A Chapter from the Oral History of How the No Nukes Movement (1973-1982) Saved the United States and Maybe the World.
“The year 1973 was the worst year for nuclear power,” Bill McGee, a retired nuclear industry spokesman, told us when he agreed to be interviewed for this book. “It’s just astonishing when you look back on it. When we built the Yankee Atomic plant in Rowe, Massachusetts, in 1960, everybody thought it was a great idea. It was there because Senator Jack Kennedy said, ‘Please build it here.’ Presidents, senators, congressmen, local people—all thought it was great. And we built six other plants. New England had, prior to 1972, seven plants making one third of the electricity in New England. And everybody thought it was a great idea. What happened?”
President Richard Nixon told Americans on April 18 of that year that the US would build 1,000 new nuclear power plants by the year 2000, enough to supply half the nation’s electric power. He gutted environmental and regulatory requirements in order to fast-track their construction. A grateful electric power industry, in turn, doubled down on a nuclear future for the United States.
But from the mountains and seacoasts of New England, the region then most dependent on atomic energy, a movement was born that within a decade would cause the cancellation of the new generation of nuclear plants and begin closing down existing nukes.
Defendant Sam Lovejoy and attorney Tom Lesser at the Franklin County Courthouse, September 1974. Photo courtesy of Green Mountain Post Films.
When the Northeast Utilities Company erected a 500-foot weather tower on the plains of Montague, Massachusetts, in 1973, to collect wind data for the construction of the gigantic cooling towers that would accompany two nuclear power plants, local residents began to organize to stop it. On George Washington’s birthday, February 22, 1974, Sam Lovejoy, a 28-year-old organic farmer, toppled that tower using only a crowbar, and then turned himself in to local police. He represented himself during his trial, with attorney Tom Lesser seated by his side at the defense table. There, he put scientists on the witness stand to tell of the dangers of nuclear radiation, and historian Howard Zinn testified about the history of civil disobedience in America. Lovejoy was found not guilty. His trial took place in the context of a community organizing campaign that turned public opinion against the nukes, notably by opposing the utility company’s planned electric rate hikes for their construction, thus making an environmental issue also an economic one, tactics that forced the company to cancel the plants.
The victory in Western Massachusetts inspired citizens of the Seacoast of New Hampshire to organize their communities against two nukes planned for the town of Seabrook. When, in 1976, the townspeople voted against the plant but the company and state government pushed forward with it anyway, opponents formed a New England–wide organization they called the Clamshell Alliance, and they trained themselves to do acts of civil disobedience to block construction. To participate in the occupations, nonviolence training was a requirement. And every participant had to be part of an “affinity group” of between six and twenty people, which would organize itself autonomously at the local level while adhering to the nonviolence guidelines of the organization. The number of arrests at Seabrook grew rapidly from 18 on August 1, 1976, to 180 three weeks later on August 22,to more than 1,400 the following May 1. Those small steps by a handful of people inspired a national movement not just against nuclear power but also to end the nuclear arms race and the Cold War with it.
For the earliest participants in this fledgling movement, their experience would change not only history, but also them. It was much like Greil Marcus wrote of artists and poets of the 1920s Dada movement in Switzerland: “For the rest of their lives,they returned again and again to a few days in a Zurich bar. They tried to understand what had happened to them. They never got over it.”
When the judge instructed the jury to find Sam Lovejoy “not guilty” of malicious destruction of the 500-foot Montague nuclear tower, members of the jury told the press they were ready to declare him innocent anyway. From the Greenfield Recorder, September 27, 1974. Courtesy of Green Mountain Post Films.
And so it has been with the “Clams,” as they called themselves, of the Clamshell Alliance. They have regular reunions even still, 38 years after their first battles together.They tell their stories over and over, but mainly to one another. For the past couple of years, I have traveled to their homes and turned on an audio recorder to preserve their memories for history. I was a “teenage Clam,” one of the children of the movement, arrested as a minor of age at Seabrook but able to remain incarcerated a bit longer after lying about my age to the authorities. I, too, have never gotten over it. In the years since, I’ve painfully watched and reported so many other struggles that went down to humiliating defeat against the same kinds of big-money forces that the No Nukes movement triumphed over. Once one knows that victory is possible, defeat is unacceptable. From that came the motivation to document the stories of the people who did organize and win over and over again, and the stories of how they did it. My hope is that people today who want to change the world but are frustrated with today’s dominant models of ineffective “activism” will find in these stories the tactics, strategies and ways of thinking and doing things that will help them on the path to winning the present-day battles, so vital to the future of the earth and its inhabitants.
There is a better way to fight the powerful and win. I know it in my heart, because I lived it, breathed it, and grew up in it. This story, in the voices of the participants, tells in detail the steps they took, how they organized and trained themselves to win over public opinion and bring about real change. To do so, the No Nukes movement borrowed from many of the organizing tactics of the US Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, including the deployment of a smart, strategic, and non-ideological version of nonviolence. They combined that with grassroots community organizing and a decentralized form of organization. The record shows that this was the most successful major national movement in the US since the struggle against racial segregation, and yet very little of that story has been publicly told.
During the No Nukes movement’s most intense decade, from 1973 to 1982, there were, as happens in all struggles, disagreements, internal conflicts, setbacks, losses, trials and errors, and this oral history does not seek to hide them under the clam beds of the New England coast. I think it’s better to put them all out there so that future organizers can learn from these stories about how such rocky waters can be navigated successfully.
39 years after toppling the nuclear tower, Sam Lovejoy, right, tells his story to Al Giordano in 2013. He is one of 95 people so far to be interviewed by the No Nukes Oral History Project. Photo by Laura Garcia.
As with any oral history, people have different and sometimes conflicting memories about what happened. Only when we listen to the many voices together can we have a wider context for understanding what really happened. That’s what makes oral history, in my opinion, superior to reports that carry only one author’s spin. Although these interviews were conducted across a wide geography over various months, my goal was to give the reader a feeling as if he and she are invited to sit in on an informal conversation between these diverse people.
As each voice is introduced, I’ve included the year of his or her birth next to the name, to underscore the multi-generational nature of this movement, and how elders and youths learned from working with one another. Some of the testimonies come from audio and film recordings made at the time these events were happening – in this chapter, 1976 – and in those cases the year of the interview appears after the name.
What follows on this page is a sample chapter, about the first steps taken in and around the Seabrook nuclear power construction site. It wasn’t the movement’s biggest moment, nor its most noticed. But it was the birth of so much that followed it.
Since this is going to be part of a book, you might ask, why publish a key chapter online in advance? Why give away for free what one can sell? I’m confident that the rest of the stories to be told are at least as exciting and informing as this one. A key motive in publishing this chapter here is to “shake the trees” and generate more of the people who took part in these historic events – we are still unable to locate some of them – to come forward and add their own memories to the narrative. Each of us has our own personal true version of the events we lived. But when we put our truths together, we make a bigger truth.
The book will also be accompanied by a gigantic online library of background materials: training manuals, meeting minutes, photographs, videos, posters, pamphlets, news clippings and other resources that document the stories that are told.
Readers will draw their own conclusions from these stories. Here is one of mine: A very key factor, if not “the” factor, that made this movement win while so many others have failed was its requirement that all participants were obligated to receive an eight-hour nonviolence training session in order to take part in its occupations and sit-ins. Almost nobody does that today. And the results speak for themselves.
These stories are a window into the secret history of the latter part of the twentieth century, from a time when a nuclear weapons race could have wiped out human life on earth with the push of a button, and the threat of a nuclear power plant meltdown was about to increase ten fold. That threat was largely turned back, but today we all live under new menaces. I modestly suggest that if we want to end today’s dangers so that we and future generations may continue to live and thrive, we should carefully study how it has been done already, and get busy saving the world… again.
—Al Giordano, May 1, 2014, Mexico City
Renny Cushing (1952- ): The first public hearing on the Seabrook nuke was in 1972. I was twenty years old. I remember speaking from the heart about what this would do to our community, to the Seacoast of New Hampshire. The site evaluation committee members weren’t paying much attention to what I was saying, and I was a little frustrated. And then it was the public utility company’s turn to speak, and it was as though someone had called the class to attention. They were deferential to the company and what that proposal would be.
Tony Santasucci (in 1976): My wife can tell you what happened, because I used to work an hour away in Boston.
On August 1, 1976, eighteen New Hampshire citizens walked onto the construction site for the Seabrook nuclear power plant and were arrested. Photo © 1976 Lionel Delevinge.
Louisa Santasucci (in 1976): I was in the kitchen and I heard a knock at my door. Then I walked out and there was this, Daley, his name was. He turned around, he says, ‘Well, we’re going to take your property.’ I says, ‘You will not.’ He says, ‘Well, we’ll get it one way or another. We’ll take a bulldozer to your land.’ I said, ‘You’ll do it, I’ll stand right in front of it.’ I says, ‘You’ll have to kill me before you take my land. My husband broke his back all these years, buildin’ up this place.’
Renny Cushing: I remember waking up in the morning and seeing the headline on the Manchester Union Leader, the state’s largest newspaper: ‘Nuke Plant Gets License.’ And I remember looking at it and I was going, like, ‘Oh shit.’’Cause I knew that that meant that my life was gonna get rearranged, and I knew that we would be escalating. So I reached for the telephone, let’s have a meeting. The first meeting we had was a couple of days after the announcement. We met in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Hanover Street, and it was a call for a citizen’s occupation or something as nebulous as that. It was kinda an open meeting, the call went out, the people gathered up there and we talked about what we should do and how we should take on the plant. We didn’t have a name for the organization. We didn’t even know who we were.
Diann Garand (in 1976): It started really very small. There was only a handful of people in town, I think, that fully realized what was going to happen. And it just mushroomed from there. It was a point of askin’ them, ‘Do you know what plutonium is? Do you know what radioactivity is?’ And people didn’t even think about it. I said, ‘Well, you’re going to have it in your backyard.’ You’d get a few that would decide that they would go out and find out what was going on, and exactly what was coming into town. And others didn’t care. But I think it got to the point where they were realizing exactly what’s going on.
Renny Cushing: At the 1976 Town Meeting, the residents of Seabrook voted against the nuke.
Ron Rieck, who in January 1976 climbed up the weather tower for the Seabrook nuclear plant construction site, returned on August 1 for another act of civil disobedience. The group had done a role-play as part of its nonviolence training session to rehearse how to deal with the police who would arrest them. Photo courtesy of Green Mountain Post Films.
Carlene Perrusse (in 1976): We tried to educate people on the pros and cons. We took up a petition and had it put on the ballot: ‘Should there be a nuclear power plant in Seabrook?’ And the vote came out 768 ‘no’ to 632 ‘yes.’ And the selectmen called it non-bindin’. It was just that our votes didn’t count evidently.
Sam Lovejoy (1946- ): Yeah, they had the retired police chief in Seabrook against the plant. They had all the people in the Seacoast against it. That’s all true. You gotta ask yourself, however, whether the Atomic Energy Commission and the Federal Government and the electric utility companies gave a shit about a local vote, because this was federal preemption at its best. Once the utility company owns the site everything else is a foregone conclusion. All the power lines are ready. Do they approve the license? Absolutely. Do they bring in the bulldozers? Absolutely. I mean, there’s a famous quote in the movie The Last Resort, where the old guy, I can’t remember his name, he looks at the camera and says: ‘We voted against the plant. It was legal.’ I remember thinking, ‘Yeah the vote was legal but they are going to bulldoze your home.’
New Hampshire Governor Meldrim Thomson (in 1976): The vote that occurred at the last Town Meeting was not a legal vote. It was just an opinion vote.
Diann Garand (in 1976): I’ve always felt that this country stood for freedom of speech and that the people counted. But it seems that nowadays it’s just the ones who have the controlling interest, you know, big business, well, the politicians, too, they’re all kind of hand in hand. And I think the people have lost their voice, just like in this town. We cast a ballot. The ballots were counted. Whatever happened is supposed to carry through, is supposed to be a legal binding vote. And they look at it as if to say, ‘Hey, we don’t give a damn what you people want. We’re gonna do what we want.’
Jeff Brummer (1944- ): The company was proposing to invest in nuclear plants, not just in Seabrook. It was really clear from a consumer perspective that they were engaged in a building program that was beyond the capacity of the company’s own net worth and that consumers would take it on the chin. We put it right out there and said the proposed that the nuclear plant was too expensive. We can’t afford it. There were people opposing the plant for environmental and safety reasons, but at the Granite State Alliance, the statewide organization where I worked, we felt it was critically important to get a wider audience and constituency. And that’s how working on the electric rate issues was important, so we could appeal to the consumers at large to get involved in this thing with their self-interest of their own pocketbooks. So we were trying to get environmentalists together with consumers.
Seabrook nuke site occupiers who decided to “noncooperate” with their arrests by refusing to walk were pulled by one handcuff on each wrist. Photo courtesy of Green Mountain Post Films.
Jay Gustaferro (1954- ): In the winter of ‘75 I got a call from Isabel Natti who said, ‘Hey, there is this plan to build a nuclear plant over the border in New Hampshire and we should talk about it because I want to do the same kind of thing you did with the fishermen in Gloucester in opposition to offshore oil drilling.’ Isabel’s brother Peter lived on the Montague Farm with Anna Gyorgy out in Western Massachusetts,and they had stopped a nuke out there. So we sat down and she told me about the nuke and about Anna’s connection with Germany and the citizen’s occupation that had happened there. I thought, ‘That sounds like a great idea!’ So we had weekly meetings at the Gloucester Public Library, usually about three of us, to talk about nuclear power. All of a sudden one day there were 20 people at the forum. And another month went by and there were 30. And then we had a public meeting and a hundred people came. To think that it started with a couple of people and months later we had a meeting in City Hall, and we had 500 people there. We had put a resolution before the Gloucester City Council. Dr. Helen Caldicott came and spoke about the dangers of nuclear radiation. We had made a lot of phone calls. People had seen our literature. They had talked to a lot of us.
Jeanine Burns (1953- ): There was a poster at the library next door to where I lived in an apartment complex for the elderly. It said that Dr. Helen Caldicott was going to speak about the dangers of nuclear power. I was blown away by what she and her husband, Bill, had said. I was very upset because I had an infant. I said, ‘Gee, I’d better do something. I’d better get involved.’ I met Jay Gustaferro in a meeting about civil disobedience. The talk was we’ve got to start a Clamshell Alliance in Gloucester. We were 14 miles away from the plant site.
Dr. Helen Caldicott (in 1976): All radiation is dangerous. This is commonly recognized throughout the medical literature, that no radiation, to human beings, or animals for that matter, is safe. We live with a background level of radiation which comes from the sun and some of the rocks in the earth and we’ve adjusted to the background radiation and we live with it alright. Now, to increase the radiation is dangerous because it increases the risk of cancer production and it increases the risk of damaging the genes in the eggs and the sperm, which will be responsible for future generations. Background radiation is low level and it’s averaged over all cells to the body, and we’ve got millions and billions of cells in our body, and if you get a 170 millirads to the total body each cell receives just a very minute dose. But radiation from nuclear power is different because it is produced in particulate matter, as chemicals. And as these chemicals leak into the environment – which they’re doing every day, from waste storage facilities, from nuclear power plants, from the fuel cycle starting at the beginning with the uranium mining, from the uranium enrichment and milling, right through to the waste products at the end of the nuclear power cycle – each stage produces radioactive material. And because man is fallible, this stuff leaks. These materials tend to get into the water. And they concentrate into the food chains, into the grass and into the vegetables, from the water. As the cattle eat the grass and the vegetables, they concentrate in the cattle. At each stage it’s concentrated thousands of times. And as the human beings eat the cattle, the milk and the meat, it is concentrated further in us. As the stuff leaks you don’t know where it is going. You can’t taste it. You can’t smell it. You can’t see it. So you don’t know if you are drinking some milk contaminated with strontium 90 or radioactive iodine or if you’re eating a piece of cheese containing the stuff. And it’s important for the population to know this. That nuclear power won’t kill them instantly. It’s going to take a long time – 15 to 40 years to get their cancer, and five years to get their leukemia – and we know these statistics from what happened when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Jay Gustaferro: A city councilor had questioned Helen’s credentials, saying, ‘How do I know that you are really a doctor?’ And she reacted, ‘Who are you to question me, you hick!’ And so I went around the room and grabbed a bunch of big burly fishermen to lock arms around her. I thought that we were going to need to do civil disobedience right then and there. Eventually things calmed down when the councilor offered an apology.
Anna Gyorgy, 30, speaks at one of the first rallies against the Seabrook nuke in 1976. Robbie Leppzer, 17, records her words. Photo © 1976 Lionel Delevingne.
Sam Lovejoy: When the Seabrook plant license was announced, I believe it was Guy Chichester who called me in the afternoon at the farm, I’m going to guess, it was June 27 or 28, right at the end of June, and I hate to say it, but when he called, I sort of said foolishly, ‘I told you so.’ I just knew it. I knew they were going to get the license. And I said: ‘What you should do is get a meeting together for this Sunday. I’ll come up and lets have a really quick meeting of some sort of core group.’ There were maybe ten or twelve people at that meeting and we decided to get together either a couple days or a week later. And at that second meeting there was maybe 30 people, and we sat outside in sort of a meeting place, and everything was decided in that meeting. It went for like for twelve or fourteen hours. We figured out the name of the group, and we formed the Purpose Group to figure out the purposes of the Clamshell Alliance, and a Strategy Group, and if it should be nonviolent, and what is nonviolent? We talked about training, and civil disobedience. An entire program was worked out from that meeting of like just 30 or so good-hearted people. It was amazing.
Anna Gyorgy (1946- ): So when I came in to those meetings it was very clear, and that stayed with me forever, that this would be an alliance to support the Seacoast people in New Hampshire in their fight against nuclear power. In that sense, the goal was very clear for us because we had gotten a delay on our nuke, the Montague nuke construction had been suspended, and the terrifying thing comes when they start the construction. It was so much easier for us, getting started before a tree was taken. Guy Chichester was a totally critical organizer, so were Renny Cushing, Peter Kellman, Cathy Wolff—these were people who blended political consciousness with deep root and affection and identification with the local community so that was really great. And this hook-up with Montague and the fight was really important. I guess Randy Kehler was at one of the first meetings and that’s probably why I was invited. Randy had been to Wyhl, Germany, where local people had occupied a nuclear power plant site, and we were all excited to learn about what those people had done.
Randy Kehler (1944- ): My wife Betsy and I had gone to of the War Resisters League International conference in Holland. And then we went from there carrying the first really, copy off the presses of the movie, Lovejoy’s Nuclear War, to Wyhl, Germany. It was very dramatic and the opposition had built what they called a roundhouse, right on the nuke’s site. It was occupied. It was amazing, we were just amazed that they were able to not only occupy the site, but build this round amphitheater in which we showed the Lovejoy movie with somebody translating because it wasn’t in German. It was just like with the nukes in Rowe, Massachusetts, just like Vernon, Vermont. The local town is getting all the benefits and the tax breaks. They wanted the plant, and almost everybody outside that town was against it, especially the farmers, because they raised grapes. It is a grape-growing area for wine makers. And they were sure that the plume that would put out all the clouds of vapor from the cooling towers was going to completely change the weather pattern that was very sensitive for their grape growing. So while we’re in there showing the film, the proponents of the nuke come and they spread roofing nails all over the roads leading in. So somebody came running back in after the film and said, ‘Don’t drive out until we clear the nails! They’ve covered the roads with these nails.’ It was intense. When I got back, I mean we obviously reported what we’d learned.
Chuck Light (1949- ): I went to Europe for six weeks for the spring and summer of ’76. I’d been invited to the Berlin Film Festival to show Lovejoy’s Nuclear War, and they paid half the fair or the hotel or whatever, so I thought it’d be a good idea to try and sell the film overseas and to turn it into a real trip to see what else was out there so I went for six weeks. I went to England, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Berlin, Paris, made some deals for the film, and acquired some anti-nuclear films to distribute in the United States, like More Nuclear Power Stations, the story of people from a German town who occupied a nuclear plant construction site. So when the Clamshell actually formed I came back because people had told me,‘All this stuff is happening here in Seabrook, you have to come back to film this.’
Tony and Luisa Santasucci refused to leave their home on the nuclear construction site. Photo courtesy of Green Mountain Post Films.
Jeff Brummer: Individually, you don’t take being arrested for an important cause you believe in lightly. It was hard to project where it would go. I still had visions of Whyl in my head, and that this action would just be a precursor to that and the effort would grow. On the one hand, normal residents aren’t accustomed to people doing civil disobedience. Sometimes that is received well, other times not. I felt that whatever we did and in how we conducted ourselves, we needed to begin to elicit interest in this kind of action on the part of normal citizens. The thing that struck me about Whyl is they had everybody from the mayor of the town, to the farmers with their tractors, and obviously a lot of students and others. But they had a broad spectrum and a major part of that community. I honestly believed that we could do something like Whyl and physically stop the plant.
Joanne Sheehan (1948- ): At the age of 25 I was living in New York and I had been elected to the board of directors of the War Resisters League [WRL]. We heard about Sam Lovejoy toppling a nuclear plant tower in Massachusetts and he came on invitation to the WRL Executive Committee meeting in New York. I was in my 20s and he was almost 30. There was all this excitement because of a nonviolent action he had done against nuclear power. The meeting was on the Upper West Side and Sam came and talked about toppling the tower. To be honest, as a young feminist, my reaction was, ‘Well, he’s a little macho.’ He sat there and talked about the action in a very powerful way, about releasing the wire and it going ‘boing.’ I guess for me, part of what you have to recognize is in terms of second-wave feminism one of the things that was happening was women trying to identify our sense of power and empowerment and coming out of the Vietnam protest era, women were, like, ‘What is our role here? To be supporters? To sleep with war resisters?’ There had even been a pamphlet about ‘girls say yes to boys who say no.’ And here was a guy who said, ‘Hi, look at me, I made the metal go ‘boing!’ I found out a lot of good things about Sam later on, but that night Sam was all about Sam.
Jeff Brummer: Of course I’d heard about Sam Lovejoy topping the tower in Massachusetts, so we had this conference in Keene, New Hampshire. I called Sam directly and said, ‘I’d love to have you come to this conference, and bring the film, and bring that short film about Whyl, about the occupation,’ and he did. We had a good time. He made a good presentation.
Sam Lovejoy: And the decision was that we had to act immediately on August 1, on that day, because the company was about to break ground on construction. We asked Elizabeth Boardman, who was the head of the American Friends Service Committee [AFSC] in Boston, whether she knew some trainers. She said she would do it herself and she was in the meeting. We figured we would train a minimum group of people and we were doing occupation in August 1. And we formed a Legal Committee, an Outreach Committee, every kind of committee, and I was stuck on several of them. And we agreed to everything—outreach to the utility? Absolutely. Outreach to the local police… You couldn’t get arrested unless you were trained. Turned out 18 people were trained and got arrested on August 1.
Tom Lesser (1946- ): There wasn’t yet a legal committee. I was it by default. Montague, Massachusetts, had become a kind of hub of the fledgling anti-nuclear movement. They’d defeated a plant, after all. I don’t know if it was ‘The’ Hub, but with a little Western Massachusetts ego I thought of it as the hub of the anti-nuke movement. When the construction was about to begin in Seabrook, the natural thing was to go up there and support the local people. And since I was the lawyer, I went.
Cathy Wolff and Robin Read emerge from a meeting with the New Hampshire attorney general after informing him on behalf of the Clamshell Alliance of plans for a massive nonviolent occupation of the Seabrook nuclear plant site in April 1977. More than 1,400 people would be arrested during that action. Most refused to post bail and were held in five National Guard armories for 12 days and nights. Photo from the Concord Monitor.
Renny Cushing: Tom was a tall guy, a lawyer who had been helpful to Sam Lovejoy and the folks who opposed a nuke in Montague, Massachusetts. He was like a people’s lawyer. We made the political decision that it would just be New Hampshire people doing the occupation. There were people from Maine. Sukie Rice and Eleanor Boardman, who were nonviolence trainers from the American Friends Service Committee in Boston, were there. There were people from Gloucester and from the Granite State Alliance. From Montague, there were Anna Gyorgy, Sam Lovejoy, Chuck Light and Dan Keller. And it was an interesting question of how we should deal with this. Do we have a media strategy? Dan and Chuck from Green Mountain Post Films were our media to the extent that they sat in on all of the meetings. We were really just figuring it out. And we decided this would be a nonviolent resistance.
Chuck Light: Having lived through the 60s and seeing the overreach, the idea that the revolution was around the corner and our misestimation of our own strength and political power, and seeing the backlash to that, is what led us to adopt a strategy of nonviolence. And philosophically I think it was a good idea, but it was more of a strategic decision.
Robin Read (1946- ): A lot of the work was to educate the public at the most local level and generate opposition to the plant. Portsmouth has a street fair every year called Market Square Day, with 15,000 people. It’s a big deal. And the Clamshell had a table there. One day they made a huge ice sculpture of the power plant, and as a fundraiser sold raffle tickets in which people would write down what time they thought the ice sculpture would melt down. People loved it. And as more people became involved they began doing these kinds of things in their own cities and towns.
Cathy Wolff (1948- ): It melted really slowly, and I had to stay up all night checking it every hour because I wanted to be honest about who won the lottery. The prize was a meal at a restaurant. It finally melted at around 3:30 a.m.
Robin Read: The following year people made a lemon cake in the shape of the nuclear plant, surrounded by little toy soldiers. ‘Buy a piece of the nuke. Buy a piece of the lemon. Get it while it’s cheap.’ That cake went for 25 cents a slice. The cake was gone in a couple hours. I always liked that kind of creativity. Local people who were supportive could help out at the table or help make the cake, that sort of thing.
Tammy Adams (1962- ): I was at summer camp in Sunpoke, New Hampshire, and my father, Jay, was late picking me up from camp because he was at a Clamshell Alliance organizing meeting at Guy Chichester’s in Rye, New Hampshire. Dad was probably 34 or 35. He had kind of removed himself from the establishment, gone back to the land, and I am really not sure how he got hooked up with this group from the Seacoast. But it consumed him after that first meeting. It was something he really committed the rest of his life to after that. I got swept into it as well and nine months later, at the age of 13, I got arrested for occupying the nuke site.
Court Dorsey (1950- ): Jay Adams would end up being arrested more than anyone else. He had the most arrests in the movement.
Tammy Adams: He did?
Court Dorsey: Yup.
Tammy Adams: Yeah, Dad was busy.
Eric Wolfe (1950- ): In January of 1976 I saw in the Boston Globe that Ron Rieck had climbed a weather tower in Seabrook, New Hampshire, to protest a proposed nuclear plant. It was very cold. The police chief urged Ron to come down, saying he was concerned about his health. Ron said he had to stay up there because he was concerned about the policeman’s health if the nuke got built. A few weeks later while I was performing (my puppet show) at a lefty bookstore in Cambridge, the guy laughing loudest turned out to be Ron Rieck. I joined Ron’s covered wagon expedition scheduled for late July.
Paul Gunter (1948- ): Ron Rieck and I, along with several others left Hinsdale, New Hampshire, by horse-drawn wagon on July 21, 1976. The date is easy to remember because it was the day Vermont Yankee dumped 83,000 gallons of tritium into the Connecticut River. We were canvassing door-to-door against the nukes in Hinsdale, across the Connecticut River from Vermont Yankee, and in one of the first houses, the woman had her TV on in the background that had this alert on saying, ‘Get out of the river, no fishing,’et cetera, because of the spill. The idea of the wagon train came from something Albert Einstein had said—‘To the Village Square we must carry the facts about atomic energy. From there will come America’s voice’—so we went from village square to village square in each town on the way to Seabrook. We were publicizing the action on the Seacoast.
Tammy Adams: The Wagon Train was to raise awareness about what was starting to go down in Seabrook. In southwest New Hampshire, the Vermont nuke was really in our backyards. George Iselin’s horse pulled the wagon. There were about five of us. I remember Dad dropping me off at George’s farm in Marlborough, it was the second or third night of the wagon train. I ended up on there because my dad was elsewhere and I was 13 and needed someplace to be. It was probably the safest place for me to be, on the road, walkin’ across New Hampshire! My father was getting ready for the occupation.
Paul Gunter: Tammy was a teenager and we also had two other kids along for portions of the trek. We had a puppet show in the back of the wagon: ‘Burnt Toast, Trouble in the Nation’s Breadbasket.’ Eric Wolfe was the puppeteer. An advance team organized by Cia Iselin would travel ahead and publicize the puppet show on each village square, tell everyone to bring their kids, and on most nights we held an evening with the walkers about atomic power and the Seabrook construction project. A dragon represented the nuclear plant, and there was a hero and a heroine to slay it. Ron Rieck and I both had experience in civil disobedience and had received nonviolence training for other protests, so we spoke about the role of nonviolence in social change, told stories about Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day.
Georgia Ellicott Fletcher (1962- ): The Wagon Train came through Nelson Village where I lived. There was a lot of activity and we began to understand there was a lot of interest in the issue. There was some kind of rally on the town square. Nelson is a town of just a few hundred people, and Nelson Village even smaller. So if anything was happening everybody came out, at least when I was a kid, because there was not much else happening. I rode on the wagon at least for a few days, I don’t remember going all the way to Seabrook. But it was the first time that the whole issue of nuclear power came to my attention. My mom, Betsy Jean, was involved, but I eventually got involved more than she did. By the time I was 17, I was facilitating meetings and nonviolence training sessions.
Paul Gunter: George Iselin and Roddy Welch walked the entire ten-day route, barefoot.
Tammy Adams: When we got to the Seacoast with the Wagon Train I ran into a girl I had met at camp, Luanne Gunderson. Her parents were involved in the struggle.
Kristie Conrad (1953- ): The first nonviolence training was held at the Gustavson farm, the day before the action, and Sukie Rice was doing the training. A large part of the training was role-playing and so that you could sort of try to prepare yourself for various scenarios. So, because we were using some of the techniques and philosophy of the AFSC, a Quaker organization, the idea of dialogue was really essential, really important in nonviolence. When you come into a confrontational situation you talk with people. Instead of not talking and becoming belligerent or whatever, you try and talk. You talk about why it is that you’re there, what it is that has brought you to that point where you are confronting the power structure, what it is that you’re doing. So we would role-play with half of us being police officers and half of us being demonstrators and switch back and forth so that people could have the opportunity to at least experience it and give some forethought to it so that should we get in that situation we would know what to do. We talked about how we would respond to, you know, being blocked or not able to move forward and the, you know, the standard ‘you sit down.’
Jeff Brummer: Part of the training was that we wanted to identify the people who were there, make sure they knew each other, and not have outsiders. And also to have specific instruction on what to do when arrested, of how to conduct ourselves.
Kristie Conrad: The process is an important part of our training, understanding that we have to come together—it’s not just about how you get arrested, it’s about how you relate to people. It comes from Gandhi, from India. It didn’t come from Seabrook. And people needed to come up with processes of how to meet or face potential arrest situations and choose to do that or not, so there were those issues that training provides, the best format for going through that process.
Rob Okun (1950- ): An affinity group was a collection of people who trained together in nonviolent civil disobedience, but were a group who had each other’s backs, that developed some sense of trust, of connection, learning what each other’s strengths and weaknesses were. I thought that for citizens to be successful, to be able to create a political movement that was actually going to stop something as powerful as the building of a nuclear power plant that we had to have our shit together. We had to be unassailable in the most vulnerable place for a protester, which was ‘Oh, they threw rocks at the police, that’s why they got hurt.’ If you could demonstrate to people that everybody who is part of an action went through nonviolence training and is committed to these principles, then unless you are an unscrupulous journalist you are going to give a more fair hearing in the court of public opinion. The idea that requiring nonviolence training would somehow restrain my freedom, that didn’t have any legs.
Paul Gunter: Every affinity group also had support people, who had our names and contact information in case we were detained for any period of time.
|Sukie Rice on Nonviolence Training|
| Sukie Rice: My first meeting with the Seabrook people was at a restaurant. There were maybe twenty people or so. They wanted to talk about communications and what would be the philosophy be of their direction. And it was during that evening that we did a little role-play. I had them do the scene of walking on to the nuclear site and had the people who were playing the demonstrators speak from a place of nonviolence. And then I had them do it again, but using words that were not of a nonviolent nature. Others played the part of people who were filming it: television, or newspaper people. And then others played the part of regular New Hampshire residents, sitting in their living rooms with their feet up watching the news. When it came time for the debriefing, which is what you do at the end of every role-play, I asked each group what they perceived, what they experienced, what they thought. In the end everybody said: ‘When I played the part of the person watching it on television I was much more keyed into the message that they were getting across and sympathetic to them when it was a nonviolent demonstration.’ And then we took it from there.When you do a civil disobedience action and people are screaming and yelling versus when people are speaking directly, eye-to-eye with a policeman or anyone they can to talk about his experience of living here in the Seacoast of New Hampshire: ‘You’ve got kids. What is it that you want for your children here? And do you ever go down to the ocean?’ It had never occurred to some of these people to talk to policemen, or to talk to people who were not of their political persuasion. And the moment we started doing the role-plays people began to realize how you open up the possibilities with these tactics.
Al Giordano: Where did you get the idea to walk them through a role-play?
Suki: From 1970 to 1973 I was very involved with an anti-war group. We were based in Cambridge and the Boston area. We called ourselves NDAG—Non Violence Direct Action Group—and it was anywhere from 15 to 150 people depending on what we were doing. Our initial protests were in front of buses that were taking young men for the draft to fight in the Vietnam War. They had already been registered, they had already gotten their notice, and they were being taken to the South Boston Army base. And we blocked the passage of the bus into the army base so that the young men would not be taken in and processed for being drafted. And so my first civil disobedience actions were in front of busses. To do those actions we all went through intensive nonviolent direct action training.Al Giordano: You remember who trained you?
Suki Rice: Absolutely. They were a profound influence on my life: Marjorie Swan and Bernard Lafayette.
Marge Swan was an incredible woman who gave her life over to nonviolent direct action primarily in 1950s against the atomic bomb. She started the Community for Nonviolent Action [CNVA] in Connecticut with her husband Bob Swan and others, and lived there for years. They raised their children there. Carol Swan was younger than me but of my generation. And Carol said that the kids were often angry that their mother was not present. That their mother was protesting, that their mother was in jail: she was not present. Her life was devoted to nonviolent action. And the kids were very open about the fact that it was so frustrating to have their mother be so absent. And yet at the same time they said they were so proud of their mother. That just, you know, stood behind her all the way.
Bernard Lafayette came from the Southern Christian Leadership Council [SCLC] and did nonviolence training with Martin Luther King and the bus boycotts and bus ride-ins for racial desegregation. His background had far more violence in his experience. Marge’s was years of persistent, ‘You never give up, you just keep going at it’ kind of work. Bernard’s was very much defined by the protests in the South. Bernard told stories that helped my understanding enormously of what are you can do in a tense and difficult situation.
I’ll tell you a story that Bernard told me that were so influential. There were a couple of rules of nonviolence. ‘Rules’ maybe isn’t the right word, but there are basic tenets in the philosophy of nonviolent direct action. And one of them is that at all times you remain as human as you can and relate to the other person with as human an interaction as you possibly can. And you when you are in a tense situation you try and bring it to place of normalcy and try to appeal to the humanity of the other. You give them the option of being human. Bernard told a story of being on a bus ride in Selma, Alabama. There were whites and blacks on the bus at a time when integrated buses were not allowed. They all wore nice clothes: suit and tie to be as respectable as possible. Bernard said it was important not to get stuck into stereotypes. Don’t let people stereotype you by your clothing and things of that nature. And they had stopped for, and he was to go to the telephone booth to call into the main office to let them know how things were going.
Bernard went to the telephone booth. He was making the phone call to say where they were when two or three men from the local area pulled him out and started slugging at him. And they were assuming he would fight back, which he did not do. When they hit on him until he was down and when they stepped back he stood up and they started to slug on him again. They hit him until he was down, again. On the third time he stood up and once more he wiped the dirt from his jacket and his coat. And said: ‘Are you gentlemen finished? I would like to continue with my phone call.’ And they stepped back and he continued with his phone call. He would not allow himself to get involved in their violence. He called them gentlemen and wiped the dirt from his coat showing that as a natural normal thing to do, taking care of your appearance.
Bernard told us that if he had fought back, obviously he wasn’t going to win. So there was no reason to fight back. He couldn’t have done much of anything against three men. He would have fulfilled their stereotype of a stupid and weak black man. And instead he feels that he changed at that moment and put changed their stereotype and put into their mind a question mark: ‘Who is this man? Who is this guy? And what am I doing? What am I doing?’Bernard’s experiences formed what we were doing in the NDAG demonstrations when the Cambridge Police Department came down heavily on the protesters with their batons. And the demonstrations would have thousands of people. The cops had no idea who was peaceful and who wasn’t. A lot of stores’ windows got smashed. One demonstration in Boston happened when Vice President Spiro Agnew was at some hotel. And the demonstration was surrounding around the hotel, there was a chain link fence or a barricade, too. There were plenty of police.
And I remember talking with the police because they were tense. A lot of people had already gotten hurt in Cambridge. So we knew that this was going to be a hypertense time for the police. So we wanted to put faces on us, not just be a screaming, yelling mob. Just then a man who was near the construction area for the fence they had erected around the hotel picked up a brick, a portion of a brick, not a full brick. And I turned to him and thought, ‘What would Bernard Lafayette do here?’ I put out my hand saying, ‘Hi, my name is Sukie. What’s yours?’ He had the brick in his right hand. And he stopped and he didn’t know what to do because he had the brick in his hand. And I just looked him straight in the eye, and finally I said: ‘It will go a lot better for me and for you if you don’t throw that, ’cause if you do throw it the police will probably come down on my head as well as yours. I’d appreciate it if you put it down.’ And he did! That’s basically what Bernard said to do: Bring him down to a normal and personal moment. It stops the adrenaline that says, ‘Charge! Throw that brick!’ It just stops it right then and there.
In the same demonstration we’d been taught that we are always supposed to say, ‘Walk, don’t run. Walk, don’t run.’ Bernard said: ‘If you run, you look like scared rabbits and you are going to prove to them that you are these scared stupid rabbits that they can run after, right?’ If you’re running police will assume you are running away from something that you shouldn’t have been doing. Walking has more integrity. Well, that worked fine because an altercation did occur. The police had been told, ‘Move them out.’ The whole line of police said, ‘Everybody leave, everybody go!’ Well, I don’t know if you’re familiar with those little streets in between inside Boston but they’re small skinny little streets. And my heart was pounding because there are all these hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of demonstrators and we all had to bottleneck into these little streets that were heading over in the direction of Symphony Hall.
So, we’re all saying, ‘Everybody leave, please move quickly but walk, don’t run.’ But at one point some people started running and police started moving in. It was an absolute scattered mess. I remember moving in to one of the skinny little side streets. I knew it was narrow. That street was no wider than a small room with cars parked on one side. And a policeman came charging down on horse. I thought, ‘Holy crap! What do I do now?’ Between that big horse and me I knew I didn’t have a lot of options. He was charging at me. So I pulled a Bernard Lafayette. I turned towards the officer and asked, ‘Which way to the subway?’ That’s when I realized that nonviolence really does work.
And I repeated: ‘Which way to the subway, please?’ And he realized he had a young lady there who hadn’t done anything wrong. She was not running. She was not hurting anybody. And he was a policeman whose job included helping people when they’re lost. So he just pointed and said: ‘Two blocks down that way.’ I said, ‘Thank you,’ and left.
To me, these were clear examples of tense situations and the use of nonviolence as a way to get across a message.
Al Giordano: Why did you adopt the term ‘affinity groups’ and use it as the organizing model for the Clamshell Alliance?
Sukie Rice: I picked up the term ‘affinity groups’ when I was doing nonviolence training for the May Day protests against the Vietnam War in Washington, DC, in 1971. The week before May 1, there was a civil disobedience every day an action at headquarters of the Department of Justice and other agencies. Everybody involved in those actions went through intensive nonviolent direct action training. People organized into affinity groups. And then a ‘spokes’ person would meet with the spokes of the other affinity groups to make decisions. So I brought that with me as part of my background. There was a training manual for that action that later became the basis for the Clamshell Alliance training manuals.
Kristie Conrad: We did role-plays around the court system and what it was gonna be like, and we had a discussion about bail solidarity, that none of would leave by paying bail unless all of us could leave. And that concept was critical to a lot of the decision-making, a lot of the actions that came afterwards. And the power of the actions that came afterwards too. You know, and we talked a little bit about this. But humor was absolutely essential, and irreverence, I think, is almost the turn of it. During the roleplaying part of the training, it was Sukie who was playing the judge. Kevin Hopkins, one of the people planning to be arrested, got up before her and she was, you know, asking him his name and what he did for work. Kevin’s standing there and he just had this big smile on his face and he says, ‘I’m a stripper.’ Because he was a photographer and that was his job. I didn’t know what that was at the time. I think it was Sukie because I remember it being kind of shocking for Sukie to encounter but it was really that kind of thing. Humor can be very disarming in situations. I just recall that it was one of those things where everyone just kind of like stopped for a minute and was like, ‘Kevin is a stripper?’ Because none of us, I don’t know even Renny, if you knew that what he did was called that.
Renny Cushing: He was a stripper in Seabrook because he worked as a printer.
Kristie Conrad: Oh, that place down in Seabrook, that’s right.
Renny Cushing: He worked at a publishing company.
Kristie Conrad: ‘I’m a stripper in Seabrook.’We laughed a lot about that. The other purpose of the training was really to develop more, you know, between the people that were present, more relationships, because the first time through not very many of us knew each other, I mean really. Renny was there with his brother, Michael.
Marie Cushing (1926- ): As a mother, I believed in what they were doing. I didn’t want to sit on my back deck and look over and see that plant. There were all these people living around it. It was too close. So I let them use our home, where all people are welcome. You don’t have to have any credentials to get into my house or refrigerator. You need something to eat or someplace to sleep, come on in. People are very important, every individual. I didn’t like my sons being in jail. That bothered me. I was proud of what they had to say, but I was annoyed they were in jail for speaking the truth, annoyed at whoever put them in jail. Who’d they hurt going marching? They didn’t hurt anybody. They marched to a dump. There’s supposed to be freedom of speech. I believe strongly in laws, too.
Renny Cushing: At the training session for the first Seabrook occupation, I played the cop, my favorite role to play. I wanted to be the police officer. I wanna take people in. I wanna be really mean to them so that they can learn the discipline of nonviolence, and not be baited. So, I’m screaming at them. That was part of that role-play. I have to say that from the outset there were cameras around and audio mics, it really became part of the background, a constant presence.
From the Audio Recording of the July 31, 1976 training session:
Sukie Rice: Does everybody know what a role-play is? It is taking a situation of conflict that you are anticipating to happen. We want for different people to be occupiers, a couple people be press, a couple people be police, maybe two people play armed guards, maybe have attack dogs, maybe have someone play a judge because you are all going to have an arraignment tomorrow…Later in the same audio:
Police Officer 1: We got nothing against you and you and your people. We just want you to go home and leave this place alone because Public Service Company tells us you are not supposed to be here. Go home or get arrested. Go stand on your own property.
Protester 1: I’m here to stop construction on the plant. We’re going to be nonviolent and we’re not going to resist you but we are going to try to get on that site.
Police Officer 2: Can you say that for everybody that’s going to be by here in the future?
Police Officer 1: Get that one!
Protestor 2: Stop hurting him! You’re beating him.
Police Officer 1: I don’t know what you are talking about. I didn’t see it.
Wally Nelson (1909-2002): Role-playing is just like it says. Playing. You’re just like a kid. You put into a role-play many times things that actually don’t happen. But for people who aren’t initiated, it will give them some idea of maybe what could take place and the possible reaction.
Chuck Light: One of the first things we recorded was that training session. I think it was in somebody’s yard. Elizabeth Boardman was this Quaker woman who was really influential in the founding of the Clamshell and the nonviolent direction of it and the organizing strategies. I remember a lot of the people would be arrested on August 1 were there. And when we met the people from the Clamshell, Renny Cushing, Guy Chichester, all the different people, initially there was a real sympathy call.
Sukie Rice: The training for the August 1 action was powerful for me. I’m a choral director, and when you are singing an incredible piece of music with other people the hair on your neck stands up. And you experience it with all the other altos and sopranos and basses. But when you’re the director standing in front, you experience the glory of this music in a way you reflect back to them what they are giving to you and it’s this symbiotic stuff that is extraordinary. That’s the only way I can explain what it was like to be in the middle or the vortex of this event. And you know it’s your responsibility to make sure that nonviolence training went well. Just as when you’re directing a piece of music, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the basses are singing at the same tempo, that the sopranos are not overwhelming the altos, and that the altos are stayed in pitch rather than going flat. And so you have your ears and eyes out for every voice, so that their voices sing as one when being heard by the audience. So, that’s kinda of the role of nonviolence trainer. Everybody came out of that night’s training session feeling so close, so united in that what they were doing was right and they were just thinking and moving, breathing, the same stuff.
Nelia Sargent (1955- ): I had just gone from reading 1,000 words a minute with a photographic memory to not reading at age 20 when I became legally blind. I lost my dad, my vision and a four-year relationship in the summer of 1975. And I focused on what did I really care about, which was nonviolent social change. I wanted to go out and start organizing and learn how to organize. That fall as I was beginning to get some home training in Braille and mobility, I was commuting to the AFSC office in Cambridge. I was working with Sukie Rice at the office in 1976. She started telling me about these meetings going on in New Hampshire. And so I was bugging her for all the information I could get after each meeting she had attended. And she told me that there was going to be an action on August 1 and I said, ‘I want to participate! Would you please carry my request?’ I was on fire when I heard about it and really wanted to participate. Now, I don’t know why I didn’t go up with her to one of those meetings. And I don’t hold it against people but I love to tease them today because basically I was turned down. They hadn’t met this blind person who only a month earlier had learned to use a white cane. And walking down unpredictable railroad tracks with the unknowns of the police response and all of that… I hadn’t met anybody yet up there. I did ask to be part of the August 1 group and was turned down.
Sukie Rice: Nelia was younger than me, not a massive amount, but younger. I would say it was not as much her blindness as her innocence that made me doubt she could be part of the action. She was a lot more mature than we knew, but when she first started but there was a youngness to her, a vulnerability that had nothing to do with the blindness that had much more to do with my feeling protective of her until she was ready.
Al Giordano (1959- ): Three years later, Nelia would become the Clamshell Alliance’s staff director for nonviolence training. From the age of 20 to 23, through her participation in the movement, she became a bigger-than-life inspirational figure throughout the region, especially after a photo went out over the news wires that showed her and her white cane walking stick, alone, blocking the 400-ton reactor pressure vessel from entering the plant site. That she was dissuaded from participating in the first action, even though she was a New Hampshire resident and they were looking for in-state participants, provides a glimpse of what a lot of us younger people faced when we first got involved. We weren’t ‘sixties people’ like so many of the key figures in the Clamshell. We were from a new generation with our own ideas about how to do things differently and we really had to struggle and fight to become taken seriously within the movement because of the very thing that eventually made us valued allies: our youth and all the energy, creativity, impatience and, of course, hormones that came with that.
Sukie Rice: I didn’t think Nelia was ready the first time around. But she sure was after that. Man, she came up! She grew up fast.
Renny Cushing: We were trying to couch ourselves in terms that we’re defending our community against an outside invasion: Against the power company, the big banks, Wall Street, they we’re all coming to just occupy and take over our community, to drive the people out of their homes, to take people’s jobs, and, you know, to steal our democracy. We were conscious that it was going to be us. That whoever they put up to counter us, we knew they wouldn’t have anybody who wasn’t a flack. They couldn’t speak with any authenticity about the community and what the struggle was. Having authentic voices saying, ‘There’s my house here, these are our lives, this is not something that’s a movie, this is really our lives that are being directly affected by this.’ And we wanted to do that. And New Hampshire tends to be, like a lot of places, a little xenophobic, or when it’s people from away, you’re always easily dismissed. But when it’s your neighbors doing something, it really does set a different tone. Eighteen people, from the state, they know what a Town Meeting is, they know what it’s like to live here, they’re like us. We wanted to be what we were, which was like everybody else.
Jeff Brummer: We wanted this to be an indigenous thing. We didn’t want to be labeled as outsiders coming up from Boston. So having only New Hampshire residents in the first occupation was a tactic. On the morning of August 1, I went from my home in Manchester to Hampton Falls. There was a rally there. We formed up and had saplings that we would carry onto the site that would be devastated by the Public Service Company bulldozers. We set off down the railroad tracks, 18 of us. It was kind of somber, I thought, but we were singing and chanting at the same time. We got down there and on the site and we were told not to go further. And then we were met by police officials and were given X amount of time to get off the property or you’re gonna be arrested for trespassing.
Renny Cushing: There would be a support rally that everyone could be part of, and we gave it a name, the Clamshell Alliance. People didn’t really know what it meant. I can remember thinking,‘That’s a stupid name.’ I didn’t particularly like it. But Guy Chichester said, ‘Well, lets think about how this originated and the opposition was for what the power plant would do to the clam flats.’ Seabrook had a clamming industry, it still has a clamming industry and that was kinda emblematic of the town. It seemed like the name was almost playful in a way. We’re just gonna call ourselves the Clamshell Alliance.
Richard Bell (1946- ): The reactor was on the edge of a huge salt marsh, one of the bigger ones in the East Coast and a very rich source of clams, a place where fish could lay eggs and grow before they went back to the ocean. So they picked this name, the Clamshell Alliance, in order to reflect the localization of the struggle and it was a very New Hampshire–focused group at the beginning.
Jeff Brummer: I went from my home in Manchester to Hampton Falls early on Saturday, August 1. There was a rally there. We formed up and had tree saplings that we would carry onto the site that would be devastated by the Public Service Company bulldozers. We set off down the railroad tracks, 18 of us. It was kind of somber, I thought, but we were singing and chanting at the same time.
Tammy Adams: The staging area for the action was at the Gustavson farm. It was a working farm with cows and chickens and vegetable crops. People camped out back.
Cathy Wolff: I remember being in a tent at Shirley and Gus Gustavson’s farm the night before, trying to relax. The whole place smelled of sheep shit, because Gus raised sheep. I’m from New York City. Oh, it really stunk. It was also a beautiful field but it did stink.
Gus Gustavson (1929- ): I had moved to New Hampshire in 1960 to work on nuclear submarines in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard because I wanted to get in on the ground floor of nuclear power. By the time that the Seabrook plant was announced in the ’70s I was disillusioned with nuclear power. I saw a lot of guys become contaminated by nuclear radiation. They worked on nuclear power but they didn’t take it seriously. We used to wear dosimetry and they wore their radiation measuring badges outside the nuclear area so it wouldn’t register because they were afraid they were going to miss out on overtime. They thought, ‘If I can’t see it, I’m not going to be afraid of it.’ And these guys had developed some pretty bad cancers. So I said that I just don’t wanna be involved in this.
Shirley Gustavson (1931- ): Our oldest son, Steve, was involved with the people who were starting the Clamshell Alliance.
Gus Gustavson: The big thing was supporting Steve, our son. But we were definitely against it, too. Of course, I was considered a hypocrite because I was working in nuclear power and some of these Clamshell people said, ‘How can he work with this stuff and still support us?’
Shirley Gustavson: I was an elected official, the town clerk, I already had white hair, and suddenly we had all these people camping out on our farm in Hampton Falls. They had long hair and dungarees and people asked a lot of questions. But I never lost an election.
Gus Gustavson: She was always the biggest vote-getter in town.
Shirley Gustavson: There were some people advocating the use of violence in the protests. And I thought that was too bad because we were moving along, doing everything correctly with nonviolence.
Gus Gustavson: The local people were mostly against the plant, but most didn’t speak up. But they thought, well, ‘If these people are stupid enough to think they can stop the plant, let ’em try.’ It helped maintain that support that the Clamshell Alliance was against violence and using nonviolence. I could not understand how these Clamshell people could let themselves be manhandled without swinging. I think that impressed a lot of people.
Shirley Gustavson: I had remembered Renny Cushing from when he was in high school. He had gotten in trouble for long hair or wearing sideburns or something like that. It was in the newspapers. He really stuck up for himself, and I thought, ‘Good for him.’
Paul Gunter: I was impressed by Gus and Shirley’s support and willingness to let us stage the action from their home. Having the local support was central to build the endurance for sustaining actions.
Tammy Adams: There was a rally that day on the Hampton Falls common. And then folks started marching off and heading toward the railroad tracks in Hampton that fed down into the Seabrook site. But I didn’t go with them. I stayed on the common.
Diann Garand (1941-2004): I can actually remember the exact moment I got involved. It was the first demonstration. About 18 came onto the site. I had been following it through the news and stuff. It was a metamorphosis. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I told my husband and my father-in-law, ‘I’m goin’.’ And my husband said, ‘If you get arrested, I’m not bailin’ you out.’ And my father-in-law said, ‘I will.’ And so we drove up Route 1 and parked out by the old Zayres store. We watched the people march in and my father-in-law sat there with tears in his eyes. Immediately I just started participating. I’d gone to a couple of meetings in Kensington and liked the people and liked what I felt.
Harvey Wasserman (1945- ): After we defeated the Montague nuke, I went to Asia, and returned to the US on July 30. I went straight up to Seabrook on August 1, arrived just as people were being arrested, and saw a lot of old friends there for the first time in 18 months. I jumped right in and joined the Clamshell Media Committee with Cathy Wolff, Robin Read and Steve Hilgartner. Cathy was always and forever great to work with: fun, energetic, easy, full of laughter, extremely bright and competent. That also describes many Clams. It was a wonderful group of people. I did have a sense right from the start that this would be big. I’d seen gigantic anti-nuclear actions in Japan, where I marched against the opening of the Fukushima nuclear plant, and so had an idea of what was coming.
Richard Bell: There were just 18 people, a very small group. They had made a decision that they were gonna go beyond a strategy of just fighting the nuke in court and that they would try a civil disobedience strategy.
Sam Lovejoy: The New England Coalition against Nuclear Pollution, the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, and other organizations had spent hundreds of thousand of dollars to hire fancy lawyers to go to federals appeals hearings, present evidence, but they never won anything, ever. They never got a decision in their favor.
Guy Chichester (in 1976): In the legal case, we were really outnumbered, outflanked, outweighted, outmoneyed, everything.
Richard Bell: For the first action that Clamshell did the site was still very raw. The company had the permits to built the reactors there but they had just barely begun. They were still chopping down trees, not yet grating the site or digging the hole for the reactor vessel. Even though there was some rough security around it, there was a railroad track that ran through that you could just walk down the railroad site and walk on to the site. So this group of 18 people walked on to the site and said they weren’t gonna leave and they were arrested.
Paul Gunter: I remember leaving my leather cap behind with our support person, Alex Jay, of Henniker, New Hampshire, because I figured there was going to be a tussle on the site. I didn’t want to leave it behind. Walking down those railroad tracks, I really didn’t have any expectations of what would come out of it. It was one of those step-by-step experiences that simply had to be done.
Renny Cushing: The pageantry of it was something that we planned. We recognized it was a symbolic action. We also knew that this was the beginning and we hoped to be able to set a tone that would allow us to build on what we were doing that day. So we took our little seedlings and walked slowly down the railroad tracks onto the site to plant and reclaim this land.
From audio taken on the site once the 18 demonstrators arrived:
Norm Culerot: I represent the Public Service Company. We own this property. You are trespassing. You’re on private property right now.Paul Gunther: We understand that.
Ron Rieck: We’re prepared to stay here until the next rally, August 22.
Norm Culerot: Well, we can’t permit that.
Bruce Begley: I’m Bruce Begley, Public Service Company. We’re not going to let you go on the site and stay here tonight. You’ll be subject to criminal trespass charges.
(The occupiers begin to plant seedlings into the ground.)
Seabrook police chief Reynold “Binky” Perkins: Civil disobedience is one way to call it. I call it breaking the law.
Raelene Perkins (wife of the police chief, in 1976): How else you gonna win? How can you get anything across? I mean, I don’t say that people should go out and break the law, but I think they were doin’ it in a peaceful way… When I think of atomic plants I think of cancer. I think I’ll probably long gone but I’ve got children and grandchildren, neighbors and friends. I worry about them.
Paul Gunter: Most memorable moment of August 1 was the Seabrook Police Department’s persuader for getting us up off the ground to walk back off the field. The police used two sets of handcuffs for those who would not rise and walk with them: One end of the cuffs on each wrist and the other ends on a billy club. That’s how my ride back to the paddy wagon started My two officers had to stop a couple of times to check in on if I was ready to walk or not and catch their breath. They were metal cuffs that cut into our wrists. I lost feeling for several years in thumbs and a couple of fingers. I took them up on offer to get up the second time as I had already lost feeling. I remember that when we all got to the paddy wagons, watching the police drop Ron Reick in a big puddle of water, just for kicks.
Jeff Brummer: Some people noncooperated with our arrests, most people did, which meant that instead of getting up and walking with the police, we went limp and made the police carry us. We had rehearsed this in the training session. I remember for years afterward having numb thumbs after having been dragged off the site by the handcuffs.
Paul Gunter: I felt that the damage that being dragged a couple hundred feet did to my wrists and hands paled in comparison to the enduring damage that nuclear power and nuclear waste will leave for generations who will get all of the liability and not a single watt of benefit.
Kristie Conrad: I had a little plant in my hand. It was wet and rainy. There were people with cameras and we were walking right on the tracks. I remember someone saying, ‘We need someone who is gonna keep things together here.’ And Jeff Brummer goes, ‘Well, I think Kristie should do it.’ And I’m 23 years old, saying, ‘What are you talking about? I’m sorry. I don’t know why you picked me, Jeff.’ But that put me in the position where I had to watch and be aware of what people were doing as we got down into the site. Neil Linsky starts climbing up a pile of dirt and wants to plant a flag of some kind. And the police are just kinda freaking out a little bit. I mean these are local cops, Binky Perkins and the guys. And they weren’t really sure what this group was because most of the men in the group had long hair and beards. It was a little hard for them to figure out what the deal was. But when it came to the point where people either sat or started resisted arrest, it all just ensued. And it was one of those things where at a certain point I realized I wasn’t gonna have any control. Everybody that was there had their own thing to do and to say and to experience and we were dragged through puddles of water and intentionally dropped in puddles of water, and put in a paddy wagon and taken off to Hampton Jail.
Jeff Brummer: We spent the night rabble rousing in the jail. We were separated from our female counterparts. We went to court the next day and were released.
Kristie Conrad: I don’t wanna say that the feminist movement was happening there because the feminist movement has been happening always. But there was a resurgence of awareness amongst women in the 1970s about our own power and how it impacted our lives. One of the things I can remember about a meeting in Jaffrey before the first occupation was that there was a conversation that we need more women as part of this group and we did attempt to talk to people and get other women to come but at one point it was, like, ‘We have what we have, we have to go with it now.’ Eighteen was all we could find, four of us women. I have to say that Medora Hamilton was just for me an idol. I mean I just really loved her a lot. She was an older woman and here she was doing this and just a great role model. Ann Carol Riley was very close in age to me. And Mary Gregory was older as well and had, I don’t know, five or six children. It was really something when we were sitting, the four of us, in a single cell at the Hampton police station singing songs through the walls to the men on the other side of the building, and they’d sing to us, back and forth, doing no nukes chants and singing, ‘We shall not be moved.’ We held our own. We did quite well with all of that. I think the police had a little bit of a hard time with having to drag women off the site.
Paul Gunter: Another key support role that I recall was Alex Jay serenading us all in the jail cell from outside our barred window.
Robbie Leppzer (1958- ): I was covering the demonstration as a radio journalist. I went to a high school in a suburb of Boston, in Winchester, one of the few high schools in the country that had a radio station. While other students were covering the football game or spinning rock albums I was doing a weekly radio show of three hours. I was going into Boston and covering social change movements, interviewing Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, from the anti war movement to third world solidarity movements and eventually anti-nuclear power. I had been arrested when I was 15 when some adult activists on Tax Day had an anti-IRS protest in Boston. They went into the IRS office, held up signs, and it was the quickest demonstration in history. The police came in, tore down the signs, and marched everybody else out. I was sitting in a chair taking pictures. So then I went out and joined the other activists outside and saw that they took the people who were arrested to an office. I had my camera. And the police saw me and said, ‘Come with me. Don’t you know it is illegal to take photos of a federal building?’ They put handcuffs on me and I was arrested at age 15 for taking pictures. But I was charged with the same ‘crime’ that everyone else was, which was making noise and blocking passageways in a federal building. Eventually all the charges were dropped.
Lionel Delevingne (1951- ): Robbie Leppzer was a pest. I’d be trying to photograph the march and he was always in front of the camera. He was the best photographer of all time. He always got the shot.
Robbie Leppzer: I was just amazed because when this thing started it was 18 people who put their bodies on the line on this remote site where construction hadn’t even begun. I just had a sense that this thing was going to grow larger, that this was a very significant movement, and I’m here covering grassroots history in the making.
Kristie Conrad: I wasn’t sure where all this was gonna go. I mean I was fairly parochial. I grew up in New Hampshire. I didn’t really have any idea where it would go. But we had already decided there would be a second occupation on August 22, this time not just for New Hampshire residents, but with people from all over New England.
Lionel Delevingne: It was something historic there. It was the dedication of the people. I was impressed. People had a mission. I’ve never liked to be manipulated as a media person. I can sense it. But this was a genuine movement where people put themselves on the line. Even in the way that the cops were laughing at them, I could see that something was up. It was a new air. Things were going to change.
Kristie Conrad: The learning curve was very steep. We had pretty bright people that were participating in all this, some of whom had some historical experience or knowledge that could be relied upon. If nothing else it’s a small state and a small world and so the connections happened. Somebody knew somebody who knew somebody and people were willing to do work. And we put them to work. I felt at that time I felt like I was always learning something new and different. It was really a pretty incredible thing. I mean, I learned more in that short period of time than I had learned in four years of college.
Frances Crowe (1919- ): When the first group who went to Seabrook, and carried their bedrolls on the railroad track, the intensity of that was such a good example. There was suddenly a lot of interest out in Western Mass where I lived. There was interest everywhere.
Chuck Light: Two days after the arrests, we went up to Manchester because we had word that Jimmy Carter was coming up to New Hampshire as his first stop after winning the Democratic nomination to personally thank the state for giving him his first primary win earlier that year. We had to get Secret Service clearance to obtain permission to be in the press scrum at the event. This path was eased by the fact that Daniel Keller, my partner in crime at Green Mountain Post Films, had grown up in New Hampshire and his father had at one point been the Chief Justice of the State Superior Court. When Dan called the local sheriff who testified to our good character, the Secret Service issued us the appropriate press credentials. There, we filmed a heated argument between a pro nuke character and Lotte Jacobi, a well-known photographer and Holocaust survivor. The belligerent atmosphere in New Hampshire, circa 1976, was amply illustrated by their back-and-forth.
From the audio of a presidential campaign event, two days later, August 3, 1976, in Manchester, New Hampshire:
Dan Keller: Yesterday, eighteen New Hampshire citizens were arrested in a civil disobedience protest at a nuclear power plant… Could we please have your comment as a nuclear engineer and as a friend of Martin Luther King.Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter: What’s your question?
Dan Keller: The relationship between nuclear power and civil disobedience. Do you think citizens have a right to protect their environment?
Jimmy Carter: I’ve always felt that anybody who disagrees with the civil law as a matter of practice has a right, openly, to express that disobedience. But at the same time under our societal structure it is necessary that they be willing to take the consequences for their disobedience. I believe there is a place for nuclear power in our future. It ought to be minimized, it ought to be a last resort, there ought to be very tough safety precautions guaranteed by the president and other leaders in Washington, with nuclear power plants located where people don’t live, where the environment will not be destroyed.
Chuck Light: We had spent a lot of time thinking up the question, which essentially asked about the safety of nuclear power and the role of nonviolent civil disobedience in opposing it, generally and specifically in New Hampshire. There was no time set aside for questions, but as Carter was exiting the press area we managed to somehow break free of the crush of journalists and found ourselves directly in front of him. I poked the long, gun-like815 Sennheiser directional microphone toward him and Dan started to ask the lengthy, and somewhat involved, question we had fashioned.
Dan Keller (1947- ): The long-winded question started out by pointing out that Carter was a nuclear engineer by training, and that he also was a friend and supporter of Martin Luther King, so he was thereby ideally qualifiedto respond to the arrests at Seabrook.
Chuck Light: Midway through, Carter interrupted with a smile to ask, ‘So, what’s the question?’ and Dan quickly summed it up. Carter paused for a moment and responded with a well thought out and meaningful answer. Despite my general cynicism and distrust of politicians, Carter’s ability to directly connect one on one and his feeling of warmth and genuine interaction, won me over. It was the only question he took at the event. We were in the midst of filming a documentary on the Seabrook protests that we would release in 1978 as The Last Resort, so President Carter ended up giving us the title for our film.
Dan Keller: Looking back on all of that with the long view, it does seem like it was a pretty good guerrilla media attack. The fact that we got into all the press conferences, the ground breaking ceremony for the nuke, et cetera, and were able to ask questions of the main perpetrators—not just Chuck and I, but also Steve Diamond and Judy Rubenstein—was something of a feat. It changed the content of those meetings. We got film of Governor Meldrim Thomson and Public Service Company executive William Tallman squirming and struggling to answer the difficult questions that they otherwise wouldn’t have been asked. At the same time, since the Clammers all knew that we were part of the team, we were given full and open entry into the meetings, training, and actions and interviews. There was a high level of trust.
Kristie Conrad: After the August 1 action, Guy Chichester said to me, ‘Why don’t you move to the Seacoast and set up a Clamshell office?’ And I remember coming over to Guy’s house and into the front room and my jaw dropped. Oh my god, it was filled with boxes. He had been the president of the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League and he had saved all those records. He had been collecting things forever. He had everything in there. So it was a matter of picking up boxes and moving them to the office space we had found in Portsmouth. Going through the files, I found lists of all these organizations throughout the country that were doing work against nuclear weapons and for peace and justice. So I compiled the names and started to make contact with those individuals.
Cathy Wolff: We were building a movement, and people were writing in from all over the country saying, ‘We want to come to Seabrook, give us some information.’And one of the things that we heard from people who arrived at Seabrook from all over the country was, ‘Wow, you guys are organized. It just felt so good to arrive here and know someone was taking care of all the loose ends.’
Stephen Zunes (1956- ): I was 19 and living in Philadelphia. I had heard about the events of August 1 and that there was going to be another direct action up at Seabrook, so I made my way up there. I’d never been arrested before. I met Guy Chichester, Sam Lovejoy and others. They were older than me. They were clearly people that had an interesting combination of the alternative values that came out of the sixties but also very rooted in the New England Yankee grassroots democratic culture that dated back to the founding of the country. I liked the way that they could appeal to regular people with that tradition, including the idea of local control and Town Meetings.
Richard Bell: I had been working for the New Haven Advocate newspaper in 1976 and had read about the first occupation. I’d just been offered a job at The Real Paper in Boston and thought, okay, this is a chance to get close and cover something I felt was going to get very big and very fast. One of the things that had happened after the August 1 action is that other people who wanted to support the Clamshell Alliance started popping up all over New England. Instead of it being a New Hampshire–only thing, there started to be groups that were identifying with what was happening all over Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and there was a very strong sense across all of this stuff that the next demonstration would be much bigger and there was excitement. I mean, it was electric. Something was happening that was not happening anywhere else in the country at the time.
Cathy Wolff: Anna Mayo was a reporter who came up for that first action, from the Village Voice in New York. Her earnestness was huge, and her stories were really good and in-depth. She had an intensity that never let up. I thought that was okay because I was often accused of the same thing. If Anna needed to get to somebody or something, she usually didn’t need help because she had her own ways, but if she did I would try and facilitate that. I was working as a media director or PR person in the Clamshell.
Al Giordano: As a teenager, I religiously read the Village Voice, mainly for the concert reviews and the weekly schedule of bands at the CBGB bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I was listening a lot to Patti Smith’s first album and to the Ramones first single, had come to hate ‘sixties hippies’ and wore a black tee shirt to high school that proclaimed, ‘DISCO SUCKS.’ I’ll never forget that issue of the Voice in August 1976 and the article by Anna Mayo about the first occupation in Seabrook. I had already testified in the state legislature against nuclear power earlier that year, felt completely ignored and discarded by the senators, and as a result of that experience had become disillusioned with ‘activism’ after dabbling in it at an early age. I was a teenaged nihilist: we were all going to die in a nuclear war so let’s just have fun and go down denouncing it when it happens. That article snapped me out of it. I was so excited! I took a bus to White Plains to find Connie Hogarth, director of the Westchester People’s Action Coalition [WESPAC]. Connie was that rare sort of adult who I respected because she made things happen and listened to us kids. I came bounding in the door: ‘Connie! Connie! Look at this! They’re not asking for permission or for the government to stop a nuke for them. Up in New Hampshire, they are occupying the nuke site all by themselves! Can we go be part of the next one? Can we?’
Connie Hogarth (1926- ): I told Al that he would need to go through a nonviolence training session to be able to do that, and later Sukie Rice came down to WESPAC and gave us one. I was already in touch with people all over the country working against nuclear power, and of course throughout the New York metropolitan area. So when the first Seabrook occupation happened it was totally natural to become totally immersed in it. It became a big part of our work.
Al Giordano: Connie let me use the WESPAC phone to call long-distance information in New Hampshire, area code 603. I got the Clamshell Alliance office number in Portsmouth and called for their address, then sent them a letter. Very soon, I received a package in the mail from them with all kinds of information about nuclear power, nonviolence training and community organizing. There were multiple copies of some flyers so I started giving them to kids at school and recruiting them to ‘come get arrested at Seabrook.’ They werelike, ‘You want me to do what?’
Cathy Wolff: Every single day the mail got answered. We never went a day without answering the mail, leaning on our three-legged card table, working on the floor.
Kristie Conrad: That was our first office rule. The last person couldn’t leave until all of that day’s mail was answered.
Sukie Rice: The commitment by those first 18 occupiers helped me in my commitment to go out and train other groups of people. There was another occupation planned for August 22, three weeks later. Wherever there was a group, an affinity group in Gloucester, or in wherever it was, I said, ‘Yes, I’ll be there.’ I had no idea how it would take off. I went down in Rhode Island on, say, a Thursday night and then at noon on Friday I’d be in Portland, Maine. I was in Connecticut. I was in Western Mass. I was in Boston over by the University and I was in Vermont. I went to every state in New England. I did so many trainings and it was because of that, that I said, ‘We’re going to do some nonviolence training for trainers now. I’m not doing this by myself anymore.’ I think that’s when I learned not to need sleep. Sleep is irrelevant when there’s a cause to be won. That’s all I can tell you. I was on the move.
Joanne Sheehan: One of the reasons for me why the requirement for nonviolence training that came out of the Seabrook organizing became important to me was that I had already done too many arrests in anti-war demonstrations. I had gotten arrested too many times when a tall white guy told us what to do and I was one of 300 people laying down on a sidewalk in front of the White House thinking, ‘I don’t even know who this is next to me. What if the cops really hurt me? I don’t feel any support system here.’ Maybe the white guys and the lawyers briefed a bunch of people in a two-hour orientation session at best, but you were sitting on metal chairs in a basement. They thought they were preparing you for the action, but that was not empowering. The Clamshell Alliance did real training sessions, of six to eight hours, and that led to a different kind of movement.
Harvey Wasserman: There was a universal understanding that this would have to be done through nonviolence. There was never really a debate about it, any more than we debated whether or not to oppose the nukes. It was instinctual, and our instincts were correct. The Quakers from Boston were also very key. They’ve had a brilliant and powerful practice of nonviolence over the centuries, really, since the mid-1600s. It’s made a huge difference in all of modern western society. Elizabeth Boardman was a hugely important stabilizing force: the graceful, gracious, beautiful elder who really gave us great guidance. We knew a bit about Gandhi, for example, but when it came to employing that mystique we were just lost young people who needed guidance, and the Quakers gave it to us.
Stephen Zunes: The affinity group structure has its origins of course back in the Spanish revolution and its anarchists. People saw how stupid and unstrategic violence was, not just how unrealistic armed struggle is in the United States, but also the futility of throwing stuff at cops and that sort of thing.
Connie Hogarth: The Clamshell marked the beginning of thinking, for many people, about nonviolence training as the key to doing more effective nonviolent action. The development of affinity groups was not a new idea, but it was innovating for me to find a way to really do it. It was the beginning of so much that followed. I was 51 at the time? Really? All of it made me feel like I was so much younger!
Richard Asinof (1952- ): In short time the anti-nuclear forces would grow, almost by spontaneous generation, into a national movement. Seabrook was the spark, the catalyst, that set off a prairie fire of organizing. Alliances would spring up across the nation – the Abalone in California, the Trojan Decommissioning Alliance in Oregon, the Conchshell in Florida, the Catfish in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi, the Palmetto in South Carolina, the Crabshell in Washington state, the Great Plains all across the Midwest, the Oystershell and the Paddlewheel in Louisiana—all dedicated to non-violent civil disobedience in stopping nuclear power plants. Like a hot jazz lick spreading up the river, the no-nukes jes grew. The story traveled faster than electricity, carried by word of mouth, from friend to friend, at bus and train stations, in airports, on the street corner, until it became an epidemic of truth. The newspapers and television stations had to report its happening. Call it a coalescing of humanistic forces, its magic seemed to touch all the sensory bases: the long dormant radical spores of the sixties; the homeowners fed up with high electric rates, the citizens fed up with having no control over their own lives, the women’s movement searching for leadership roles; the people fed up with being consumers of McDonald’s and Reddy Kilowatt; those adventurers searching for an alternative lifestyle, where decisions were made without hierarchies and majority rules. What happened in Seabrook would soon be happening in the deep rural south at Barnwell and in the Midwest at Rocky Flats. Sam Lovejoy would label it ‘The Tet Offensive of the anti-nuclear movement, where the lies and distortions of the government and the nuclear industry will become fully exposed.’
Anna Gyorgy: It was like magic. We called it ‘Clam Magic.’
Ed Hedemann (1944- ): I was on the staff of the War Resisters League [WRL] in New York City in the mid-1970s. The Vietnam War was over. We at the WRL thought the focus needed to be brought back to the nuclear disarmament issue. Sam Lovejoy had toppled the test tower for the Montague nuclear plant. Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner came back from Germany and made me aware of the organizing against a nuclear plant there. So by 1975 I was involved with the issue of nuclear power and organizing around it. In the War Resisters League and the national peace movement circles there was some resistance by certain people, particularly David McReynolds and Norma Becker, who thought the focus on nuclear power would dilute the opposition to nuclear weapons. I saw them as two sides of the same coin. I had seen the same kind of arguments being made during the Civil Rights movement not wanting to dilute the message with opposition to the Vietnam War. But I saw the growth of an anti-nuclear power movement as a fabulous opportunity to help build the anti-nuclear weapons movement—and vice versa.
David McReynolds (1929- ): I don’t think we in the nuclear disarmament movement were convinced in the beginning of the dangers of nuclear power. The dangers of nuclear weapons were much clearer to us. It was a junction that Connie Hogarth and others helped us to bridge. The nuclear power plants, of which there weren’t very many, might, if they had an accident, cause enormous damage. But any of the nuclear weapons, of which we had thousands all over the country, they were designed to go off. They weren’t designed to stay safe. They were designed to explode. And the anti-nuclear power folks really weren’t concerned with the weapons. There was a real gap. At times I almost felt that the CIA was backing the nuclear power movement because it was so fashionable, so exciting, and in some ways so irrelevant to the most serious and immediate danger. Of course, it wasn’t backed by the CIA, but it grew so quickly that we were trying to understand what was happening.
Murray Rosenblith (1951- ): I remember a certain amount of tension between the old guard and the new guard. It was kind of funny. The concern was that the movement against nuclear power was going to direct energy away from a movement against nuclear weapons. There were some people who articulated that and even said, ‘We have to channel this opposition to nuclear power back into opposition to nuclear weapons.’ But fairly quickly the whole thing got integrated together.
David McReynolds: I remember at some point we went to Boston to meet with the Clamshell people. I remember Connie was very good at that meeting. I don’t remember if Sam Lovejoy was there or not. There were one or two macho guys, very full of themselves. They were very uneasy about us. They saw us as commies. I think Norma Becker was there.
Connie Hogarth, 51, teaches civil rights freedom songs to young volunteers at the Westchester People’s Action Coalition (WESPAC) in New York. Al Giordano, 17, has his armband from the Seabrook nuclear occupation tied onto his guitar. Photo courtesy of Connie Hogarth.
Connie Hogarth: There was some antipathy, and I drove my Ford station wagon up from New York with Dave McReynolds and Norma Becker, we picked up Joanne Sheehan on the road, and we had this meeting in Boston with Harvey Wasserman and Sam Lovejoy of the Clamshell. We met in Cambridge. It was a coming together of the peace movement and the No Nukes movement. It was a very good meeting. Everybody felt very good about each other. I had come from the peace movement but folks knew about WESPAC’s role in the No Nukes movement. So I was both.
Joanne Sheehan: I was at that meeting? I don’t remember that at all.
Sam Lovejoy: I remember a great deal of pressure for years coming from the old line people, who had sort of been sidelined by the No Nukes movement for a couple years, trying to figure out how to get some wind in their sails and bring our energy into their organization. And they wanted the Clamshell to be part of them. But how does a locally focused group join some other group? And so our tactical expression was to constantly talk about solidarity, mutual interest, and leave it at that.
David McReynolds: Connie was one of those who very quietly got the anti-nuclear power people to realize there was a link. Randy Kehler, Frances Crowe, Joanne Sheehan, Charlie King had been part of the Clamshell from the beginning, and they had a history with nuclear disarmament organizations, so that also helped bring the movements together.
Murray Rosenblith: Let’s face it: The emerging No Nukes movement had too much momentum. It was the new wave. Just like when younger people came into the anti-war movement with a more hippie lifestyle. It just washed over and you couldn’t stop it. Basically people adapted and people embraced it.
Sam Lovejoy: I remember being in many of those meetings, with the War Resisters League in downtown New York City, their office down there, and Dave McReynolds just roaring. He wanted us to be joining them. I think their vision was that: if we could bring 1,400 people to get arrested at Seabrook in the spring of 1977, we can certainly bring thousands of people from New England to a disarmament thing or whatever.
Randy Kehler: If you’re an organizer, you’re looking for what turns people on, and what can really grab hold. And you’re always a little leery, if not suspicious, of the stuff that the national organizations are telling the all grassroots to do. The No Nukes movement was a grassroots, bottom-up movement. I think that was part of the tension.
Stephen Zunes: The decentralist movements that popped up in those years, of which No Nukes was seminal, were a reaction to how the New Left had picked up some of the baggage from the Old Left, when you had this alphabet soup of various Marxist-Leninist factions claiming to be the vanguard of the revolution. Murray Bookchin had called that kind of hierarchical, authoritarian thinking, with its romanticization of armed struggle, ‘third world voyeurism.’
David McReynolds: The Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979 eventually removed everyone’s doubts, so that Sam Lovejoy and the others were validated for all of us.
Kristie Conrad: The nuclear disarmament groups were the most natural ally for us. These are people who had been doing this forever. Nuclear weapons and nuclear power go hand in glove. We saw it as a natural affinity. And Guy had made contact with those groups. It was one of those things where you see a copy of somebody’s newsletter, you write to them and say, ‘Can you start sending us your newsletter?’ and in their newsletter they have other people’s names. And so we just built a big list from that and we started creating and sending out our own materials.
Connie Hogarth in 2013 at home in Beacon, New York. Photo by Laura Garcia.
Connie Hogarth: Six years later, a million people were marching in New York City for nuclear disarmament. They were by and large people who had been politicized in or by the anti-nuclear power movement. The connection eventually got made in a very big way at the grassroots level.
Cort Richardson (1952- ): I had spent the summer of ’76 up in Maine running an outdoors program for teenagers. And when I got back I found out that all my friends in Southwest New Hampshire, all my friends in the Peterborough and Dublin area, near Mount Monadnock, were suddenly deeply involved in the struggle against the Seabrook nuke. So I had no choice but to get involved. I was literally dragged into the movement by a group of friends. The decentralized aspect of it was interesting. We established the Monadnock Alternative Energy Coalition and started holding meetings, fundraisers, training sessions, we put out press releases—it was all starting up at that point. I think Kristie Conrad was our first trainer.
Frances Crowe: I had heard from Anna Gyorgy about what they were doing in Germany at Whyl. And she talked about the affinity groups there. The word was coming down that that’s the way people were organizing in Germany, through affinity groups. After the August 1 arrests there was a call for another action, with people all over New England, three weeks later, and they wanted me to do a nonviolence training session in Western Massachusetts. So I developed an outline of what to do. Getting the people to talk about the history of nonviolence, their fears and feelings, and group process. And we did role-plays of what the problems would be. One of my favorite things I worked on was a role-play in which if you are going to the action and you are really focused and someone comes and sticks a microphone in your face and asks you why you are doing what you’re doing, what do you say?
Thea Paneth (1959- ): I went to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the fall of ’76. I was 17. George Wald, a scientist and Nobel laureate, spoke at Clark at a teach-in on nuclear power and he said that if you believed in America and democracy you would go get nonviolence training and sit-in up at the nuke. And so I signed up for the training. It was held on two different evenings in small rooms at Clark. I remember being hauled off by the people role-playing as police, singing ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ and I knew I had to participate.
George Wald (1906-1997) from a newspaper column he published in 1976: Those of us who oppose nuclear power in its present forms have nothing to gain thereby but our share in the common good. Our opposition brings us into conflict with all the centers of power. It costs us our own money. It threatens rather than raises our professional status… It helps us to know that those opposed to nuclear power have nothing to gain from their position but the public good, that they are indeed willing to pay for the privilege of speaking out.
Kristie Conrad: I look back at my family and there’s nobody else in my family that would ever consider doing something like that, intentionally breaking the law. And that was something that I kinda had to think about, too. You know, someone breaks the law because they are, you know, doing something wrong and that was how I had been raised. I did not have knowledge of the civil rights movement. I mean that was not something that got taught in the public school in Milford, New Hampshire. All of what I’ve learned has been subsequent to and a result of my work and time with the Clamshell.
Stephen Zunes: Thanks to what happened in Seabrook the national debate over nuclear power began to shift. A lot of people say that the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979 was the big watershed event, but the fact is there were previous accidents at the Fermi and Browns Ferry nukes that were almost as bad and the power companies were able to sweep them under the rug. But thanks in part to Clamshell and all the campaigns that followed it, the media was forced to pay attention and ask more skeptical questions.
Eric Wolfe: On August 1, I unloaded the stage and puppets from my backpack and set up on Hampton Falls Common. When I finished the show on the Commons, I realized I didn’t have a ride home. Sukie Rice walked up as I was stuffing the puppets back in their pack. She offered me a ride. In the car she turned to me and said, ‘You know, we’re going to have to organize a Boston affinity group.’
Sukie Rice: Those few steps by 18 people down those train tracks marked the beginning of the end of nuclear power in the United States. The Seabrook struggle brought it about. I tremble when I hear words like ‘new plants are being ordered,’ and I know I will be arrested again. At some place: At some time. I don’t know when or where that will be, but if nuclear power comes back, I will be there.
This is the current draft of one chapter of a book that tells the story of a successful movement in the voices of its participants and eyewitnesses, the No Nukes movement of 1973-1982 in the United States. Al Giordano conducted most of the interviews for this chapter in 2012, 2013 and 2014, with considerable assistance from Laura García and Marine Lormant. Some quotes come from audio and film footage from the 1970s by Robbie Leppzer and also by Dan Keller and Chuck Light of Green Mountain Post Films. Some quotes came from video interviews conducted by the To the Village Square project and the Clamshell Legacy Action Mobilization (C.L.A.M.), and camera work by Steve Thornton and others in recent years at Clamshell Alliance reunions at the World Fellowship Center in New Hampshire. Some of those recordings have also been transcribed and posted at the Clamshell Alliance website’s “Legacy” section. We thank each of those colleagues for their kind permission to use those words.
Transcription Team for the Seabrook ’76 chapter: Laura García, Al Giordano, Keith Houser, Fernando León, Alex Mensing, Luz Rodeas, and Alexandra Tatarsky. Additionally, scholars and professors at the School of Authentic Journalism transcribed lengthy interviews with Renny Cushing and Richard Bell recorded at its 2012 session in Mexico.
Special thanks also to photographer extraordinaire Lionel Delevingne for the use of his photos, and visit the website to view more of his amazing photos of these historic events: www.tothevillagesquare.net
The No Nukes Oral History Project is grateful to The Fund for Authentic Journalism and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict for their support. There is much work left to do. Please consider making a donation via this link: http://www.authenticjournalism.org
The project has also archived more than 200 pounds of documents, training manuals, meeting minutes, posters, images, news clippings, photographs and videos. Chief archivist Laura García has digitalized much of this content, to be made available to the public online once the work is completed, and also assisted with most of the interviews.
If you have (or someone you know has) memories about these events (or related ones from 1973 to 1982), we’d like to be able to include them in the final version of this work. Please contact Al Giordano at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an interview, or write your answers to those of the “45 questions” at this link that pertain to your own experience.
Eternal thanks to my editor, Katherine Faydash, who makes my words far more coherent than I could accomplish on my own, and to Laura Garcia, whose official title on this project is ‘Director of Awesomeness.’