Protesters plan to hang a banner at a nuclear weapons production site in Oak Ridge early Friday afternoon that will declare the weapons illegal under a United Nations treaty.
The banner, which will say “Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal,” will be hung on a fence across from the main entrance to the Y-12 National Security Complex on Scarboro Road. The banner will be hung after parts of the international agreement—the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons—are read, organizers said.
Protesters said they also plan to hang a poster of the text of the treaty and 122 yellow “X”s on the fence, one for every nation that voted in favor of the treaty at the United Nations.
“January 22, 2021, will be a historic day for nuclear weapons,” according to a press release from Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, which has organized weekly and annual events opposing nuclear weapons for many years. “On that day, at midnight, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force, establishing in international law a categorical ban on nuclear weapons, seventy-five years after their development and first use.”
There will also be events in Knoxville, and OREPA said there will be other actions, events, and celebrations across the United States and around the globe.
In Knoxville, a number of Quakers who are members of the local Friends Meeting and the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance will mark the historic day by placing posters containing the text of the treaty at the University of Tennessee’s Nuclear Engineering Building and at Ayers Hall, the press release said.
“With the announcement that UT intends to get into the nuclear weapons business, we felt it was important to point out that after January 22, 2021, nuclear weapons are officially illegal under international law,” said Guy Larry Osborne, member of the West Knox Friends.
In Oak Ridge, members of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance will gather at 1 p.m. along Scarboro Road across from the Y-12 National Security Complex.
“Right now, the United States asserts that the treaty does not apply to us because we have not signed it,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of OREPA. “But that does not mean we will not be feeling the moral force of the treaty. All nuclear weapons, including the 3,900 in the U.S. stockpile, have been declared unlawful by the international community.”
The treaty prohibits more than the weapons themselves; it also prohibits the manufacture, development, testing, deployment, and use of the weapons, OREPA said. And it outlaws any and all assistance with the production of nuclear weapons, according to the organization.
The treaty was approved at the United Nations in July 2017 by 122 nations, and 84 countries have signed it, OREPA said. However, none of the countries with nuclear weapons, including the United States, have signed the treaty, OREPA said. Legally, the terms of the treaty will not apply to them until they have signed the treaty, the organization said.
OREPA said the activities in Knoxville and Oak Ridge are just two of more than 70 events happening around the country. At other nuclear weapons production sites in Kansas City, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, and California, banners declaring “Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal” will be hung on fences at the plant entrance. Letters will be delivered to members of Congress. University campuses that are engaged in support activities for weapons production will be asked to reconsider their activities, and churches will ring their bells, the press release said.
“The entry into force of the treaty is a turning point,” said Kevin Collins, OREPA president. “On the one hand, it is the end of a long process to outlaw nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it is the beginning of a new movement to confront nuclear weapons states and demand they lift the dark shadow of nuclear annihilation that has loomed over the world for the last 75 years.”