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As nuclear tensions rise, activists mark atomic bombing anniversary with calls for disarmament

On the 77th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, activists held creative protests, vigils and direct actions calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
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Anti-nuclear advocates around the world marked the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this week, as leaders meet this month to discuss the state of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or NPT.

During a vigil at Nagasaki Peace Park on Tuesday, 82-year-old hibakusha — the Japanese term for atomic bombing survivor — Takashi Miyata criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine and implored Japan and other countries to work together towards nuclear non-proliferation. 

“The hibakusha have lived these 77 years overcoming grief and pain,” Miyata said. “We will continue to persevere and cooperate together with global civil society, believing in a bright, hopeful, nuclear weapons-free future.”

Miyata was five years old when the U.S. dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killing an estimated 140,000. A second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, killing 70,000 people. Both bombings left hundreds of thousands of survivors, many of whom died of related illnesses. 

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In June, Miyata demonstrated outside of a meeting discussing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or TPNW, in Vienna, Austria. 

 “Please visit Nagasaki. To see is to believe,” Miyata shouted outside of the meeting, wearing a vest that said hibakusha. “No more Nagasaki. Stop the violence in Ukraine.”

The United States and the world’s eight other nuclear-armed countries have refused to sign the treaty, the world’s first legally-binding agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons. The TPNW was adopted by the U.N. last year and has been ratified by over 50 countries.

Around the world, anti-nuclear activists also marked the anniversary of the atomic bombings with creative protests, vigils and direct actions calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. 

Anti-nuclear activists in Washington blocked traffic at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor this week. (Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action)

On Monday, around 40 activists in Washington state blocked traffic during a flash mob demonstration to the song “War (What Is It Good For?)” at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, home to the largest concentration of deployed nuclear warheads in the United States. 

Meanwhile, thousands around the world, from the Union of Concerned Scientists to George Takei, shared photos of origami cranes — a symbol of peace — and posted anti-nuclear messages on social media for the second annual Cranes For Our Future campaign by the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

In New York City, on the second day of the month-long review of the NPT at the United Nations, nearly 200 anti-war protesters marched to the United States mission, where they conducted a sit-in against nuclear proliferation. 

Inside the conference, U.N. Secretary-Gen. António Guterres issued a warning on the risks of nuclear proliferation amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has stoked renewed fears over the possibility of nuclear war.

“We have been extraordinarily lucky so far,” Guterres said. “But, luck is not a strategy. Nor is it a shield from geopolitical tensions boiling over into nuclear conflict. Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”

Critics of the treaty, including those gathered outside the conference, noted that since its implementation in 1970, the number of countries with nuclear weapons has still increased from five to nine, and full disarmament remains far out of reach. 

While the NPT has been largely successful in reducing nuclear arsenals from their peaks during the Cold War, tensions remain high between the world’s most powerful nuclear states. 

“We want to disrupt nuclear diplomacy,” said Ed Hedemann of the War Resisters League, which organized a civil disobedience action that saw 11 arrests.

“We’d like to have thousands of people sitting in front, that would be even more disruptive,” he said. “But it’s better to have one person there with a sign than no person there.”

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