Remembering Hiroshima

IssueSeptember - November 2004
News by Kate Jones

Every year, in the city of Hiroshima, Japan, people come from far and wide to float lanterns decorated with prayers, thoughts, and messages of peace down the rivers in commemoration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Fifty-nine years have now passed since the event that opened the floodgates for the nuclear age, an era in which our survival as a species is continually under threat. August 6-9 were again days of remembrance and action for many activists from all over the world.

An effective blockade

In Britain three peace activists from Trident Ploughshares successfully highlighted the hypocrisy of the government by breaching the high security at Faslane nuclear submarine base in Scotland. They remained inside for two hours before being detected by Ministry of Defence police; because of the alert the gates were closed and the base effectively blockaded for this time.

A picture of the destruction of Nagasaki was hung inside the base and peace slogans were painted on buildings in the area. In a joint statement the three noted, “As concerned and responsible citizens we are appalled by the hypocrisy of our government, which claims to be committed to disarmament under the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), yet shows no signs of fitting actions to words.” On the 59th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, they were able to highlight the continuing and illegal development of weapons of mass destruction in Britain.

Vigils and “die-ins”

Across the Atlantic, US demonstrators walked from the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, joined by members of the Chapter 92 Veterans for Peace, to the Trident submarine base in Bangor, located 15 miles south of Seattle, the last active nuclear weapons depot on the US West Coast.

Demonstrators held a silent vigil for peace and thirteen (including three feisty veterans) were arrested when they blocked the highway entrance of the base with a banner that stated, “We Can All Live Without Trident”.

At an action at the Clam Lake ELF facility in Wisconsin on 8 August, demonstrators from New Zealand, US and Britain staged a “die-in” to represent the 135,000 people who died instantly in Hiroshima, and the further 70,000 of Nagasaki three days later.

The activists demanded the closure of the facility - which emits large amounts of electromagnetic pollution and transmits to British and US nuclear submarines. Eight of those arrested were from the Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker teams, a human rights group who were recently one of the first to highlight the torture and illegal detention of prisoners in Iraq.

Peace walkers

On the anniversary of Hiroshima, peace walkers from For Mother Earth (pictured) arrived in Ypres dressed in radiation suits with banners and flags after a long journey from the NATO headquarters in Brussels in support of the emergency campaign for complete worldwide nuclear disarmament by 2020 called for by the “Mayors For Peace” network.

For a nuclear-free world

In the traditional statement from the mayor of Hiroshima there is a new optimism: a call to the US to no longer ignore the United Nations and its foundation of international law, and a wish to “sow the seeds of new hope and cultivate a strong future oriented movement”.

The city of Hiroshima and the Mayors for Peace declared that the coming year until 9 August 2005 be known as a “Year of Remembrance and Action for a Nuclear-Free World”.

In closing Mayor Tadatoshi stated, “Rekindling the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we pledge to do everything in our power during the coming year to ensure that the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings will see a budding of hope for the total abolition of nuclear weapons”.