LIVERMORE -- Sixty-nine years after the massive devastation of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, there were 60 seconds of silence at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday to commemorate the moment when the first bomb was dropped.
This year's anniversary protest outside the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory bore the theme "Failure to Disarm." It was marked by lawsuits, filed in April by the tiny Republic of the Marshall Islands against nine nuclear weapons states, including the United States. The lawsuits do not seek damages relating to the 67 nuclear weapons tests the U.S. conducted in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958. Instead, the "Nuclear Zero" lawsuits, filed in The Hague and against the U.S. in federal court in San Francisco, claim the nine states failed to disarm as prescribed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and by customary international law. The San Francisco complaint specifically cites the Livermore lab's activities to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile as a breach of the treaty and a violation of international law.
Before the moment of silence, approximately 100 peace activists gathered outside the lab to hear keynote speeches and rally to the music of Duamuxa and Daniel Zwickel, the son of longtime peace advocates Abe and Jean Zwickel. Alameda County sheriff's officers arrested, cited and later released about 30 people for trespassing.
Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, said before Wednesday's protest that she intended to "stand up for a world free of the scourge of nuclear weapons and potential global annihilation."
Specifically concerned about the lab's formal budget request to Congress that earmarks 89 percent of the lab's fiscal year funds for activities related to nuclear weapons, Kelley said the issue isn't whether or not society should have scientists, it is what they should be creating.
Tri-Valley CAREs staff attorney Scott Yundt monitors the lab's activities and facilitates a support group for the 1,900 former lab employees who have filed for compensation because of job-related illnesses.
"Half of them have been refused, and it's been a powerful learning process for me," Yundt said. "We hear about above-the-ground accidents, but every worker has stories of spilling radioactive materials, and many of them get ill."
Yundt attended his 10th protest this year and said he hoped a group campout in Del Valle Regional Park on Tuesday would help prompt him to recommit himself to action. Planning to take his wife and two young children to join the roughly 30 people he said typically attend the nighttime vigil, Yundt expressed his hope that ongoing protests will result in future change.
"Even our high-level military officers believe (nuclear) technology is no longer serving the use we want it to," he said. "They recognize it's a huge waste of money and (nuclear) programs should be scaled back."
Bob Hanson, of Rossmoor, said he planned to attend the protest because he's angry at his country.
"One person's voice doesn't amount to much, but I have to hope that my example will help others to wake up and take action for the good of the planet we live on," he said. " I would like my grandchildren to have the chance to live in a world uncontaminated by nuclear radiation."