by Susan Mirsky
From leafy town commons to crowded urban shopping centers, cries rang out in 17 municipalities across the Commonwealth September 26th, as people raised their voices, signs, and banners in a call for the government to abolish nuclear weapons and invest in meeting human needs.
September 26th is the UN International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which was established in 2013 in recognition of the mortal danger that nuclear warheads, weapons of mass destruction, pose to all life on Earth.
Activists demanded the elimination of nuclear weapons—starting with the US government’s $2 trillion budget for nuclear upgrading and expansion—and the redirecting of those funds into desperately needed programs such as health care, renewable energy, affordable housing, reimagining policing, and immigration reform. They focused on the danger posed by the use of nuclear weapons, whether by accident or design; they reaffirmed that nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought.
The standouts were met with waves, honks and cheers in many towns. “I’m thinking people don’t have much trouble with eliminating nuclear weapons and they totally like funding whatever their interest is,” said one activist. “Don’t keep this a secret. Let your legislators know that you want to eliminate nuclear weapons – that’s the only way it’s going to happen,” said another.
Organizers also published op-ed pieces and letters to the editor about the nuclear threat in many local newspapers. See the excellent piece by Jerry Ross, “National Security, Covid, and Nuclear Weapons,” first published in the Lowell Sun, as one example. The Northampton standouts were covered by a Western Mass. TV station.
Here in Newton where I live, people are facing financial difficulties, attempting to deal with all the problems presented by Covid-19, and trying to address how we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuel. All the while, we hope for a better future for our children and grandchildren. A nuclear war is the ultimate crisis for which no one is prepared.
The standouts in Massachusetts were the brainchild of Susan Lantz, of Northampton Nuclear Free and Carbon Free, and were developed by the Mass. Peace Action Nuclear Disarmament Working Group. Actions took place in Amherst, Bedford, Boston, Bridgewater, Brookline, Cambridge, Easthampton, Fall River, Newton, Northampton, Sherborn, Sunderland, Worcester, and more.
They were accompanied by actions in localities across the country, including those by Peace Action affiliates in Chicago, IL; Milwaukee, WI; Binghamton, NY; Montclair, NJ; Portland, ME; and a Catholic Worker group in Maloy, IA. Code Pink publicized the upcoming events and added rally locations in Washington, D.C; San Francisco, Los Angeles San Luis Obispo, and San Pedro, CA; Taos, NM; Dallas, TX; Baltimore MD; and Seattle, WA.
—Susan Mirsky is co-chair of the Mass. Peace Action Nuclear Disarmament Working Group and a member of Newton Dialogues on Peace and War.