April 3, 2010
Group marches to protest nuclear technology
Activists stay in Cortland, Dryden on way to May 2 arrival at United Nations in New York City
The drivers of cars and trucks on Route 13 beeped Friday afternoon as they passed a couple of dozen protesters who were walking across the state to New York City to declare their opposition to nuclear weapons and energy.
The group, which has about 22 members, started the walk in Steamburg, an American Indian reservation in Western New York on March 7. Along its route the group is stopping at all of the American Indian nations in the state, eventually reaching New York City on May 2.
While in New York City, the group plans to protest nuclear use during the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which will take place at the United Nations headquarters from May 3 to 28.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is reviewed once every five years at the U.N. The treaty recognizes five countries with nuclear weapons: United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia; it also prohibits the development of nuclear weapons in countries that do not already have nuclear technology.
The night before coming to Cortland, the group stayed in Dryden. In Cortland, the group will stay at the First Unitarian-Universalist Church of Cortland, before walking to Tully.
On average, the group walks 15 miles every day. It will take the group 57 days to reach New York City. A support van carries luggage and is there to offer rides to anyone unable to walk.
The walkers voluntarily join the group. In Cortland, the group had about 22 people, but that number can change by the time it reaches New York City, as more people join or leave the group.
Some people walk with the group for one day, and meet with them in other locations.
There are also rest days, where there is no walking and people can take care of responsibilities, like doing laundry.
The group starts walking about 8 am. When participants finish that given day’s walk, they will go to their sleeping location and eat.
In Cortland, there was a potluck dinner that included several foods, including traditional Japanese food.
When the group of demonstrators reaches New York, it will stay at a location in the Bronx and they will join with other groups similar to their own.
Outside the UN headquarters, the group will pray and fast. Participants will not carry billboards, and they will not try to make a speech to persuade world leaders to operate in their favor.
Friday on Route 13 in Cortland County, the marchers carried a few flags and T-shirts that read Nuclear Free World.
A driver in a red minivan honked the horn and waved; a driver in a blue station wagon showed his middle finger.
This reaction is common, members of the group said. The assembled group has no formal name, no organizing methods, in fact, group leaders call the walk “organic.” The only true point of reference of the walk is Jun Yasuda.
Yasuda is a member of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order. She came to America from Tokyo in 1978 to participate in a walk from San Francisco to New York City to support rights for Native Americans.
Clare Grady called walking symbolic, and said the group protests peacefully, borrowing mainly from Mahatma Ghandi, who lead peaceful protests against the British in India. Ghandi’s approach, which included walking, inspired successful protests like those lead by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.
“We are not changing their government,” said Yasuda. Instead, she said, the change for a better world begins with each individual person. The group hopes that the development of nuclear technology will be eliminated, but it starts with each person recognizing the dangers.
They hope that they can create an environment where decision-making can happen. The group also recognizes that the UN will be reviewing a treaty that focuses on nuclear energy used as weapons.
Yasuda lives in Grafton, near Albany, where she lives at the Grafton Peace Pagoda, a temple.
Yasuda, 62, networked with friends in September 2009, to assemble a small group of people to walk, depending on community groups, such as the First Unitarian-Universalist Church in Cortland.
“I make strong commitment to keep going for peace,” said Yasuda, who will walk the entire distance of 700 miles. “It’s very important for human rights.”
A group walked to the last treaty review in 2005.
Each review conference has sought to find agreement on a final declaration that would assess the implementation of the treaty’s provisions and make recommendations on measures to further strengthen it. Consensus on a Final Declaration was reached at the 1975, 1985 and 2000 Review Conferences, but could not be achieved in 1980, 1990, and 1995. Differences centered on the question of whether the nuclear-weapon states had fulfilled nuclear disarmament requirements.
There were also differences on issues such as nuclear testing, qualitative nuclear-weapon developments, security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon states by nuclear-weapon states, and on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Those in favor of nuclear power, such as the Nuclear Energy Institute, argue nuclear energy is the nation’s largest source of clean-air, carbon-free electricity, producing no greenhouse gases or air pollutants.
Those in opposition of nuclear power, such as the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, argue all the steps in the process of creating nuclear energy entail environmental hazards.
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