Rep. McGovern backs nuclear ban

  • Jim Thornley, right, and Sally Stuffin of Wendell hold a sign that reads “1/4 of the U.S. of America entirely out of poverty” July 14, 2018 during a gathering to witness U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, become the first voting member of Congress to sign two historic pledges that support the abolition of nuclear weapons. Some area candidates also signed the Candidate Pledge for a Nuclear Free Future. For the Recorder/Sarah Crosby

For the Recorder
Published: 7/16/2018 6:20:28 PM

NORTHAMPTON — On the steps of City Hall, U.S. Rep. James McGovern became the first voting member of Congress to officially pledge his support for the abolition of nuclear weapons across the world.

On Saturday afternoon, candidates running for the state Legislature joined the congressman in calling on the United States government to sign, ratify and implement the 2017 International Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The United Nations adopted the treaty last July and so far 59 countries have signed it. U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C., also signed the pledge in May, but she does not have voting power in the House.

“This treaty to put an end to nuclear weapons once and for all was not started by the great powers, but by grassroots organizations and the leadership of small and medium-sized nations,” McGovern said before a crowd of 70. “I believe it takes hard work, hard organizing, to get people and nations to recognize that nuclear weapons remain one of the greatest threats to all humankind, to the environment, to the planet — and they must be eliminated.”

The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice, formerly the American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, partnered with NuclearBan.US, a national campaign founded by Northampton residents Vicki Elson and Dr. Timmon Wallis, to host an event that saw numerous prospective lawmakers voice their support for the dismantling of the country’s nuclear arsenal. Both groups are official partners of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its work on the treaty.

The treaty prohibits signatories from the development, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons under international law.

Since the treaty was adopted last year, 59 countries have signed it and 11 parliaments have ratified it, according to Wallis. The United States has not signed it, nor has any other nation that possesses nuclear weapons.

Grassroots effort

In order for the treaty to go into effect, 50 countries have to ratify it, which Wallis said he expects to happen at the end of next year. In September, there will be another signing ceremony at the United Nations in New York, where he expects nine countries to sign on.

Local statehouse office-seekers who signed the ICAN Candidate Pledge for a Nuclear Weapons Free Future included Chelsea Kline, Jo Comerford and Steven Connor for state Senate; Marie McCourt, Eric Nakajima, Lindsay Sabadosa and Mindy Domb for the Hampshire House seat; Natalie Blais, Jonathan Edwards, Casey Pease, Christine Doktor, Kate Albright-Hanna and Nathaniel Waring for the 1st Franklin District seat; Tanya Neslusan for the Hampden House seat; Amaad Rivera for the Hampden Senate seat; and Jamie Guerin for state treasurer.

“It’s precisely because our national leadership is failing us that we need a grassroots movement to change things,” McGovern said. “If we are going to abolish nuclear weapons, it’s going to have to be a worldwide grassroots movement.”

The world cannot count on the leadership of President Donald Trump or President Vladimir Putin of Russia, he said, so change must come from regular people around the globe. McGovern said taking the pledge was an easy decision to make and he credited the event organizers for focusing his attention on the need to take action against the threat of nuclear weapons.

“Being in Washington right now is like drinking water from a fire hose, and there are a thousand horrible things happening all the time,” McGovern said. “But if nuclear weapons were ever used, that may be the end of the Earth. This is an incredibly important issue and I am very proud of this movement.”

Lining up support

Elson and Wallis said they are currently working with mayors from Northampton, Easthampton and Holyoke for their cities to become treaty-compliant. As part of their work for NuclearBan.US, they urge people to hold accountable the 26 companies known to help make nuclear weapons, many of which are based in the U.S., by boycotting and divesting from these companies.

With President Trump reversing course on a lot of former President Barack Obama’s efforts at disarmament, Wallis said the campaign faces an uphill battle.

“Of course, the U.S. government is putting pressure on all these countries not to sign and not to ratify, so that is part of what we are up against,” Wallis said.

Elson said, “The citizens are rising up, that is what we are all about.

“The treaty is the tool we can use to solve this problem once and for all,” she said. “Then we won’t be worried about this leader or that leader, or this country or that country. If these weapons don’t exist we would be a whole lot safer, and then we can go on to solve other problems.”

Takoma Park, Md., and Berkeley, Calif., are the first two cities in the nation to declare themselves treaty-compliant through the efforts of NuclearBan.US. In western Massachusetts, the Northampton Quaker Meeting, Broadside Books, Elements Spa, Arcadia Herbs, and Paradise Copy are now treaty-aligned.

NuclearBan.US has a goal of gaining the support of individuals, faith organizations, schools, towns, and cities to demand the attention of the U.S. government.

“Now is the time that we must come together to demand nuclear weapons be abolished, and fortunately we have the tool to do so,” Lydia Wood of NuclearBan.US said. “Now that we have this tool, it is up to us to make it successful … It is unacceptable to make money off the most destructive and potentially apocalyptic weapon ever created. We can make it politically unacceptable by publicly shaming and stigmatizing the companies making billions off of these weapons.”


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