“It has been 70 years since the US dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing 135,000 human beings in an instant. Tens of thousands more died from injuries or radiation sickness in the months that followed. The rest were condemned to live their lives in fear of radiation-induced cancers, and their descendants to this day face increased risk of health effects caused by genetic damage. Today, this grim reality is compounded by the irony that we spend billions each year to maintain, test and upgrade these same weapons, now even much more deadly,” Connor O’Brien Hestdalen told Pittsburgh City Council, after receiving a proclamation on behalf of Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace (RHIP).
An hour earlier, RHIP installed the Legacy Exhibit in the lobby of the City-County Building, where it remained for two weeks. Many people who were passing through paused to carefully read the posters and some left comments. One that was labeled from a Japanese read “It is surprising for me to see these pictures in US. I really appreciate your great work to tell people the truth of the war. Even in Japan people tend to forget about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We have to tell these terrible stories to our children.”
Two days later, RHIP co-sponsored the film Hiroshima Mon Amour with the Pittsburgh Filmmakers. This French New Wave classic combines vivid imagery of Hiroshima with wrenching love stories, leaving the large audience to ponder the importance of remembering and the loss that comes with forgetting.
The film was followed by one of our most meaningful skype conversations. Not only were we able to speak with peace activists in Japan, but also with activists from Guam. We were able to learn first-hand about the attack by the Abe government on article 9 of Japan’s Peace Constitution, the imminent re-start of nuclear power plants, and problems internal refugees face from the tsunami and meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Even more dramatic was the discussion with two women from Guam. Afterwards, Ann Rosenthal observed that she found it “eye-opening and disturbing what the Chamorro women of Guam had to say. I visited there in the early 90s. At that time, the U.S. Military occupied I think a quarter or third of the island. Now they want to take it over and conduct military exercises that include blasting the coral reefs. Guam is an unincorporated territory of the U.S. and has little say or recourse in what we do there.”
RHIP also brought a whole new dimension to our actions this year bringing cyclists together for Bike Around the Bomb, a 20km ride in collaboration with Global Zero. The route was largely bike trails and the weather cooperated for a fabulous ride: originating at Schenley Plaza in Oakland, we crossed the Hot Metal Bridge, traveled down the South Side, crossed downtown and then on to the North Side, up to the 31st street bridge and then back to Oakland. . The beauty of the day was accentuated by the realization that the area traveled by the thirty riders represented the area of immediate impact of a small nuclear bomb, where all inside that radius would have been killed.
RHIP also contributed to anti-nuclear work on a national level, publishing a letter in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in support for the nuclear deal with Iran and an interview about our work on WKFB.
At the Peace and Planet Conference in April in New York City, RHIP members learned more about the cases that were filed in the International Court of Justice and US federal court by the Marshall Islands to compel the nuclear powers to negotiate in good faith for the elimination of nuclear weapons as required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). As a result of subsequent discussions, in July UE filed a labor amicus brief in the 9th circuit in support of the Marshall Islands, emphatically refuting the District Court’s finding that there was no workable standard for good faith bargaining by detailing how such a standard has been applied for many years in labor negotiations under both federal and state laws.
For our last program of the year on October 1, we presented a panel discussion: “David and Goliath: The Marshall Islands Take on the Nuclear Powers.” This was co-sponsored with the National Lawyers Guild (University of Pittsburgh School of Law Chapter), the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), and SEIU Healthcare PA. Speakers included Ed Aguilar, PA Director for the Coalition for Peace Action; John Burroughs, Executive Director with the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP); and UE’s General Counsel Joseph Cohen.The presentations were followed by a thoughtful and provocative question and comment period. We were fortunate to have these experts share their knowledge and direct involvement with these groundbreaking cases, and we look forward to following their progress.
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