ACTION ALERT: New York Says No to Nukes

February 6th, 2020 - by Yuni Chang / War Resisters League

ACTION ALERT: New York Says No to Nukes

Yuni Chang / War Resisters League

NEW YORK CITY (January 30, 2020) — Every move towards a world free of warfare is a move worth taking.

That’s why I spoke on behalf of War Resisters League at New York City Council on Tuesday — to voice our support for Resolution 0976 and Introduction 1621. These proposals reaffirm New York City as a nuclear free zone, and instruct the pension funds of all NYC public employees to divest from the companies that profit from nuclear weapons.

Throughout the day, we heard the testimonies of A-bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Kings Bay Plowshare activists, and lifelong New Yorkers who recalled memories of working and playing on radioactive sites in Manhattan and Staten Island. Bayard Rustin, who previously worked at WRL, was present in the room in spirit through comments sent in their memory by Walter Naegle, their partner. It was moving to be in a room full of people echoing the call for unilateral nuclear disarmament. 

WATCH: WRL’s Comments at New York City Council

Though we celebrate these measures, we also urged city council to vote consistently in favor of life affirming actions against the root causes of war. We specifically chose to focus on the connection between militarism, policing, and incarceration — as many of the co-sponsors of these measures also voted for Mayor de Blasio’s $11 billion jail expansion plan. 

Nuclear abolition was referenced many times throughout the hearing, including by council members who voted in favor of building new jails. When I heard the word abolition being used, I wondered if the councilmembers understood that abolition in the United States context is specifically rooted in Black-led organizing towards the abolition of slavery, the death penalty, police, and prisons.

Both the Council’s apparent commitment to a nuclear-free NYC and their voting record on jail expansion make evident that there is still much work to be done to expand the vision of abolition to include all systems of warfare. The systems that wage war across the world — and the systems that harass, surveil, and detain people in our city — are the same.

When I left the hearing that day, I felt certain that we will need to return. Any legislative move against war that coexists with the criminalization of Black, brown, queer and trans, and poor people is incomplete. We deserve consistent commitments to the wellbeing of all New Yorkers. We deserve true peace, and we can win it.

Want To Do More? Consider:

•   Writing a letter in support of the King’s Bay Plowshares 7, who are currently awaiting sentencing for their direct action protest nuclear submarines housed in King’s Bay Naval Base, Georgia. Click here for instructions on how to send letters to the judge in favor of pardoning the King’s Bay Plowshares 7 before their sentencing. 

•   Getting involved in the ICAN Cities Appeal and learning about the work of prison abolition groups like No New Jails to bring a powerful vision of abolishing systems of warfare to your city council.

•   Tweeting at New York City Council members congratulating them on a veto-proof majority for divesting NYC pension funds from companies that invest in nuclear weapons and also urge them to vote consistently against systems of war — particularly when it comes to jail expansion and policing.

•   Sample tweets you can copy/paste:.@Dromm25 @NYCCouncil Congrats on the veto-proof majority for Res 0976 bringing NYC closer to denuclearization. NYC needs this & we desperately need to expand the vision of nuclear abolition to include the abolition of jails, & want to see you support the work of @nonewjails_nyc .@Dromm25 we welcome the council’s commitment to denuclearization and strongly urge the @NYCCouncil to support the work of @nonewjails_nyc— nuclear abolition goes hand in hand with prison abolition towards making NYers safer.

It’s possible to end war, but it will take all of us. War Resisters League needs every single person to stand with us in the fight against US imperialism, militarism, and the expanding war machine during a time where fascists are in power across multiple countries.

New York Moves Closer to Nuclear Divestment
Timmon Wallis and Vicki Elson / NuclearBan.US

(January 29, 2020) — New York City moved one step closer to divesting from nuclear weapons yesterday, after a joint committee hearing in City Hall. The only opposition was from the Mayor’s Office on a technicality, and the committee was still one vote short of a veto-proof majority.

But after about 60 people testified at the public hearing, the Mayor’s Office moved quickly to announce they would “find a way” to resolve the technicality, and Council Member Fernando Cabrera announced his support for divestment.

With Cabrera’s support, these two resolutions now have a veto-proof majority of support on the New York City Council, and with withdrawal of opposition from the Mayor’s office they are almost certain to go through sometime in the coming weeks.

The first of the two bills, introduced by Council Member Daniel Dromm, is INT 1621, which calls for the establishment of an Advisory Committee to investigate and report on New York City’s status as a “nuclear weapons-free zone,” a status New York City has had since 1983. The second,

RES 976, calls on the City Comptroller to divest the pension funds of public employees in New York City “to avoid any financial exposure to companies involved in the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons.” It also calls on the federal government to support and join the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Council Member Dromm said he was “energized” by the testimony coming from wide range of organizations and from people ranging in age from 19 to 90, from descendants of the original Lanape Nation inhabitants of Manhattan to Nobel Peace Prize-winning members of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. 

Other speakers ranged from proud New Yorkers to survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from a soldier involved in numerous nuclear bomb tests in Nevada to a relative of Mikhail Gorbachev, from elderly activists who repeatedly spend years in jail for protesting nuclear weapons to bankers and investment experts explaining why divestment from nuclear weapons is actually beneficial to their portfolios.

Manhattan, epicenter of the invention of nuclear weapons, is still suffering from radioactive contamination from those days. A Teamster recalled working in a warehouse where the High Line is now, where barrels were radiating heat and melting the asphalt on the floor. There were multiple mentions of the Doomsday Clock, started in 1947 by guilt-wracked Manhattan Project scientists, which is now “set” closer to “midnight” that at any time in history.

Manhattan has been home to human life for 3,000 years. But expert testimony made clear that one nuclear weapon could erase all the people, animals, art and architecture, and that the radioactivity would last for way more than 3,000 years into the future. New York City, of course, is a prime target for nuclear attack.

Written testimony was also submitted by people from all over the world, including from the Office of the Dalai Lama, and from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-CA), whose bill H.R. 2419 would de-fund US nuclear weapons and shift the taxpayer dollars to green technologies, jobs, and alleviation of poverty.

Although New York City pensions have less than $500 million invested in the nuclear weapons industry, one-tenth its level of investments in fossil fuels, divestment by New York would be hugely significant to the global movement to abolish nuclear weapons and put financial pressure on the companies responsible.

New York City oversees five pension funds, which between them represent the fourth largest public pension program in the country, with over $200 billion worth of investments. In 2018, the City Comptroller announced that the city had begun a five-year process of divesting the pension funds of more than $5 billion from the fossil fuel industry. Nuclear weapons divestment is a more recent phenomenon, boosted by the adoption in 2017 of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

So far, two of the largest pension funds in the world, the Norwegian Sovereign Fund and ABP of the Netherlands, have committed to divesting from the nuclear weapons industry. Other financial institutions in Europe and Japan, including Deutchebank and Resona Holdings have joined more than 36 others who have decided to divest from nuclear weapons. In the US, cities like Berkeley, CA, Takoma Park, MD and Northampton, MA, have divested, along with Amalgamated Bank of New York and Green Century Fund in Boston. 

Warheads to Windmills: How to Pay for a Green New Deal — new report — free download

Fresh Hope: Warheads to Windmills

How about literally saving the world, two ways at once? At last, we can end the age of nuclear weapons — and the age of fossil fuels too. See the ecstatic moment that the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted at the U.