Particle Beams

"Luminous Quanta of Divine Intelligence…" dispelling the nuclear delusion

Storming the Barricades in Los Alamos

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It’s been decades since youth spearheaded a campaign against the bomb, but in recent years, a new group called Think Outside the Bomb has formed, based in Albuquerque but drawing its members from all corners of the country.

TOTB is an offshoot of a group organized by University of California students,  Nuclear Free UC from Santa Barbara, who protested against the University’s alliance with the nuclear industry. (Until a few years ago, UC ran the labs; now that the Sandia National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos are run by a private consortium, UC is still involved in management.) In 2006, a few of those young people came out to Albuquerque to serve as interns with the Los Alamos Study Group, and last year some of them named themselves Think Outside the Bomb and put together a conference in Albuquerque.

They were so delighted with the results that they decided to try “something bigger,” as Jonathan Clarke Williams, an organizer with Peace Action based in Washington, DC, told me the other day.

That ambition gave rise to this year’s ten day “disarmament encampment” in Northern New Mexico. The group held several meetings in surrounding cities, gained an impressive amount of press coverage, and then launched three nonviolent actions. On the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, 150 people marched to Los Alamos National Lab. There, some crossed the fence into the area where the new Chemistry and Metallurgy building is going to be built; eight people were arrested.

It was something new, a revival of something old, for here in New Mexico activist groups have assumed the attire and professionalism of the lab and have taken to court, attending endless hearings, paging through massive documents, consulting experts and writing voluminous rebuttals to challenge, and sometimes sue, the labs. As Joseph Masco wrote in The Nuclear Borderlands, an anthropological analysis of New Mexico’s unique position in the nuclear industrial complex, these serious and detailed legal challenges have forced the labs, if not to clean up their acts, at least to answer to someone outside their privileged walls where secrecy has been a hallowed tradition.

The return to storming the gates hearkens to earlier times and, perhaps, times to come.

Alas, the local press, which gave such generous attention to the appealing idealism of the encampment, printed nothing about the nonviolent action in Los Alamos.

I visited the encampment twice during their stay here and was enraptured by the beautiful young people and the environment they created. For me, a graduate of the Sixties (so to speak), this experience was at once something familiar, and something new. What follows in the next installment is a report of my visit. In the light of some of the discussions about what is going on these days with a nuclear policy that speaks simultaneously of disarmament and modernization, this little piece may seem nostalgic and sentimental. So it was. But I hope you will find a germ of truth in this bit of rapture.


Written by stephaniehiller

August 12, 2010 at 2:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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