Thousands march to UN for nuclear disarmament

NPTmarch2

NEW YORK - The 2010 Review Conference for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) began at the United Nations building Monday, following a weekend of activity here by peace activists from around the globe.

Peace groups organized an International Conference for a Nuclear-Free Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World April 30 through May 1 at historic Riverside Church. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon addressed the gathering of anti-nuke activists, calling on them to "keep it up."

On Sunday, May 2, on the eve of the UN meeting, 15,000 protestors marched from Times Square to the United Nations calling for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

Led by Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima, Japan, dozens of other mayors from around the world and a delegation of over 100 hibakusha (survivors of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945), the marchers hailed from more than 30 countries.

Protestors marched with colorful signs, creative costumes and lively music and drumming. Marchers included veterans, students, environmental activists, Buddhist monks, elected officials, young children and seniors. Two thousand participants traveled here from Japan for the march and rally. Japan is the only country in the world to have suffered a direct nuclear weapon attack.

Hundreds of organizations participating included Peace Action of the US, the Mouvement de la Paix of France, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament of the UK, Veterans for Peace and Gensuikyo - the Japanese Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs -to name a few.

"Together we can abolish nuclear weapons by 2020," said Mayor Akiba, who is also president of the international Mayors for Peace organization, during the opening rally Sunday. "We can do it. Yes, we can!"

Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, also spoke to the crowd. "To use nuclear weapons against a nation that has nuclear weapons would be suicidal," he said. "To use nuclear weapons against a country that does not would be immoral. And they would be no use at all against terrorism. So why do we have them?"

Many trade union federations from around the world participated in the march including the Japanese National Confederation of Trade Unions (ZENROREN) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), whose national-level member federations (including the AFL-CIO) represent 176 million workers. Rank-and-file members of the Japanese Federation of Prefectural and Municipal Workers from Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo and other cities, French railway workers, Japanese teachers, the United Electrical Workers Union (UE) of the U.S. and many other trade unionists also marched.

 "Trade unions represent the workers of the world. And workers are the victims of war," Kristin Blom, campaigns officer of the ITUC, told the People's World. "We want a just transition from military industry to peaceful, meaningful production. It has been done before and it can be done again"

On Tuesday, May 4, organizations will be delivering to the UN nearly 7 million petitions calling for the immediate banning of nuclear weapons.

The ministerial-level NPT conference has been held every five years since 1970. Representatives of the 189 signatory countries will meet throughout the month of May to discuss unilateral and multilateral initiatives aimed at fulfilling the NPT's goals of non-proliferation and total nuclear disarmament.

Photo and video: PW/Libero Della Piana