NEW YORK – It was a picture perfect Sunday here on Apr. 26 for a peaceful march against the most violent instruments of war ever created by humanity: nuclear weapons. The demonstration was sponsored by Peace and Planet: Mobilization for a Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just & Sustainable World.
Nearly 8,000 thousand activists assembled at Union Squares Park’s north side on Broadway at E 17th St. to listen to speakers and then marched up Third Ave. to the United Nations to deliver eight million signatures.
I walked through the crowds and talked with people from all parts of the world who all had one thing on their minds: peace.
Here is what they said, in many cases, with passionate exhortation.
A retired New Yorker: “I am here to add my voice to this movement to abolish nuclear weapons…and I think it should start here in the United States.” Standing next to him was a young woman from Kyoto, Japan. She knew very little English, but she uttered with great confidence, “No Nukes” and “Peace!”
Coyd, a young African American, taking pictures with his camera,said he was there “to make sure the world knows that we are all here!”
And Brooks Kelly, who was balancing his young daughter on his shoulders as he marched with a delegation from the U.S. Peace Council said, “I’m here for my children and their future.” His friend, Joe, standing with him, added, “Yes! And it seems like the United States enters a new war every week.”
Howard, another retired New Yorker, who said he wanted to put an end to defense spending, noted that “we need money for education, health care and a long list of other human needs…”
Gary, from Massachusetts Peace Action, which advocates the abolishment of nuclear weapons, said that on the day of his son’s birth, June 12, 1982, the largest demonstration against nuclear weapons in United States history was held here in New York City and that following that demonstration there were treaties that limited the proliferation of nuclear weapons. “So,” he continued, “protesting is worth it!”
Punctuating Gary’s story later in the day was Diane Beeny from a New Jersey group called “The Hiroshima/Nagasaki Remembrance Committee.” She was wearing a vintage t-shirt distributed at the June 12, 1982 event. “I have been active in the anti-nuclear movement a long time,” she said with obvious pride, adding, “For a peaceful, just and sustainable world we also need to fight against racism and economic inequality.”
As the marchers assembled for their parade to the United Nations I spotted Vinie Burrows, the award-winning Broadway actress and women’s activist, helping her peace associates hold up a huge banner. Burrows, who has fought innumerable battles for social justice, said it was “wonderful to be in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters demanding no more war, no more nuclear weapons which result in human catastrophe like Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
Kasuya Takako from Shizuoka, Japan was helping to carry a huge, beautifully colored banner with her associates from the organization, “Shizuoka Mothers’ Congress Liaison Committee.”
Ms. Takako is its chairperson.
She described how her two grandchildren, Ririha, 10, and Honoba, 8, drew some of the lovely pictures featured on their banner.
Dancing to a disco beat in the middle of Union Square and enjoying the celebratory atmosphere with her fellow unionists, I met “Cettina.” She is Vice-President of Local 255 of the United Electrical workers (UE) from Vermont. She said they had come to New York to be “in solidarity with the Zenroren delegates from Japan” and her message was simply “No More Nukes!We are here especially because it is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.”
Another UE worker, Gary DeLuke from Local 170 in West Virginia, felt very strongly about his presence at the march:
“I am here to connect with my fellow workers around the world-to find common ground with them-peace is important for working people because war means workers are fighting workers-war is very rarely in their interest.”
Listening attentively to the speakers was a young Japanese man from Tokyo. His name was
Yohei Nakamura, a 23-year old chairperson of a student committee from Tokyo. “I am here for peace,” he said, as he handed me a bouquet of tiny paper hand-crafted origami peace doves which were omnipresent throughout the event.
Resting on a bench in Dag Hammarskjold plaza, a park near the United Nations where the march ended, I met Franco Omar, holding on to a pole with a poster from the Peace and Planet Mobilization. Omar is from the Dominican Republic and lives here in the city. “I am here because nuclear weapons scare me,” he said. “We not only have to worry about the violent potential of nuclear weapons, but also about the serious problem of the disposal of nuclear waste. I believe nuclear waste causes cancer.”
A French delegation from Marseille included 80 members wearing straw hats and carrying blue banners that read, “Le mouvement De La Paix (peace); Empechons Les Guerres, Cultivons La Paix (prevent wars, cultivate peace). Radia and her husband Michel, were especially concerned that support is generated for NPR-the non-proliferaion treaty.
Jarvis Tyner, New York District chair of the CPUSA was standing tall throughout the march, greeting demonstrators and observing the dynamics of this international outpouring for peace and against nuclear weapons. Tyner, who is originally from Philadelphia and is a former union activist for the Teamsters, has just completed a pamphlet, “Black Lives Matter.” For copies: NY@cpusa.org.
He said: “The ultimate weapon of terrorism is nuclear weapons. The Obama administration is fighting nuclear terrorism by negotiating with Iran.” He asked, “So, when are we-the United States-going to take the necessary steps to rid ourselves of nuclear weapons? How are you going to eliminate terrorism if we don’t eliminate nuclear weapons?”
As the day wore on the weather became cloudy and cool with marchers drifting home to well-deserved dinners and places to sit and relax. But one leaves such an event heavy with thoughts and understanding of what can be accomplished when people come together for a good purpose. One of the origami “birds” thrust into my hand had a message printed in it. It read,
“There is no excuse for nuclear weapons. Weapons of mass destruction can’t be necessary for world peace. From Japan, the only country to be hit by nuclear bombs.”
Photo: People participate in an anti-nuclear rally in Union Square in New York, Sunday, April 26, 2015. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the United States using nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. | Seth Wenig/AP