August 7, 2005

Nuclear Anniversary Inspires Disarmament Rally


By Laura Banish
Albuquerque Journal


LOS ALAMOS, NM- Sunflowers, ashes, songs and prayer were used to send
one message here Saturday: Stop the bomb where it started.

An estimated 500 people traveled from cities across the United States
and as far away as Japan to this small mountain town- the birthplace of
the atomic bomb- to mark the 60th anniversary of the bombings of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During an emotionally charged, daylong rally,
they called for peace and nuclear disarmament.

" It's got to stop. I feel repentance for the whole human race for what
we've done in the name of def
ense," a teary eyed Fran Stein of North
Fork Valley, Colo., said. "How horrific we are as a species."

Throughout the day, many types of imagery were used to convey the
message of peace.

Sunflowers, which have become the international symbol for nuclear
disarmament, were everywhere. The bright yellow flowers appeared on
T-shirts, hats, buttons and an estimated 5,000 sunflowers in royal blue
buckets encircled Ashley Pond.

" Symbols are very powerful. They bring it all home," said Father John
Dear of Pax Christi New Mexico, the state chapter of an international
Catholic peace movement.

Some members of Pax Christi donned sack cloths and carried bags of ashes
to depict penitence and conversion to nonviolence, as portrayed in a
story from the Book of Jonah in the Bible.

" Jonah used sack cloths and ashes in Nineveh. Two hundred years ago in
Boston, they used tea. Mahatma Gandhi used salt," Dear said. "With this
symbol, we reclaim an ancient biblical image to show our political and
spiritual opposition to nuclear weapons and the work of Los Alamos."

Disarmament urged

Dear read a letter that was later presented to the Los Alamos County
Council from Tadatoshi Akiba, the mayor of Hiroshima.

" The eyes of the world today are on Los Alamos, where the first nuclear
bombs were built," the letter said. It detailed the devastating impacts
of the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing of Hiroshima.

The Hiroshima mayor asked for the County Council to reject the
development of nuclear weapons and adopt a resolution that mirrors one
recently passed by the city of Santa Fe, calling for the U.S. government
to agree to complete nuclear disarmament as per the 1969 Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty. [This actually was in a second, more detailed
letter from Mayor Akiba, directed especially to the Los Alamos County
Council. Ms. Banish has, understandably, conflated the two letters.]

Later, Dear planned to fly to Las Vegas, Nev., to conduct an act of
civil disobedience with actor Martin Sheen at a Nevada weapons testing
site.

Some used costumes to communicate their message. One man dressed like
Gandhi and another posed as U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,
wearing handcuffs and an orange jump suit that said "war criminal."

Jillian Niven of Albuquerque stood on a milk crate, draped in an
American flag, wearing only a black leotard and fishnet stockings
underneath. She opened the flag to reveal the message: "Expose Politics
of Bush's War." Niven said that Los Alamos, "being the originator of the
bomb, is the cancer of our social conscience."

Survivors speak

Of all the demonstrations and speeches, the most powerful came from
atomic bomb survivors Masako Hashida and Ueda Koji, who traveled from
Japan to advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons in Los Alamos.

They told their stories through an interpreter.

Now 75 years old, Hashida said she was a 15-year-old girl working at the
Mitsubishi weapons factory in Nagasaki, conscripted to make torpedoes,
when the bomb fell on Aug. 9, 1945.

When she regained consciousness, she encountered a human-like creature
with skin dripping from its bones and later other bomb survivors with
badly burned, bleeding bodies.

" I was numb and in shock. I did not feel anything when I saw them. I
have never seen humans look like that," Hashida said through an
interpreter.

Hashida said she has suffered from survivor's guilt ever since. Until
recently, she had not been able to talk about the bombing.

As an interpreter, translator Holly Siebert Kawakami said it has been
emotionally challenging to see Los Alamos through the eyes of two bomb
survivors. Her lips trembled and tears welled in her eyes as she
recalled their experiences over the last few days.

According to Siebert Kawakami, the pair of survivors were shocked and
disappointed to discover during their trip to learn that the city
continues to develop nuclear weapons.

'Our earnest wish'

The survivors have pledged to remember the dead. The mission of their
trip was to send a message to Los Alamos and the world: "Humanity must
never again inflict nor suffer the sacrifice and torture that we have
experienced."

" This is our earnest wish. This is why I have come," Koji said. "When
human beings have lost the memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear
war would be more likely to break out. The hope for the future of
mankind will rest upon how the dead will be engraved in the memories of
the living."

Organizers said Saturday's gathering was possibly the largest
anti-nuclear weapons protest ever held in Los Alamos.

Los Alamos Council chairwoman Frances Berting said she didn't think the
county would pass a resolution against nuclear disarmament because it
was not a local issue. Santa Fe City Councilor David Coss, who read a
section of the city's nuclear disarmament resolution at the rally,
voiced a different perspective.

" People have to be able to express their positions, and if not through
their elected representatives, then how?" Coss said. "I don't accept the
idea that issues of war and peace aren't important to local governments,
and I don't accept that local government as representatives of the
people should never be able to express matters of opinion to the
national government."



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