Recently, I spent some time in northern California. The trip was both rewarding and productive. The main reasons for the visit were to speak at the Hands Around Livermore Lab Rally and March, strategize actions for the upcoming year with fellow members of the Coalition to Demilitarize the University of California, and co-facilitate a workshop introducing the UC Nuclear Free Campaign at the University of California Student Association (UCSA) Congress.
On Sunday, August 10th, Hands Around the Lab: Rally and March drew over 1,000 people to a key facility in the US nuclear weapons complex, UC-managed Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California. The day’s agenda included a gathering at William Payne Park adjacent to LLNL and culminated in participants joining of hands encircling the lab. The event was one of the many organized to commemorate the anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and mobilize citizens toward a nuclear weapons free world. KPFA’s Miguel Gavilan Molina served as master of ceremony, orchestrating a series of passionate of musicians and speakers. I used my allotted microphone time to emphasize the power of young people in the struggle to protect civil rights and work for peace. Moving from the theoretical to practical, I informed listeners of UC student efforts to get their university out of nuclear weapons business. Slightly revising the day’s schedule, I asked recent UC Santa Cruz grad, Darwin BondGraham, to share his thoughts on the subject. His comments framed the nuclear issue within the larger trend of the increasing militarization of colleges and universities. We ended by inviting people to visit our small information table and/or join us for our planning meeting the following day. There was an excellent line-up of speakers that followed. Unfortunately, I only heard bits and pieces of their comments as I talked with various people while walking through the crowd back to our information table.
The following day, members of the Coalition to Demilitarize the University of California met to brainstorm and reach consensus around actions to advance the UC Nuclear Free Campaign during the 2003-2004 school year. Undergraduate and graduate students from Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles, and Santa Cruz contributed to the dialogue as well as representatives of Tri-Valley CAREs and Western States Legal Foundation. I spoke on behalf of the Foundation and committed myself to reporting back to UCSB students who could not attend due to prior commitments. Given its history of student and community activism, UC Berkeley was a great place to meet. If you are interested in the notes from this brainstorming session, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prior to our workshop at the University of California Student Association (UCSA) Congress, three of us from the Coalition joined UCSA at their action opposing Proposition 54, otherwise known as The Racial Privacy Initiative. Introduced by UC Regent Ward Connerly, the misleading October ballot measure would effectively restrict efforts to resolve societal problems that have racial implications, such as hate crimes and discrimination, health care and disease treatment, and education access and achievement. The action was held at Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute based in Sacramento. Connerly is the same Regent who the San Francisco Chronicle quoted as saying that UC will not bid to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory if the Department of Energy chose to implement an open competition, which was announced in April. Furthermore, common ground between anti-racism and anti-nuclear weapons movements is evident in that people of color suffer disproportionately from both the testing of nuclear weapons and storage of toxic waste from weapons development and nuclear energy production.
Later in the day, we began our workshop and dialogue, introducing about 20 undergraduate, graduate, and professional student leaders from UCLA, UCSB, UCI, UCSD, and UCR to the UC Nuclear Free Campaign. The Coalition had a strong showing of co-facilitators present, representing 3 campuses and 2 community organizations. There was a good diversity of viewpoints and experiences: one student had visited the Hiroshima Peace Museum as a high school student, another’s parents worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, another declared that nuclear weapons are going to be used in the near future, and another was a member of the Berkley Associated Students that passed a resolution calling for UC to get out of the nuclear weapons business. We provided participants with an overview of US nuclear weapons policy, a description of the history and future plans of our Coalition, a highly-interactive question and answer period, and hand-outs, particularly One Bomb, Two Bomb, Gold Bomb, Blue Bomb: The Scholastic Adventures of Robbie D. Bomb, written and designed by Emily Hell and Darwin BondGraham. Newcomer Coalition member, Brian Sparks came through with the question of the day: “So what are we going to do?” Ultimately, we had to bring our workshop to a close due to time constraints, and Michael Cox volunteered to explore answers to Brian’s question throughout the remaining 3 days of the Congress. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute our piece to the UCSA Congress in part because UCSA is recognized by the UC Administration, UC Board of Regents, California Legislature, the California Governor’s Office and numerous state and federal agencies as the official voice of the over 180,000 UC Students, but more so as active citizens seeking alternatives and solutions to current conditions.
However before we left UC Davis, we visited the UC Davis physics department for an impromptu weapons inspection. We were lucky to meet Professor Wendell Potter amidst the dust of summer construction and renovation. He spoke with the five of us for about 30 minutes about the integrity of university researchers, the often fine line between defense and civilian applications, and love of learning. He understood why we chose the physics department for our inspection, but cautioned us not to overlook the biology department. As you may know, UC Davis is the proposed site for a $200 million infectious disease research facility laboratory that would work with potentially lethal viruses and bacteria. The exchange with Professor Potter was an unexpected highlight of the trip.
It was great solidifying established contacts and meeting new allies! I thank all of you whose curiosity and generosity made my week enjoyable.