Arrests for antinuclear civil disobedience in the United States and Canada increased in 1987 by nearly 60 percent over recent years, to a total of 5,300. This figure equals the record number of arrests reported in 1983.
Arrests occurred during 180 actions at more than 70 different sites. Of total arrests, 95 were reported from Canada, during 9 actions at three sites. In 1987 more than 120 people served or are serving from 2 weeks to 17 years in prison, while hundreds served lesser sentences.
"A substantial, growing part of the peace movement is committed to risking arrest through nonviolent direct actions as a means to achieve nuclear disarmament,"said Felice Cohen-Joppa, co-editor of the Nuclear Resister.
In such actions, motives range from religious faith to pragmatic politics, and the spirit ranges from prayerful to joyous, somber to even humorous. Some are boisterous and aim to disrupt "business as usual." Most actions are symbolic but some, notably those actions inspired by the Plowshares movement, while avoiding human harm, do damage nuclear weapons components or their deployment systems. Some groups advocate nonviolence on the basis of Gandhian principles, while for others nonviolence is a tactical choice.
Nearly half of all 1987 arrests occurred at the Nevada nuclear test site. Religious resisters and secular peace activists risk arrest at the gates, while back-packers infiltrate the test site to delay nuclear tests by their presence near ground zero. By the end of April, with over six hundred cases pending just since January 1, the Nye Country, Nevada District Attorney was forced to adopt a new policy: arrest followed by dismissal of charges for all but those activists arrested deep inside the test site boundaries.
This year promises to see even more people travelling to the desert test site as public pressure builds for a comprehensive test ban and greater arms reduction in the wake of the INF treaty.
19831984 1985 1986 1987
Total arrests 5,300 3,010 3,300 3,200 5,300
Number of sites 60 85 120 75 70
Number of actions 140 160 170 165 180