Site hosted by Build your free website today!
Anti-Nuclear Activists Begin Six-Day Trek

The Sunday Rutland Herald and The Sunday Times Argus, August 16, 1998

   Ali Malone is no throwback to the ‘60s. With her shoulder-length hair dyed red and green, blue jeans adorned with graffiti and anarchy symbols and gargoyle jewelry slung around her neck, the precocious 13-year-old is the prototype for a new generation.

   But make no mistake: The message is the same. Malone, an 8th grader at Montpelier’s Main Street School, did not mince words as she addressed a crowd of anti-war activists on the steps of the Vermont State House Saturday morning. She is the first to acknowledge her tender age, but accuse her of being apathetic and she will quickly prove otherwise.

   “I'm old enough to know that nuclear weapons are unacceptable," said Malone from a podium halfway up the granite steps. "The world would be much simpler if we eradicated nuclear weapons."

   Armed with a searing confidence belying her year., the middle schooler is me of about 50 people who embarked Saturday on a 93 mile, six-day walk from Montpelier to Springfield, an effort to raise awareness for the fight against nuclear proliferation.

   A host of speakers joined Malone Saturday morning as the Vermont Walk far Nuclear Abolition started under a blazing sun before the shimmering Golden Dome. Perhaps most noted of those speaker was Jonathan Schell, author of the 1982 anti-nuclear book “The Fate of The Earth.”

   "Abolition is the right thing to do. The end of the millennium is the right time to do it," said Schell, who will join the group on the first leg of the wells. "And Vermont is the right place to take that first step."

   The walk is being organized by the American Friends Service Committee, the Universalist Society of Burlington, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

   "Hopefully we're moving in the right direction,” said Schell, who recently completed work on his latest back, The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Now. "There's a sense that things are really starting to happen, with all of this."

   The Walk, a part of a global anti-nuclear initiative known as Abolition 2000, will swing through the towns of Northfield, Randolph, South Royalton, White River Junction, Hartland and Weathersfield before winding up with a rally Friday afternoon in Springfield.

   Members of the Breed and Puppet circus, some on stilts, others wielding giant paper mache doves joined the walkers as they set out along State Street shortly after noon.

   "I'll be walking the whole way," said Valerie Hurley, a Charlotte author. "I can already feel it in my legs, but I’m going the whole way."

   Before the walk got started, nearly 150 people lined the steps and State House lawn. Many held banners and placards urging peace and nuclear disarmament. A small group of musicians led the onlookers in old-school rally songs by Pete Seeger and Wordy Guthrie.

   Between songs, speakers held court at the microphone.

   "We all come together here because we knew this goal is possible," said 18-year-old Sarah Shapiro , a student at Bard College in upstate New York.

    For her part, Ali Malone became interested in the anti-nuclear movement when a friend introduced her to the American Friend. Service Committee in Montpelier. Malone said she begun immersing herself in political books and readings. I'll try to stay informed'' she said.

   Plans for the march have been in the works since February, according to Joseph Gainza, one of the event's chief organizers. Gainza said the goal is primarily to raise awareness to the cause.

   "We want to inform people that this is a time for hope," he added. "Our values only mean something if we live by them."

   Of great interest during the two pre-walk rally was a current government plan to send Vermont's low-level radioactive waste to a small town in Texas. While Vermont's Congressional delegation supports the plan, many activists oppose such legislation. The U.S. Senate is set to vote on a bill that would authorize Vermont and Maine to send the waste to Texas.

   Speaking from the podium, Gainza urged those gathered to contact their politicians and voice their opposition to the plan.

   "This smacks of environmental racism," he said. "Let's take some responsibility for our actions."

   A handful of activists taking part in the march traveled from Texas to protest the nuclear waste's relocation to their state. The plan in Texas is to encase the waste in concrete and bury the concrete in the dessert

   Before setting out on the march, the core group of walkers linked hands in a circle on the State House lawn, singing songs while coiling , around one another in a snake-like pattern.

   During the six-day affair, walkers will be housed by a variety of churches and schools that have offered their services to the group.

   Throughout the rally Saturday morning, Doug Braasch, 56, stood off to the side of the steps, holding a cardboard cut-out depicting a barrel of nuclear waste. Braasch, a self-described craftsman from Calais wearing overalls and a graying pony tail, said he couldn't take time off from work to join the march, but had come to support the cause.

   "I heard about the whole Texas thing," he said. "We wouldn't want Texas to bring its waste here. It's not a neighborly thing to do.”

Push Here to Go Back Home