Nuclear Freeze: A Walk in the Park

S2Episode5_ATB

Paradise Interrupted

American protests against atmospheric nuclear testing were supercharged in the late 1950s by a citizen-scientist collaboration called the Baby Tooth Study. Hundreds of thousands of discarded baby teeth were analyzed for the presence of strontium-90, a radioactive isotope formed in nuclear detonations. The results showed a 60-fold increase from the beginning of testing, a finding that galvanized parents to demand an end to testing.

Babytoothpins
Baby Tooth Card
Children who submitted their baby teeth received a membership card and a pin

These protests played a major role in pushing President Kennedy to negotiate and sign the first-ever nuclear arms agreement, the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Some 20 years later, tensions were higher than ever, with the anti-communist president Reagan and the increasingly paranoid Soviet leaders facing off and each side contemplating nuclear war. In these tense times, a new citizen-led movement arose, called the Nuclear Freeze, which called for both superpowers to immediately halt all new nuclear weapon building and deployment.

Dr. Randall Forsberg, creator of the Nuclear Freeze concept, addressing the June 12 rally in New York City
Dr. Randall Forsberg, creator of the Nuclear Freeze concept, addressing the June 12 rally in New York City
Freeze protestors on New York City streets marching to Central Park
Freeze protestors on New York City streets marching to Central Park

These protests played a major role in pushing President Kennedy to negotiate and sign the first-ever nuclear arms agreement, the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Some 20 years later, tensions were higher than ever, with the anti-communist president Reagan and the increasingly paranoid Soviet leaders facing off and each side contemplating nuclear war. In these tense times, a new citizen-led movement arose, called the Nuclear Freeze, which called for both superpowers to immediately halt all new nuclear weapon building and deployment. The Freeze quickly became widely popular, winning referendums across the country, culminating in a massive march and rally in New York City on June 12, 1982.

Poster for Freeze rally
Poster for Freeze rally
Simultaneous Freeze rallies occurred in many other cities
Simultaneous Freeze rallies occurred in many other cities

While publicly dismissing the Freeze movement, the Reagan administration recognized that its popularity threatened their re-election chances, and began to change its rhetoric, and eventually its overall approach to nuclear arms. The extent of this change was dramatically illustrated by the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Reykjavik in 1986, where both leaders contemplated a complete elimination of nuclear weapons. This thaw came to fruition with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty in 1987, outlawing an entire class of destabilizing nuclear weapons, followed not long after by the first Strategic Arms Limitation treaty. With a clear and compelling goal, an educated public, and concentrated political pressure, citizens can indeed be instrumental in changing nuclear policy and decreasing nuclear dangers.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters at the Freeze rally on the Great Lawn
Hundreds of thousands of protesters at the Freeze rally on the Great Lawn

Joseph Mangano — Joseph Mangano, MPH, MBA, is the Executive Director for the Radiation and Public Health Project. He is the author of 38 medical journal articles and the books: Radioactive Baby Teeth: The Cancer Link (2008), Mad Science: The Nuclear Power Experiment (2012), and Low-Level Radiation and Immune Disease: An Atomic Era Legacy (1998).

Dr. Jeffrey Knopf — Dr. Knopf is a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), where he serves as chair of the M.A. program in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies.

Dr. Henry Maar — Dr. Maar is a History professor at UC Santa Barbara, specializing in the relationship between domestic politics and foreign policy, and peace and antiwar activism. Maar is the author of FREEZE! The Grassroots Movement to Halt the Arms Race and End the Cold War.
@HMaar

Dr. Ira Helfand — Ira Helfand is a physician, co-founder, and past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He is also past president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), and a member of the International Steering Group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). He is the author of the report, “Nuclear Famine: Two Billion at Risk?

Leslie Cagan Leslie is an activist, writer, and organizer. She was the national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, lead organizer of the 1982 Freeze Rally in New York City, and author of Why the Spirit of June 12, 1982, Matters

Dr. Helen Caldicott Dr. Caldicott is a physician, co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, founder of Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament, and author of numerous books, including Nuclear Madness: What You Can Do, and Missile Envy: The Arms Race and Nuclear War.
@DrHCaldicott

Dr. Vincent Intondi Dr. Intondi is a professor of history and director of the Institute for Race, Justice, and Civic Engagement at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Maryland.  author of Saving the World from Nuclear World: The June 12, 1982, Disarmament Rally and Beyond and of African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement.
@VincentIntondi  www.vincentintondi.com