Group set to protest weapons projects

Contra Costa Times (California)
August 3, 2004 Tuesday
By Betsy Mason

Local activists are planning a rally and march Sunday to protest Lawrence Livermore Laboratory's nuclear weapons work and to commemorate the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

Organizers expect concern about the Bush administration's nuclear policies to draw a large crowd, perhaps more than 500 people, to the annual event.

"There's a lot of outrage about U.S. nuclear policy and the role of Lawrence Livermore Lab in designing new nuclear weapons," said Tara Dorabji of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment.

This year, the theme of the protest is "Books Not Bombs" to draw attention to the fact that two schools in Livermore have closed this year to save about a million dollars, while the Bush administration is asking for $28 million this year for work on the "bunker buster" nuclear weapon being designed at the Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories, Dorabji said.

The rally will take place at Jackson Elementary School at 554 Jackson St. starting at 1 p.m. Medea Benjamin, founding director of Global Exchange, and author Rebecca Solnit will be among the speakers. A "peace playground" for kids will have activities including face painting and origami. Live music will begin at noon.

At 3 p.m., protesters will march up East Avenue to its intersection with South Vasco Road, where they are planning a circle dance.

In recent years, between 30 and 60 protesters have been arrested at each rally for approaching armed guards at the lab's gate. But last year, the focus was shifted away from civil disobedience, and only three nuns were arrested.

The move away from this kind of nonviolent direct action will continue this year, said Dorabji. But some activists are planning to spend Sunday night at a "peace camp" at a local campground, and then some may choose to approach the guards on Monday morning, the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, she said.

This action will be in memory of Father Bill O'Donnell, who died late lastyear after attending the lab protests for more than 20 years and being arrested countless times.

Reach Betsy Mason at 925-847-2158 or bmason@cctimes.com