It’s Time for Anti-Nuke Activists To Step It Up

by Eesha Williams, of

Yard signs reading “Nuclear Free Vermont in 2012” began appearing on roadsides in the Brattleboro area at least five years ago. Around that time, at town meetings, the people of Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, Putney, Marlboro and other towns voted overwhelmingly to close Vermont Yankee in 2012. Hundreds of people spoke at dozens of public hearings held in Brattleboro and Vernon that were organized by state and federal regulators. They said, “Shut Vermont Yankee now!”

Entergy now says it will run Vermont Yankee until at least 2032 and it seems likely that the government will let that happen… unless hundreds of people take inspiration from the history of social change and environmental protection and get arrested for non-violent civil disobedience.

Such actions are planned for on and around March 21, when Vermont law says Vermont Yankee must close. Entergy plans to disregard the law, which a federal judge ruled against last month. (The state is likely to appeal the judge’s decision and the case may well end up at the ultra-conservative, pro-corporate U.S. Supreme Court.)

Organizers of the planned civil disobedience can be reached via (click “contact us” then check the box to “receive more info about affinity groups”) or by calling 413-339-5781.

History shows that non-violent civil disobedience works. Here is some evidence, starting with the most recent and working back.

In the 1990s, thousands of people attended rallies in favor of saving the ancient Headwaters redwood forest in northern California from logging plans by Maxxam Corporation. Hundreds of people were arrested for non-violent, civil disobedience. In 1996, the federal government bought 7,500 acres to create the Headwaters Forest Preserve.

No new nuclear power plants have been ordered in the U.S. since 1978. Protests preceded the shutdown of the Shoreham, Yankee Atomic, Millstone I, Rancho Seco, Maine Yankee and at least a dozen other U.S. nuclear power plants. Thousands of peaceful protesters were arrested. A 2007 article in the Journal of American History did not hesitate to give protesters credit for the decline of the nuclear power industry: “The protesters lost their battle [when Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant opened in 1984], but in a sense they won the larger war, for nuclear plant construction ended across the country in 1986.” More on this history is here

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested for protesting peacefully many times. The victories of the movement for racial justice that he led are told in a book that has sold more than 2 million copies, A People’s History of the United States by the late Boston University professor Howard Zinn. Zinn tells the stories of hundreds of great Americans who were arrested as they advanced the cause of peace and justice. Zinn was himself arrested several times.

The labor movement’s mass strikes of the 1930s built the American middle class and created the weekend and the 40 hour workweek. (Before the movement, Americans typically worked 80 hours a week). Those peaceful strikers were routinely beaten and frequently killed by employer-paid thugs or police. Today’s Vermont Yankee protesters have it easy.

Frederick Douglass was born a slave in 1818 in Maryland. He escaped slavery and became a journalist and anti-slavery activist. Douglass wrote: “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without plowing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.”

The time for direct action to close Vermont Yankee is now.

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