomb plant blockaders and nuclear reactor site occupiers; citizen weapon inspectors at military bases and backcountry activists disrupting a missile launch or nuclear test; people sitting-in at legislative offices and military recruiting centres; and plowshares/ploughshares activists who have dismantled weapons of mass destruction with household hammers.

It’s unlikely that you’ll read much about these actions, or about the people behind bars, in the mainstream press, and certainly not portraying these actions in their context as part of a wider movement.

Soon after the 1991 attack on Iraq, George HW Bush smugly remarked that he couldn’t hear any anti-war voices in the US, and the media didn’t do much to dispel that notion. But the Nuclear Resister proved he simply wasn’t listening, and reported over 6,000 arrests during more than 225 actions in at least 27 states in the months leading up to and through the course of the bombardment.

Similarly, by mid-April 2003, the Nuclear Resister had chronicled over 300 actions in 115 cities in 35 states, resulting in 7,500 arrests in opposition to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. The hard work and dedication of many people have kept the Nuclear Resister going all these years. Since 1980, Jack and Felice Cohen-Joppa have co-ordinated the work and edited the newsletter, along the way travelling to countless demonstrations, actions, conferences, courthouses and prison visiting rooms.

Hundreds of others have helped by distributing newsletters, staffing Nuclear Resister tables [stalls] at various events, creating artwork and writing articles, helping at mailing parties, providing information about actions and legal updates, sending photos, helping with the website and blog, and writing letters of support to imprisoned activists. The work has squeaked by on a shoestring budget thanks to the generous support of activists and subscribers around the world.

This past July, the Nuclear Resister, sister organization Nukewatch, and the Plowshares Eight celebrated their 30th anniversaries together at the Resistance for a Nuclear Free Future gathering in Tennessee [see PN 2525].

The gathering aimed to advance the impact of civil resistance at a critical time in the movement for a nuclear-free future. More than 200 people attended the gathering. 37 were arrested on 5 July at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex, the largest number in 20 years of civil resistance at Y-12. There are wars continuing in our name – and with our tax dollars – that need to be stopped; nuclear weapons that need to be disarmed; and an aggressive drive for more nuclear power that needs to be turned back.

This is no time to put nonviolent direct action on hold!

These acts of conscience must continue – they are continuing – and it’s important for activists engaged in resistance to keep connected and support each other as they risk arrest, go on trial and possibly to jail.

The Nuclear Resister will continue to help that happen.