Local communities call for changes to U.S. nuclear weapons policy.
In the United States, a grassroots movement is growing. In city council and town meetings across the country, citizens are making their voices heard.
On November 16, 2017, the small city of Northampton, Massachusetts started a trend. Northampton adopted a resolution that endorsed five major calls to action. These five calls, known as the Back from the Brink campaign, urge the U.S. government to do the following:
- Renounce the option of using nuclear weapons first.
- End the president’s sole, unchecked authority to launch a nuclear attack.
- Take U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.
- Cancel the plan to replace the entire U.S. arsenal with enhanced weapons.
- Actively pursue a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed countries to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
The Northampton resolution also expressed support for a United Nations (UN) treaty that bans nuclear weapons. More than a dozen other cities and one state have since followed suit.
On the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Baltimore, Maryland became the first major city to join the campaign. On August 6, 2018, Baltimore unanimously passed a resolution embracing the UN nuclear ban treaty and calling on Congress to take the five needed steps Back from the Brink of nuclear war. The Los Angeles City Council also added its voice to the rising chorus for change. On August 8, 2018, Los Angeles passed a similar resolution.
By the end of August 2018, the California State Legislature approved a resolution that urged federal leaders to embrace the UN nuclear ban treaty and to prevent nuclear war by implementing the five calls to action.
The Past is Prologue
The U.S. has seen a successful campaign like this before. In the 1980s, the nuclear freeze movement took on the arms race. Activists all over the country campaigned to get initiatives calling for the United States and the Soviet Union to freeze nuclear weapons production, deployment, and testing on their local ballots. In 1982, nine states, 275 city governments, and 446 town hall meetings passed pro-freeze resolutions. Of the 18 million Americans who voted on the freeze policy that year, 60% supported the freeze.
The pressure applied by millions of average Americans pushed the Reagan administration to take real steps toward disarmament. By 1987, President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began negotiations on bilateral nuclear arms reductions.
We've seen what happens when concerned, committed citizens make their voices heard. Today, it’s very clear that anxiety about nuclear conflict is on the rise. Americans want nuclear weapons policies that reduce the risk of nuclear war. Americans want to step back from the brink. Which city or state will be next to add their voice to the call?