Resistance forever!

IssueSeptember 2010
Feature by Jack Cohen-Joppa

More than 200 people met in eastern Tennessee, USA, over the 4 July Independence Day weekend to advance the role of nonviolent direct action and civil resistance in the anti-nuclear movement. The Resistance for a Nuclear-Free Future gathering celebrated the thirtieth anniversaries of the Nuclear Resister, a chronicle of anti-nuclear and anti-war civil disobedience and peace prisoner support; and Nukewatch, a group active in public education and resistance.

Plenaries and workshops on Saturday addressed the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to nuclear weapons, power reactors to radioactive waste dumping. Other workshops covered war tax resistance, nonviolent blockading, the Ploughshares movement, representing yourself in court, doing time in prison, international law and more.

Saturday evening’s programme of music and speakers also honoured 30 years of the Ploughshares movement. Four of the six surviving members of the original Plowshares Eight spoke, and more than a score of other Ploughshare action veterans were in attendance.

Sunday events included nonviolence training and preparation for Monday’s action at the nearby Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge. Y-12 produced the uranium for the Hiroshima bomb, and now the Obama administration seeks funding to build one of three new multi-billion-dollar factories there, with the capacity to produce up to 80 new nuclear weapons each year through the rest of this century.

That afternoon, participants joined members of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, local hosts of the gathering, for their weekly vigil at Y-12.

On Monday morning, 5 July, a new Declaration of Independence from the nuclear threat was delivered to the gates of Y-12. Thirteen people crossed the property line to plant sunflower seeds and hang peace cranes, while 23 more stretched a long banner reading “Independence from Nuclear Terrorism” across the road to block the entrance to the bomb plant.

The 13 were arrested on federal trespass charges and held overnight before being released pending trial. The blockaders were taken into custody on state charges for obstructing a roadway. Most were released without bail, but three women stayed in jail, serving five and 10 days. In attendance was 94-year-old Gordon Maham, who helped build the Y-12 plant for the Manhattan Project. Maham quit when he heard about Hiroshima, then lost his war-industry draft exemption and served three years in prison as a postwar conscientious objector.

Topics: Nuclear weapons