Even before the sun rose on August 6 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the deep sound of a pealing bell resonated across the landscape, and the names of Hiroshima victims were read aloud, an origami peace crane tied for each one on a makeshift fence across from the main entrance to the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex.
OREPA’s Names and Remembrance ceremony lasted three hours, with an abrupt break in the readings at 8:15am to mark the time the United States obliterated the city of Hiroshima, Japan, killing more than one hundred thousand men, women and children, along with their pets and most other forms of life in an instant with the first atomic bomb. The highly enriched uranium that fueled the Little Boy bomb was produced at the Y12 site in Oak Ridge.
Along with names and first-hand accounts by witnesses to the bombing, those who gathered heard the annual declaration by the mayor of Hiroshima and the call of the hibakusha, survivors of the bomb, who ask people around the world to join them in their call of “Never Again!”
While the morning’s ceremony looked back into history, the afternoon’s events were rooted in the present and looked to the future. A concert for peace in Bissell Park in Oak Ridge concluded with a two-mile march in the withering August heat from the park to the bomb plant. “We are here in Oak Ridge because Y12 continues to produce nuclear weapons components,” OREPA coordinator Ralph Hutchison said. “And because the National Nuclear Security Administration wants to build a new bomb plant here and continue to use old bombs plants, which they admit do not meet modern safety codes, for 25-30 more years because bringing them up to code would be ‘cost prohibitive.’ This work puts the public at considerable risk.”
There, scores of demonstrators tied ribbons together to form a chain which they carried across Scarboro Road and draped on the security fence that encircles the bomb plant. The event, part of a series of global events called “Chain Reaction: Breaking Free from Nuclear Weapons,” was marked by singing a folk song with the chorus: “And I ain’t comin’ down in chains.”
OREPA coordinator Ralph Hutchison said, “We left the chain there and walked away. The chain represented the fear that bombs project to all of us; it represented the threat of death; it represented the false doctrine of nuclear security that binds our imaginations and causes us to live in fear of others. We left all that behind.”
Following the action, as demonstrators prepared to return to the park, Beth Rosdatter of Lexington, KY, broke from the ranks of demonstrators and walked into the middle of East Bear Creek Road, the main thoroughfare into the bomb plant. When she reached the blue line, she sat down on the hot asphalt. “I didn’t feel I could be part of the ceremony in the morning, with its graphic descriptions of the suffering caused by the bomb, and then just get in my car and go home. I had to do something,” she said.
The something shut down the bomb plant, at least while police talked with Rosdatter and went through the process of arresting her. Eventually, she was charged with obstructing a highway and was taken to Anderson County Jail where friends posted a $500 bond to secure her release. She will appear in General Sessions court in Oak Ridge on August 17 to answer the charge against her.
Asked if her action was a statement, Rosdatter pointed to her white shirt on which she had written in black marker “There is no place in this world for nuclear weapons.”
Photos of the August events can be found on OREPA’s facebook page. For another report, visit: http://oakridgetoday.com/2016/08/06/demonstrator-arrested-after-annual-march-to-y-12/