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With anti-nuclear groups coming to town Sunday and Monday to mark the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, residents can expect a little more edge and passion to the protests and events, thanks to the national “Occupy” movement.
“This year, we’ve had lots of participation because of the Occupy movement,” co- organizer Bud Ryan said. “This year, we have more than 30 volunteers helping us.”
Another organizer, Tom Jaggers, agrees. “I think what’s happened is that people who felt disenfranchised for many years have suddenly found a forum where they can re-engage politically,” Jaggers said. “I’ve met people in the Occupy movement who have not been active since the protests over Vietnam in the 70s, and I’ve also met people who have never been activists before and they are all coming out onto the streets to help us organize.”
Because they have so many volunteers, Ryan said they will be able to launch 3,000 “peace lanterns” onto Ashley Pond Sunday night, in solidarity with a similar event planned in Hiroshima, Japan, around the same time. On Aug. 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb used in wartime on the Japanese city.
Leading up to the lantern-launching event, Ashley Pond will also be the backdrop for a number of other events Aug. 5, including teach-ins, concerts, rallies and speeches. Ashley Pond will also be the launching point of the “Sackcloth and Ashes” peace march.
According to Ryan, march participants will start out at Ashley Pond, proceed up Trinity Drive, and stop at the halfway point over the Omega Bridge leading to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The parade is organized by Pax Christi, a New Mexico-based Catholic organization calling for the disarmament of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Another organizer, Michelle Victoria, said the weekend’s events are for everyone, and people should not be afraid to come out and enjoy themselves. “Nuke Free Now believes in the empowerment of people through non-violent direct action. Peace is our strategy,” she said.
Aug. 6 will be a day of nonviolent demonstrations near LANL. The event is organized by a group called (un)Occupy ABQ. While the group cited many reasons for the demonstration, the main one seems to resonate with all the groups participating in the weekend’s events.
“The resources and scientific expertise, devoted to nuclear bombs are critically needed to address such pressing issues as global warming, declining fossil fuel supply, overpopulation, species extinction and poverty,” read one statement about the Aug. 6 event on the group’s website.
Ryan, who may or not be at the Aug. 6 demonstration, agreed.
“Our purpose is not to put anybody out of work, but to have the lab engage in work that benefits everyone, not just the military,” he said.
A recent memo released by LANL revealed the lab is prepared for the demonstrators, and has instructed employees not to engage the demonstrators in any way.
“Employees are asked to remain calm, drive safely and follow all official directives regarding detours or access to the lab,” the memo read. “Please respect the right to free speech and do not engage in confrontations with demonstrators.”
On Friday and Saturday, there will be two other major anti-nuclear events happening in Santa Fe. The first Friday will be an art exhibit at El Museo. On Saturday, Santa Fe’s Center for Contemporary Arts will host a day-long conference featuring speakers from the anti-nuclear movement. Two movies will also be shown, “The Forgotten Bomb,” co-directed and written by Ryan, and another movie by a Japanese filmmaker called “White Light, Black Rain.”
One of the speakers at the event will be Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.
“The Occupy movement is definitely the catalyst for these types of events,” he said. “My hope is that will translate into a broader constituency that will argue for alternative missions at the lab.”