Greenfield vigil calls for end of nuclear weapons, honors victims of US atomic bombings

  • Members of the New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett helped organizers and volunteers remember victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and pray for peace on Saturday at the weekly vigil that fell on the 76th anniversary of the bombings. From left: Brother Towbee Keyes, Brother Gyoway Kato, Sister Clare Carter, and Traprock Center for Peace and Justice board member Suzanne Carlson. FOR THE RECORDER/ELLA ADAMS

  • Individuals involved in the vigil for peace on Saturday on the Greenfield Common hold hands and stand in a circle, remembering the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and thanking members of the New England Peace Pagoda for being there. FOR THE RECORDER/ELLA ADAMS

  • Individuals involved in the vigil for peace on Saturday on the Greenfield Common hold hands and stand in a circle, remembering the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and thanking members of the New England Peace Pagoda for being there. FOR THE RECORDER/ELLA ADAMS

  • From left, Traprock Center for Peace and Justice board member Suzanne Carlson and volunteer Patrick Falvey of Greenfield hold a sign at Saturday’s vigil for peace on the Greenfield Common. FOR THE RECORDER/ELLA ADAMS

  • Garrett Connelly of Greenfield, left, and Nan Davies of Amherst hold a sign in remembrance of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings on Saturday on the Greenfield Common, calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. FOR THE RECORDER/ELLA ADAMS

  • Greenfield resident Martin Schotz sits at a table on the Greenfield Common that he draped with a United Nations flag, handing out flyers on Saturday about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need for peace. FOR THE RECORDER/ELLA ADAMS

For the Recorder
Published: 8/8/2021 6:51:13 PM

GREENFIELD — The Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution (FCCPR) called for the end of nuclear weapons during a vigil Saturday, the 76th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At a table representing Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution was Martin Schotz, a Greenfield resident who has been passionate and concerned about nuclear war for 68 years, since his childhood.

“People treat war and peace as if it’s like the weather, as if there’s nothing we can do about it,” Schotz said. “We’re here because we’re concerned about war and nuclear weapons in particular.”

Schotz said he believes people can, in fact, do something about this issue, and can accomplish the task of banning nuclear weapons if they act together. He handed out flyers for the entirety of the vigil, labeled “A Vaccine Against the Virus of War Propaganda.”

“I think the most important thing is that American people understand the world can’t continue with one group dominating another,” Schotz said. “We need policy based on cooperation, not domination.”

Passersby were also invited to add their suggestions to a poster asking, “What else could we do with $376 billion from the military budget?” The amount is half of the fiscal year 2022 discretionary budget proposed by the Biden administration for the military.

Throughout the hour-long event, participants received peace signs, honks and waves of support from passersby. The vigil continued despite shouts of negativity from some.

“This is a weekly vigil for peace, but the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is of special importance,” said Anna Gyorgy, communications coordinator for Traprock.

“We have a special focus this year because billions of dollars are going toward the revamping of nuclear weapons,” she continued.

She spoke of the disaster being faced across the country and the world due to climate change, explaining that “we cannot continue this military budget” at the issue’s core.

“The military is the biggest polluter in the U.S.,” Gyorgy explained. “It uses more fossil fuels than any other sector.”

That connection between the extensive U.S. military budget and the military’s increasing use of fossil fuels is something that many of the individuals present on Saturday believe is so problematic. If the military budget were to be cut, Gyorgy said, then that money could go toward things like fighting climate change and providing humanitarian services, as opposed to potentially funding nuclear weapons that could create extinction across the globe.

“(But) we’re very excited about the UN treaty to end nuclear weapons,” Gyorgy said, referring to the July 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was accepted by the majority of the UN general assembly. While countries with nuclear weapons did not accept the treaty, a number of organizations and other nations have already ratified it.

While participants are hopeful that change can come, many have watched nuclear proliferation and nuclear testing grow throughout their lifetimes.

Nan Davies, a volunteer for the day from Amherst, said it’s a situation that calls for people to listen to each other instead of creating a potentially Earth-devastating war.

“It’s so heartbreaking to think what we can do to others — the tragedy of the ways we’ve destroyed people we’ve never met,” Davies said.

The harm caused by nuclear weapons is “painful,” Traprock board member Suzanne Carlson said.

“It’s insane to know we have nuclear weapons, but it’s up to the people to say ‘No,’” Carlson said. “We’ve ignored their weapons for 76 years.”

A similar message came from monks present at the vigil from the New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett. There to perform a spiritual message for peace, the monks spent the vigil walking and drumming.

Their presence at the Greenfield Common followed their attendance at a march in Easthampton the day before.

“It was an opportunity to pray for peace,” Brother Towbee Keyes said of their choice to arrive in Greenfield.

“It only takes a couple of those bombs to disrupt the environment,” Brother Gyoway Kato added. “It’s an imminent issue that people don’t know, don’t understand.”

They’ve been protesting against nuclear war for many decades, he continued, and yet still, people don’t understand or take action with them.

“It’s up to us,” Brother Kato said. “We need to keep pushing.”

To complete the vigil, participants rolled up their signs and held hands in a circle. They remembered the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and thanked the members of the Peace Pagoda for being there.

To learn more about the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Traprock suggests visiting icanw.org/the_treaty.


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