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Thousands join nuclear protest Print-ready version

by Beth Rosenfeld
Daily Collegian
May 9, 1979

An estimated 65,000 to 150,000 protesters, including Jerry Brown, Ralph Nader, Jane Fonda, Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell-assembled in from of the nations' Capitol Sunday to demonstrate against the government's pro-nuclear policies.

Sponsored by the May 6 Coalition which represent more than 200 consumer, labor, environmental, minority, senior citizens', women's and peace organizations, it was the largest anti-nuclear rally ever held in the United States. Furthermore, it was organized in only three weeks.

In a mood reminiscent of the '60's, the protestors marched down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol, shouting chants like, "Two-four-six eight, we don't want to radiate," and "Hell no, we won't glow."

The marchers represented a diverse cross-section of America: children, students, parents, and grandparents came from as far as Maine, Florida, Wisconsin and California. Penn State's Eco-Action sponsored buses from Harrisburg that delivered 175 Penn States to the rally.

Speaking in front of the Capitol, consumer advocate Ralph Nader fired up the crowed and urged everyone to take his message back home, to "the grass roots."

Pointing an accusing finger at President Carter and Secretary James Schlesinger, Nader said, "It was candidate Carter, you remember, who said repeatedly in 1976 that nuclear power was to be the last resort and that energy conservation, solar energy, and clean coal were first resorts. It is President Carter who is now saying full speed ahead, under faster licensing, to more nuclear plants." He added that Schlesinger supports nuclear power and refuses to hear the facts on the issue.

"The energy monopoloids," he said, "profit from a wasteful energy economy." He said the needs and safety of the consumers are being sacrificed for the profits of the few.

Jane Fonda, star of the movie "The China syndrome," said the events portrayed in the movie were fact. The fiction, she said, is the assurance we have been given about the safety of nuclear energy. Schlesinger should be fired, Fonda said. "Putting Schlesinger in charge of energy is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank, " she said.

Tom Hayden, Fonda's husband and chairman of the Campaign for Economic Democracy, said "Carter ahs thrown away the strongest thing he had-his honesty," because he lied about the safety of nuclear power.

If the government put as much urgency into the energy problem as it did into the space program, Hayden said, all 72 nuclear energy plants could be phased out and solar energy could be phased in. Instead, he said, the government is "studying solar energy to death."

California Gov. Jerry Brown called for a moratorium on nuclear energy, urging the crowd to join the "politics of the future" and protect the next generation from the evils and risks that come form "living and profiting off an addiction to nuclear power."

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who could not attend the rally, sent a letter to the May 6 Coalition in support of its cause.

"The nuclear safety licensing process is not working," Kennedy said. "The dream of nuclear power has become a nightmare of nuclear fear."

Kennedy said he is glad to be a part of Congress' national reassessment to determine if further commitments should be made to nuclear power, which he said now provides less than four percent of the country's energy.

"The question is not whether to build nuclear power plants quickly," he said. "Unless we can build them safely, they should not be built at all."

Comedian Dick Gregory, who fasted during the Vietnam War, vowed to stop eating solid food until all nuclear plants are shut down.

"I'd rather have a brown-out or a black-out than a people-out," he said.

The government officials who favor nuclear power and assure the country that it is safe are "ugly, little monkeys," Kurt Vonnegut said. "I hate them. They may think they are cute. They are not cute. They stink, " the author said. And their "stupid stinking, lies" will kill everything on this blue-green earth, he added.

Jackson Browne, who has been against nuclear energy since long before the accident at Three Mile Island, said of the celebrities who turned out for the demonstration, "There are not stars in the nuclear movement. Only people."

In his 1973 song "For Everyman," Browne said that if everyone gets together "to gain the motherland," they can make a difference.

He summed up the feelings of the crowd when he sang, "Some of them were angry at the way the earth was abused, by the men who learned how to forget her beauty into power. And they struggled to protect her, only to be confused by the magnitude of the few..." from his 1974 son, "Before the Deluge."

Also, Browne and John Sebastian joined John Hall in asking for "the warm power of the sun," in the song, "Take All Your Atomic Poison Power Away."

Graham Nash urged the crowd to learn from their mistakes in his 1970 classic, "Teach Your Child." Then, heightening the excitement the music had created, he introduced Joni Mitchell, an unannounced musician who traveled from Canada for the rally.

Mitchell rejuvenated her music from the last decade, singing, "The Circle Game," "Woodstock," and "Big Yellow Taxi."

All the musicians joined Dan Fogelberg in his song, "There's a Place in the World for a Gambler." Browne urged everyone to "sing it for the sun," which had been blazing all afternoon. Together, the crowd sang the chorus, "let it shine."

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Added to Library on February 21, 2011. (7043)


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