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Peace activists descend on Los Alamos

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By Tris DeRoma

Two peace activists and their organizations visited Los Alamos Saturday to mark the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during World War II, and Los Alamos National Laboratory’s role in them.

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Father John Dear, an outreach coordinator for Pac a Bene, organized a march of 85 people Saturday on Trinity Drive, as motorists yelled derisive comments at them or honked their horns in approval.

The motorists’ actions didn’t phase Dear one way or another, who has been coming once a year to Los Alamos to protest with his followers. Before the march, the protesters sat at Ashley Pond Park and poured ashes on their head and sat in meditative silence, as biblical prophets did in the Bible to protest the immoral actions of their leaders.

This year’s crowd was bigger than most, and Dear said he wasn’t surprised.

“There’s a bigger crowd because everybody’s afraid of what (President) Trump is doing,” Dear said. “Last September,

Trump was threatening to use nuclear weapons. So we’re moving closer toward the threat of nuclear war. People are speaking out saying, ‘no, don’t use nuclear weapons on North Korea or Iran or anywhere, but not only that, lets get rid of them.’”

When asked about Trump’s recent talks with North Korea over nuclear disarmament, Dear said he was glad to see it.

“I’m not a big fan of either of those people,” Dear said of Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un. “It’s always good to have people talking instead of people building bombs or threatening to drop bombs. So dialogue is always good.
Dialogue, disarmament, negotiations are the hope of the world.”

Dear was also aware of the lab’s recent acquisition of a new contract to manage and operate the lab, but said, in the end, that won’t change anything either.

“I’m against it all, whether it’s the government, the non-profits or the rich people building the bombs,” Dear said. “Nobody should be building nuclear weapons in New Mexico. The real question is how are we going to dismantle these weapons and transform Los Alamos toward the long haul work of environmental cleanup. There are jobs there too, and it’s more human work.”

On Monday, the 73rd anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Greg Mello, executive director of the Albuquerque-based Los Alamos Study Group, brought a panel of peace activists with him to Fuller Lodge to discuss what they could all do to stop LANL from manufacturing plutonium pits (triggers for nuclear weapons) and any other activity associated with designing, making and testing nuclear weapons.

He reminded them that the Study Group was founded at Fuller Lodge in 1989.

“We had the hope at the time that the laboratory would transform itself into an institution that was at least semi supportive of peace,” Mello said. “That hope didn’t last.”

Panel members also included public health expert Carol Miller, Santa Fe filmmaker Godfrey Reggio, San Ildefonso Pueblo leader Gilbert Sanchez and writer/educator Marita Prandoni.

“As you know, today is the 73rd… I hate to use the word anniversary, because it seems counter intuitive, it’s the 73rd year of what emanated from this place,” Reggio said of the Hiroshima bombing. Reggio said the bombing, which marked the beginning of the nuclear age, has created a “global cloud of existential consequence that darkens all horizons.”

Miller urged the audience to sign pledges to ask their congressional delegation to ask “peace be included in the electoral conversations that are underway.”

Prandoni noted that the creation of nuclear weapons destroyed more people than those killed in the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings.

“Besides sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives in Japan, the U.S. has exposed, sickened and exterminated native peoples, lab workers, Los Alamos residents Pacific Islanders, Downwinders and over 40,000 residents in the Tularosa Basin,” Prandoni said.

Mello ended the discussion told the group their best hope is to be proactive.

“…It’s not enough to have an opinion, it’s not enough to say I’m against this… or to vote for that person versus this person, we’re way past that now,” Mello said. “We have to get involved ourselves or we will get caught up in the flood of change that went through Santa Fe just a couple of weeks ago. We aren’t going to be able to evade it, it’s coming to us.”