The action was held on Memorial Day, in a stance against war and in honor of all those who have died from the making and the use of nuclear weapons. My friend and I joined 50 other people in a protest at Honeywell, the new nuclear power plant in Kansas City (the last plant had contaminated the ground around it and had to be shut down).
The non nuclear parts for nuclear weapons are made in Kansas City, the pieces are then shipped to weapons facilities where the plutonium, uranium or both are added to the nuclear warheads. Sandia, a leading “national security laboratory” is a subsidiary of Honeywell, and makes the actual bomb to put in the nuclear weapons. About $900 million a year go into nuclear weapon building in the US, funded by the federal government (i.e. citizen’s taxes). This is only set to increase under trump’s administration.
We arrived to find a procession of people walking up to the entrance to the facility’s property. We walk up past the police officers who seem to be watching for someone to misstep. The protesters begin singing songs together while a microphone and a speaker and set up in the grass. A anti-nuclear weapons lobbyist from D.C. takes the microphone, and shares information with the crowd.
“Thank god Mr. trump has finally brought this issue to the floor again,” the ambassador from D.C. concludes, implying trump’s increase in military spending is finally bringing people’s attentions to an old problem.
The lobbyist explains that in Kansas City, the nuclear weapons plant Honeywell does upkeep for old nuclear weapons, but is also currently creating new bombs. Right now, the US is spending two times as much money as was spent in the Cold War on nuclear weapons, yet we are supposedly in a process of disarmament. Trump has actually just proposed a billion dollars more to the weapons industry with 2/3 of that billion spent at Honeywell. Honeywell’s Kansas City chapter is rapidly expanding with the new budget, and is looking to increase their employment by 3,000 in the near future.
When we talk about bringing in “more jobs” to our communities, we need to look at what those jobs actually entail, for the workers and the people living in the community. In 1973 in nearby St. Louis Manhattan Project era waste was dumped in the Wesley landfill. In New Mexico, the Trinity Test from back in 1945 has left nearby residents still waiting for compensation for long term effects of the test. At the protest, a few people speak who have personally been affected by the nuclear plant in Kansas City, all talking about Honeywell and the government’s dealings in the death economy. A woman whose husband died from contamination while working at Honeywell tells her personal story, and a former employee of Honeywell for 32 years speaks about his and his coworkers’ health concerns.
“We always have to make sure that we’re on the winning end of destroying other people, and other countries. Those who produce nuclear weapons are like Dr. Frankenstein, they create a monster that harms others, but they also ends up killing themselves in the process,” Pat, the former Honeywell worker states.
Pat also explains how the people who work in the nuclear proliferation industry are introduced to toxic and radioactive materials unknowingly to them. As a Vietnam Veteran, Pat said he could really relate because the government never told him he was potentially going to be exposed to Agent Orange.
“Why are people still fighting to get the benefits that they deserve?” Pat asks.
The “Die- In” part of the protest begins, with members of the protest reading off names of 154 people who had been diagnosed with an illness associated with the non nuclear parts nuclear plant. Some illnesses were a direct result of working at Honeywell, while others had conditions that were worsened by working at the plant.
My friend and I left after the Die-In was over, commenting on how the police interaction for this protest was milder than any other recent protests we had been to, most likely because those organizing and making up the majority of the protest were older 70’s era hippies instead of millennials like us. How might the millennial generation organize in our own way to create similar waves as the Vietnam era hippies in confronting the military industrial complex? How do we help to end the permanent war economy in America ?
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