” In participating in this nonviolent witness, organized by members of the War Resisters League, I’ve come full circle in my journey of peacemaking and nonviolent resistance. Thirty-seven years ago marked my first arrest at the same U.S. Mission during the First U.N. Special Session on Disarmament. Thirty-seven years later, I returned to the same site to call upon the U.S., the only country to have used the Bomb, to repent for the nuclear sin and to disarm.”
By Art Laffin
On April 28, as the United Nations sponsored Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review conference was beginning its second day, 22 peacemakers from around the U.S. were arrested in a “Shadows and Ashes” nonviolent blockade at the U.S. Mission to the UN in New York City, calling on the U.S. to abolish its nuclear arsenal and on all other nuclear weapons states to do the same. Two main entrances to the U.S. Mission were blocked before arrests were made. We sang, and held a large banner reading: “Shadows and Ashes–All That Remain,” as well as other disarmament signs. After being placed under arrest, we were taken to the 17th Precinct where we were processed and charged with “failure to obey a lawful order” and “blocking pedestrian traffic.” We were all released and given a summons to return to court on June 24, the feast of St. John the Baptist.
In participating in this nonviolent witness, organized by members of the War Resisters League, I’ve come full circle in my journey of peacemaking and nonviolent resistance. Thirty-seven years ago marked my first arrest at the same U.S. Mission during the First U.N. Special Session on Disarmament. Thirty-seven years later, I returned to the same site to call upon the U.S., the only country to have used the Bomb, to repent for the nuclear sin and to disarm.
While there have been reductions in the nuclear arsenal over the last thirty-seven years, nuclear weapons are still the centerpiece of the U.S. Empire’s war machine. Talks continue. Non-aligned and non-nuclear nations and numerous NGO’s plead with the nuclear powers to disarm, but to no avail! The nuclear danger remains ever-present. On January 22, 2015, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists turned the “Doomsday Clock” to three minutes before midnight. Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, explained: “Climate change and the danger of nuclear war pose an ever-growing threat to civilization and are bringing the world closer to doomsday…It is now three minutes to midnight…Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity…And world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe.'”
In decrying the colossal nuclear violence that imperils all life and our sacred earth, I prayed during our witness for the countless victims of the Nuclear Age, now in its 70th year, and all victims of war–past and present. I thought about the immeasurable environmental destruction that has resulted from decades of uranium mining, nuclear testing, and the production and maintenance of a lethal radioactive nuclear arsenal. I pondered the stark reality that, since 1940, some $9 trillion has been squandered to finance the U.S nuclear weapons program. And to make matters worse, the Obama Administration is proposing a projected $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize and upgrade the existing U.S. nuclear arsenal. As the public treasury has, in effect, been looted to fund the Bomb and warmaking, a massive national debt has been incurred, vitally needed social programs have been defunded and a litany of human needs go unmet. These exorbitant nuclear expenditures have directly contributed to the dramatic social and economic upheaval in our society today.Thus we see blighted cities, rampant poverty, high unemployment, lack of affordable housing, inadequate health care, underfunded schools, and a mass incarceration system.
While in police custody, I also remembered and prayed for Freddie Gray who died in such custody, as well as for the numerous Black citizens who have been killed by police across our land. I prayed for an end to police brutality against all people of color. In the name of God who calls us to love and not to kill, I pray for an end to all racial violence. I stand with all who are demanding accountability for those police officers responsible for killing Blacks and for an end to racial profiling. All Life is Sacred! No Life is Expendable! Black Lives Matter!
Yesterday afternoon, I had the great opportunity to be with some of the Hibakusha (A-Bomb survivors from Japan) as they gathered in front of the White House to collect signatures for a petition to abolish nuclear weapons. The Hibakusha have been relentless in their heroic efforts to appeal to the nuclear powers who have gathered for the NPT Review Conference at the UN, and in their travels to different places in the U.S., to plead for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. These courageous peacemakers are living reminders of the unspeakable horror of nuclear war. Their message is clear: “Humankind can’t coexist with nuclear weapons.” The voice of the Hibakusha must be heard and acted on by all people of goodwill.
Dr. King declared that in the Nuclear Age the “choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.” Now, more than ever, we need to heed Dr. King’s clarion call for nonviolence, work to eradicate what he called “the triple evils of racism, poverty and militarism,” and strive to create the Beloved Community and a disarmed world.
Ardeth Platte, Carol Gilbert, Art Laffin, Bill Ofenloch, Ed Hedemann, Jerry Goralnick, Jim Clune, Joan Pleune, John LaForge, Martha Hennessy, Ruth Benn, Trudy Silver, Vicki Rovere, Walter Goodman, David McReynolds, Sally Jones, Mike Levinson, Florindo Troncelliti, Helga Moor, Alice Sutter, Bud Courtney, and Tarak Kauff.
Anti-Nuke Demonstrators Planning Blockade of U.S. Mission
On Tuesday, April 28, members from several peace and anti-nuclear organizations, calling themselves Shadows and Ashes–Direct Action for Nuclear Disarmament will gather at 9:30 am near the United Nations for a legal vigil at the Isaiah Wall, First Avenue and 43rd Street, calling for the immediate elimination of all nuclear weapons world-wide.
Following a short theatre piece and reading of a few statements, several from that group will continue up First Avenue to 45th Street to participate in a nonviolent blockade of the United States Mission to the UN, in an effort to call attention to the U.S.’s role in unending the nuclear arms race, despite U.S. pledges to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
This demonstration was organized to coincide with the opening of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review conference, which will run from April 27 to May 22 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The NPT is an international treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. Conferences to review the operation of the Treaty have been held at five-year intervals since the Treaty went into effect in 1970.
Since the United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 — killing more than 300,000 people — world leaders have met 15 times over several decades to discuss nuclear disarmament. Yet more than 16,000 nuclear weapons still threaten the world.
In 2009 President Barack Obama pledged that the United States would seek the peace and security of a world free of nuclear weapons. Instead his administration has budgeted $350 billion over the next 10 years to upgrade and modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons program.
“The abolition of nuclear weapons will never happen if we just wait for the leaders who gather at the East River to do it,” explained Ruth Benn of War Resisters League, one of the demonstration organizers. “We need to make a more dramatic statement beyond marches, rallies, and petitions,” continued Benn, echoing Martin Luther King’s statement from Birmingham jail, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”
Florindo Troncelliti, a Peace Action organizer, said he planned to participate in the blockade so he can directly tell the United States “We began the nuclear arms race and, to our eternal shame, are the only country to have used them, so it’s time for we and other nuclear powers to just shut up and disarm.”
Shadows and Ashes is sponsored by War Resisters League, Brooklyn For Peace, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Codepink, Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Genesee Valley Citizens for Peace, Global Network against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space, Granny Peace Brigade, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, Jonah House, Kairos Community, Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, Manhattan Green Party, Nodutol, North Manhattan Neighbors for Peace and Justice, Nuclear Peace Foundation, Nuclear Resister, NY Metro Raging Grannies, Pax Christi Metro New York, Peace Action (National), Peace Action Manhattan, Peace Action NYS, Peace Action of Staten Island, Roots Action, Shut Down Indian Point Now, United for Peace and Justice, US Peace Council, War Is a Crime, World Can’t Wait.
ART LAFFIN, WASHINGTON DC
Art Laffin has been an organizer, writer and speaker in the faith-based
movement for peace and justice for over 20 years. He currently is a member of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House of Hospitality in Washington DC.
Art’s brother Paul was associate director of a homeless shelter in Connecticut for 10 years before he was murdered by a mentally ill man in 1999. Art has been working against the death penalty for many years but even more actively since his brother’s death.
He was arrested as part of the DC-18 for unfurling a banner across the steps of the US Supreme Court in 1997 that said “Stop Executions”
LINKS TO ART’S JOURNEY
- Report from the Free Vanunu Gathering in Washington D.C., September 26-28
- Eucharistic Love: A contemporary essay in the Catholic Worker tradition By Art Laffin
- Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation Opposes Death Penalty
- Turning Toward Peace Through Jobs and a Clean Environment.
- Art Laffin with Cindy Sheehan: Photo
- Fifteen People Were Arrested Yesterday in Front of the White House
- Article III Winning Right to Protest Connecticut Execution
- “Starve for Justice” in Nation’s Capital
- Peace Activists Stand Against Violence