Northampton City Council resolves against nuclear weaponry

Published: 11/17/2017 11:21:05 PM

NORTHAMPTON — In the 1980s, western Massachusetts was one of the hotbeds and incubators of the nuclear freeze movement. Now, nuclear disarmament activists in the area are once again bringing the region to the front lines of efforts to eliminate these apocalyptically powerful weapons.

At its Thursday meeting, the Northampton City Council unanimously passed a resolution on its first reading that asks the United States to sign the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and make nuclear disarmament the center of its national security policy.

The resolution also asks that the United States remove the sole authority to use nuclear weapons from the presidency; commit itself to not striking first with nuclear weapons; take the country’s nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; halt plans to enhance the country’s nuclear arsenal; and pursue a disarmament agreement with other nuclear-armed nations. The resolution is expected to be sent to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, and President Donald Trump.

Ira Helfand, a Leeds resident and co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, said that the resolution was part of a national campaign that was modeled on the successful nuclear freeze campaign of the 1980s.

“I think it’s time for western Massachusetts to save the world again,” said Helfand, speaking during the council’s public comment period.

He said that the goal was to have local governments across the country adopt the resolution, and that Northampton had the opportunity to be the first to do so.

Many councilors expressed support for the resolution.

City Council President William Dwight said that it seemed almost absurd that the council would have to call for something like the resolution. He also criticized the “trillion dollar investment” being put forward to enhance the country’s nuclear arsenal and praised McGovern’s efforts to remove the sole power of using nuclear weapons from the presidency.

“Another one of these no-brainer things,” said Ward 7 Councilor Alisa Klein. “We have to pass this.”

Ward 2 Councilor Dennis Bidwell also highlighted the nuclear freeze movement’s roots in western Massachusetts.

“Northampton again, Western Mass again, has a chance to play a very significant leadership role,” said Bidwell. “We should be proud of that.”

Ward 6 Councilor Marianne LaBarge also expressed her support for the resolution

“I don’t agree with war,” LaBarge said.

The resolution was passed 8-0 by the City Council in its first reading. Ward 5 Councilor David Murphy was absent from the meeting. The resolution will be voted on at its second reading at the City Council’s next meeting.

A resolution asking that military expenditures be reallocated to domestic and environmental needs also passed 8-0 in its second reading at the meeting.

Resolutions carry no legal weight, but reflect the will of the council.

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