The Wall Street Action by Cindy Girvani Leerer

THE WALL STREET ACTION:Taking It to the Next Level

By Cindy Girvani Leerer

            Many of us in the antinuclear movement were not just environmental activists concerned about the health, safety, and environmental effects of nuclear power. The struggle against nuclear power was not just about nuclear technology; it was, and continues to be, about centralized power that places the rights of corporations and the quest for profits above the rights, health, and well-being of people. We regarded the antinuclear movement as a continuation of other social change and social justice movements which confronted power abuses and spoke on behalf of people. We were concerned about the way in which multinational corporations subsidized by the government disproportionately exploited women, minorities, working people, indigenous peoples, and international communities, and saw the antinuclear movement as part of a movement for a truly democratic, nonracist, nonpatriarchal just society.

            By 1979, The Clamshell Alliance was wracked by internal dissension over civil disobedience “occupations” of the proposed Seabrook Nuclear Power plant site, and whether or not to cut fences in order to gain access to the site. Frankly, it seemed like a colossal waste of time and energy.

            Large scale civil disobedience actions had achieved what I believed to be our goal – to draw the attention of the public to the issue, to educate, and to mobilize antinuclear sentiment and activism in New England and around the country to stop construction of the nuke. I had no illusions that we would stop construction by seizing control of the power plant site from then-owner Public Service Company (PSCo) of NH who were backed by local police, state police from around New England, and the National Guard. No amount of respectful non-violent interaction between us and the state troopers would keep them from removing us from the site, by arrest or other means, however much they liked us or sympathized with our views. They were employed by the state, and the state had an agreement to protect the private property of corporations like PSCo. Money doesn’t only talk, it swears. I also had no illusions that people would spontaneously move from occupations of the nuke site to a non-violent popular uprising against the government. For such a non-violent revolution to occur, there needed to be clear connections made between the struggle against nuclear power and other social justice movements.

             The time had come to move toward more decentralized actions that would target the economics of nuclear power and the funding of the Seabrook nuke in order to make the building of nukes less profitable and attractive, to make explicit connections with other movements to combat the “divide and conquer” strategy of corporate capitalism, and to promote conversations about building a nuclear free future and a better society. If money swears, we would swear back. This economic focus occurred on several fronts, including legislative challenges to passing “construction work in progress” charges onto consumers (see article on CWIP) and direct action educational campaigns.

            This was the rationale behind the Wall Street Action, a direct action campaign focusing on both nuclear power and weapons as a symptom of an economic and energy system that exploited people for profit.  A group of Seacoast, NH Clamshell activists joined with activists from the War Resisters League in NY to develop the campaign which emphasized educating participants and the public about the economics of the nuclear industry and connections with other struggles. Organizers met with diverse groups to build a coalition for the campaign, eventually receiving endorsements from women’s, labor, Native American, African American, socialist, nonviolent, and anti-nuclear and environmental groups.

            In a kickoff to the Wall Street Action, 16 New Hampshire residents were arrested on August 31, 1979 after taking over the board of directors room at the First National Bank of Boston to call for an end to the bank’s financing of the Seabrook nuke and highlight the bank’s role in financing nuclear power in New England. On October 29, 1979, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stock Market Crash of 1929, 3,000 protesters trained in nonviolence blockaded entrances in an effort to shut down the New York Stock Exchange, resulting in 1,045 arrests. The previous day, thousands attended an anti-corporate, not just anti-nuclear rally at the World Trade Center.        

            The Wall Street Action campaign was another a step in antinuclear activists making connections with other movements in planning nonviolent civil disobedience, and expanding the antinuclear focus to the economics of nuclear power and to multiple issues of power in society. This legacy was carried into subsequent social change movements by activists who were introduced to non-violent direct action and coalition building strategies through the Clamshell and the Wall Street Action.

Comments Posted:
2 Comments posted on "The Wall Street Action by Cindy Girvani Leerer"
Took it to Wall Street | Politics Outdoors on September 19th, 2011 at 8:34 am #

[…] my surprise, I found little on the web about the demonstration and civil disobedience event (blog posts, archives, The Harvard Crimson, which was part of an antinuclear campaign which enjoyed significant […]

d.o. on April 8th, 2016 at 6:05 am #

The Take it to Wall Street action was done in conjunction with the Shad Alliance, New York’s own version Clamshell working out of the WRL offices. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shad_Alliance

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