By Madeline Berzak, PSR Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program Summer Intern
The weekend of June 11th saw numerous events and discussions surrounding the anniversary of the March for Peace and Justice on June 12th, 1982, in New York City. This march is known to be the largest mass protest for nuclear disarmament in history.
Participants and speakers not only commemorated this demonstration to acknowledge the actions of original organizers and activists, but also to grapple with lessons from the past in present nuclear disarmament work.
The in-person event on June 11th was located at Lafayette Park, adjacent to the White House in Washington D.C. This demonstration included speakers such as Reverend Herbert Daughtry, Professor Peter Kuznick, plus Gwen Dubois, MD and Jasmine Owens representing PSR. Each speaker underlined the importance of working together, as well as how the threat of nuclear weapons is still very present in 2022, despite falling in perceived importance on policy agendas. The virtual “June12Legacy” event featured speakers including Bombshelltoe’s Lovely Umayam, Daryl Kimball, Professor Zia Mian, original coordinator of the 1982 demonstration Leslie Cagan, and PSR’s Jasmine Owens yet again. RootsAction and CODEPINK organized another livestream on June 12 titled “Defuse Nuclear War” which featured a number of speakers and a premiere screening of a new documentary spotlighting Daniel Ellsberg.
For many young people today, a demonstration of this size for nuclear weapons abolition may seem as if it wouldn’t be possible in 2022 due to how convoluted these issues are. The discussions and questions posed during this weekend sought to ask, “why not?” This community was able to acknowledge the great work being done and gain a renewed sense of motivation for nuclear disarmament and purpose for what they can do next.
Although these commemoration events were meant to recall and recognize the giant New York march and rally in 1982, they also showed us what must be done to continue the work that began well over forty years ago. Furthermore, the speakers highlighted the interconnected nature of nuclear issues with social justice, environmental sustainability, and militarism.
Many speakers advocated seeing these existential threats as being inextricably linked to one another, and not as separate issues that must be dealt with in completely autonomous movements.
The events on June 11th and 12th encouraged us to look backward, so we may keep pushing forward with revived enthusiasm and determination for nuclear weapons abolition.