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This past Saturday, a small group of people quietly gathered at Ashley Pond, the site where the first nuclear weapon was built. They then proceeded to don sackcloths and spread ashes on the grass near the site to sit on.
Not too many people visited Ashley Pond noticed, though a few honked as they drove by on Trinity, and some hung within earshot of their group discussion, curious about who these people were, dressed in their sackcloths who were spreading ashes on the ground.
“It’s the oldest form of protest known to man, and we have come here to day to pray for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the closing of this laboratory (Los Alamos National Laboratory),” said Father John Dear, Ambassador of Peace for Pax Christi USA, a Catholic group that strictly adheres to the philosophy of non-violence as they feel was practiced by Jesus Christ.
“Pax Christi USA rejects war, preparations for war, and every form of violence and domination. It advocates primacy of conscience, economic and social justice, and respect for creation,” said a statement on its website, paxchristiusa.org.
When asked about the other research LANL does in alternative energy, medicine and other scientific endeavors not directly related to the manufacture of nuclear weapons, Dear responded: “It’s all related; it’s all has to do with the manufacture of nuclear weaponry in one way or another and so the lab needs to be closed,” he said.
The sackcloth and ashes protest is taken from the biblical text of found in the Book of Jonah. God was angry with people the citizens of a city called Nineveh, and to repent for their sins, the citizenry wore sackcloth and poured ashes on their bodies as a form of repentance for their sins.
About 30 people participated in the protest at Ashley Pond, which consisted of them sitting quietly on the grass for 30 minutes before convening back at the small pavilion that marks the spot to discuss their thoughts on nuclear warfare, the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and on Nagasaki Aug. 9.
There were no protests on lab property this morning.
“Groups and individuals must seek permission to stage protest events on Lab property, and so far, no one has sought such permission. The only protest event we are aware of was held last Saturday,” the lab said in a statement.
The Pax Christi group talked about its plans for Los Alamos next year, the 70th anniversary of the bombings.
“It’s going to be huge,” Dear said, adding that he expects “thousands” of people here next year for the event, which will include an international conference held in Santa Fe where he hopes some of the survivors of the nuclear bombings will be present, as they were on prior dates, such as the 60th anniversary. He is also trying to get musical guests Joan Baez and the Indigo Girls to perform at the anniversary.
“It’s very exciting, but we’re really going to need your help,” he said to his group. “We need everybody to pitch in, we need volunteers to make thing happen. From rides to helping out at the convention center, (Santa Fe) and I’m formally asking everyone, that on this date, exactly one year before that ‘yeah I’m going to get involved in this’,” he said .
He then went on to say how the nuclear bombings, and how they are related to the ongoing war in Gaza. “The weapons that Israel used on Gaza were tested in Alamogordo,” he said. “It’s all one now… spend the rest of the year telling people about this. Everybody has to bring 100 people for next year. ”