Activists gather at RAF Lakenheath to protest nukes
RAF LAKENHEATH, England — Fifty-nine years after America introduced the world to atomic warfare, a knot of anti-nuclear activists gathered Friday to remember the moment outside a base they believe houses nuclear weapons.
Reading poems, verses and essays inspired by the attack on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945, the demonstrators stood near RAF Lakenheath’s main gate to kick off a four-day Peace Camp, which will bring dozens of like-minded people to the area to push their hope of ridding the planet of such weapons.
“At the end of the Cold War, people really genuinely believed the need for nuclear weapons would disappear,” said Liam Carroll, one of the protesters.
Instead, he said, the threat has been escalating.
The 1945 attack using an atomic bomb known as “Little Boy” destroyed most of the city of Hiroshima and killed more than half of the city’s population. Another bomb, known as “Fat Boy,” was dropped on Nagasaki three days later with similar devastation. The Japanese military surrendered within days.
But the protesters do not believe the bombs ended the war and were unnecessarily used.
“We were lied to,” said Zina Zelter. “[The bombs] were used to demonstrate to Russia that we had nuclear weapons. They didn’t end World War II.”
The Peace Camp sponsor is the Lakenheath Action Group, a local organization that says RAF Lakenheath has nuclear weapons and wants them removed from the base.
The base has long refused to either confirm or deny their presence, a strategy used again Friday when asked by Stars and Stripes about the claims of the protesters.
Other anti-nuclear groups in the United Kingdom, including Trident Ploughshares and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, are joining this weekend’s effort.
The protesters will be visible around the base through Monday. They hoped to pitch tents just outside the base and have plans to walk around the base perimeter.
They will discuss their aims, train in nonviolent protest and make banners, among other events. One banner already on the fence Friday read, “Top Secret Nukes Inside.”
Zelter said the world is threatened by nuclear weapons now, but not from rogue states that might develop them. America and the United Kingdom are the leading culprits.
She said both countries threatened to use nuclear weapons against Iraq if Saddam Hussein used any weapons of mass destruction.
“I would define that as state terrorism,” she said.
Marguerite Finn said her ultimate hope is global nuclear disarmament.
“This is a dangerous world we’re living in, and we have to reduce this risk,” she said.
Carroll said the goals of the protesters and the people who work and live on the base are the same.
“We all want peace in the world,” he said. “I think there’s an argument about how you go about it.”