Atomic Power and Nuclear Weapons: Flip Sides of the Same Coin By Paul Gunter

Atomic Power and Nuclear Weapons: Flip Sides of the Same Coin

By Paul Gunter

 Public Service Company of New Hampshire headquarters sits on Elm Street in the middle of downtown Manchester. It was August 9, 1976, Nagasaki Day. Ron and I were fresh out of Hampton city jail from the August 1st action at the Seabrook. My wrists were scabby with handcuff cuts from the dragging we took through cut brush to the police paddy wagon.  This day’s plan was to enter the executive office building by a side door near the Bank of New Hampshire and go up the stairwell to occupy PSCo’s Executive Suite in witness of the connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons.  We would sit-down to extend our conversation.  Anton and Roddy complemented our four-man inside affinity group for this quiet surprise direct action. Once inside, our support group would alert the media and picket on the street in front of headquarters.

We set off mid-morning and as we were about to enter the building, the glass doors swung open and two security guards came out, one with gun drawn.  They proceeded to the bank’s armored car as we entered the foyer and raced up the fire escape. We emerged on the executive floor, handed a leaflet to the secretary and respectfully asked to speak with Bill Tallman and the vice presidents. We sat down in chairs. Ron and I had already paid a few friendly visits to headquarters to meet with Norman Cullerot and other PSCo front men to argue on the hazards and problems of atomic power. 

The secretary disappeared into the back office. A security guard came in and asked us to leave. We explained that were prepared to sit there for two days until we had spoken to the company president about the tens of thousands of people that had been incinerated and poisoned in the second atomic blast and how his company’s effort was an endorsement of the spread of such weapons. After about twenty minutes of this the Manchester police came into the office. To the police’s credit, they quickly sized up the situation and placed us under relatively calm arrest even sparing me another cuffing. As they were taking us out to squad cars, one officer asked “Say, why aren’t you guys protesting food additives, you know, they’re really dangerous to our health?”  I didn’t disagree with him. 

We spent an uncomfortable night on narrow benches in the Manchester clink and were taken into District Court the next morning.  Judge William O’Neill read the charges of criminal trespass and asked us “How do you plead?” The four of us elected to plead “guilty” with a request to make statements. The judge heard our creative responses for “a safe energy future,” “an end to nuclear weapons,” “for the children’s health” and “stop the construction of the Seabrook nuke.” A rather surly Judge O’Neill entered our pleas and fined us $50 each upon which we refused to pay on principle. We were promptly sentenced to work it off at $5 a day at “hard labor” in the Hillsboro County Home and House of Correction in Grasmere, then the state’s oldest standing prison.

We baled hay for the county for ten hot summer days.  At one point, Ron talked our guard and driver into dropping the four of us off at a local supermarket on the way to the fields to shop for ingredients to make a batch of “haymakers’ switchel” in exchange for the lost receipt. Our release from jail came two days before the next wave of occupiers walked onto the Seabrook construction site on August 22nd.

Post a comment