By Alice Slater
The New York City Council held a mind-blowing and historic open hearing yesterday, on legislation that would require the City of New York to divest its pensions funds from any trafficking in the production of nuclear weapons, and call on the U.S. government to sign and ratify the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), adopted by 122 nations in 2017. It would also set up a special Commission to review NYC’s role in building the bomb and the City’s stellar string of actions in resisting it, including declaring itself a nuclear-weapon-free zone, turning out a million people in 1982 in Central Park, cleaning up radiated sites polluted by nuclear experiments, and hosting the UN negotiations for the new treaty which won the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, a Nobel Peace Prize. They don’t call the making of the atomic bomb the Manhattan Project for nothing!
The most inspiring part of the hearing was the open and democratic process, where everyone who could, did actually testify. More than 60 people took the opportunity to share their expertise and experience on every aspect of the nuclear bomb, including moving pleas from the first people of New York, the Lenape nation, to preserve and respect Mother Earth. The written testimony will soon be posted on the Council website.
The good fellowship in the Council hearing room, between civil society and government members, should inspire us to follow up after the vote, which has a supermajority now sponsoring it and is likely to have easy passage. We might ask the Council, once it has voted, as part of its pledge to call on the US government to sign and ratify the ban treaty, to begin by contacting NY’s Senators and Congressional delegation. Perhaps the Council could convene them at a meeting and urge them to sign ICAN’s parliamentary pledge and brainstorm on how Congress can forward the action.
One way forward would be to convince the NY Congressional delegation to begin a call for legislation calling on a halt and moratorium on any new nuclear weapons development and refurbishing contemplated in the one trillion dollar deal Obama proposed and Trump continued for two new bomb factories, nuclear weapons, and new delivery systems by air, ship, and space. And during such a freeze on any new development, to move to immediate negotiations with Russia and urge both countries to start down the path to compliance with the newly enacted TPNW which provides steps on how nuclear weapons states may join.
To ease us forward on this path, perhaps we should be seeking to make contacts with citizens in Moscow and St Petersburg, as our two nations possess 13,000 of the current global arsenals of 14,000 lethal nuclear bombs. We could ask our City Council to become a sister city with those mutually-targeted major Russian cities, all the while our countries’ 2500 nuclear- tipped missiles are aimed to destroy each other, while destroying all life on earth in the process, should even a small part of their catastrophic power ever be unleashed! The forces seemed to be aligning with the people yesterday, and it’s time to keep the momentum going.