A group of 20 people, who expect to talk and walk with thousands before reaching the United Nations headquarters in New York City on May 1, will educate and raise awareness about nuclear proliferation in the U.S.
The International Peace Walk Towards a Nuclear Free Future began at the Scarboro Road gate of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Ralph Hutchison, coordinator for the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, called the U.S. hypocrites for continuing to produce nuclear weapons after signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968.
“It’s more than hypocritical, “ Hutchison said. “It’s stupid. It’s stupid to have a policy you know that is counterproductive because if we were serious about other countries not having nuclear weapons, we wouldn’t either.”
Y-12 is a full-scale operating plant that manufactures nuclear weapons components and houses enriched uranium.
“There are mixed feelings about what they do because obviously it is a big part of the economy, but as long as we build bombs in Oak Ridge, we are giving reason for Iraq and Iran to build their own bombs,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison said he believes nuclear weapons in the U.S. make the country less safe because it encourages other nations to produce their own weapons for defense. It appears to Hutchison that the U.S. is not serious about ending their nuclear weapon arsenal because the nation is planning to rebuild the Y12 plant in a $3 billion dollar project to allow them to continue their work for another 100 or more years.
“I think the billions that are going into building nuclear weapons should be spent on health care, education and things that will help build a more peaceful and just society,” Marcus Atkinson, an organizer with Footprints for Peace and a walker in the march, said.
U.S. policy on nuclear weapons is M.A.D. — or mutually assured destruction — because the government understands if they were to use these weapons, everyone on the planet would be destroyed, Atkinson said. He describes U.S. actions as “completely and utterly mad” for continuing to produce nuclear weapons.
“We are going to walk in rain, hail, snow because the issues that we are walking for are too big to be stopped by a bit of snow or rain,” Atkinson said. The walkers have been received well by the communities they pass and have already had almost 60 people join them since Feb. 12 to walk a few hours to an entire day with them.
Families, churches and local organizations along their route will take them in each night and feed them as they trek for 82 days, almost three months, and about 700 miles.
Hutchison said it is hard to gauge the success of a walk because the purpose of it is to build a movement, which will take a long time. The walkers will hold meetings and discussions with the local communities they walk through.
“In this sense, it is impossible for the walk to fail,” Hutchison said.
The greater purpose of the movement is to raise awareness and help educate people.
“It’s a great cause, very noble,” Evan Baddour, senior in English, Spanish and political science, said, “but it’s not going to get anything done for their cause.”
Like many students at UT, Baddour believes it is a cause worth protesting but says the problem is bigger than a march can fix.
“I think most people choose not to get involve with it because it’s a bigger issue than one person, one country,” Baddour said.
March protests weapon manufacturing
Published: Thu Feb 18, 2010