Members of the North Country Peace Group organize a Ban the Bomb rally on the corner of Bennetts Road and Route 25A in East Setauket June 17. The group shows support for the current United Nations talks to adopt a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

A local grassroots organization played their part in a worldwide demonstration to support negotiations of the United Nations to adopt a treaty to ban nuclear weapons June 17.

“There are 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and 90 percent are controlled by the United States and Russia, 1,800 of those are on high alert.”

— Susan Perretti

The Women’s March and Rally to Ban the Bomb took place in New York City, though activist groups around the world including in East Setauket, organized simultaneous events to the New York City march to make their voices heard. The North Shore Peace Group put together their own Ban the Bomb rally on the corner of Bennetts Road and Route 25A in East Setauket, where the members stand every Saturday holding signs featuring messages of peace and in opposition of the policies and agenda of President Donald Trump (R). The women-led marches were not exclusive, as people of every gender, political affiliation and background were invited to speak out.

Nearly two-dozen activists were at the intersection holding signs with messages such as “Peace is Patriotism,” “Abolish All Nukes” and “Support U.N. nuclear ban talks.”

Port Jefferson Station resident Rosemary Maffei, who joined the group after last year’s presidential election, explained why the North Country Peace Group decided to participate in the show of support.

“It’s a worldwide event, and we just want to make sure that our little corner of Setauket here is represented on such an important happening in the world with possible nuclear proliferation,” she said.

Bill McNulty of Setauket said the “Ban the Bomb” message fits the mission the North Country Peace Group has been supporting for 15 years.

“Basically the banning-the-bomb effort ties into this idea that the bomb, the nuclear weapon, has been described over the years as being the taproot of violence,” McNulty said. “We’re anti-war. We’re anti-violence. We advocate for nonviolent, peaceful resolutions to our problems.”

A member of the North Country Peace Group holds the photos of soldiers who died in recent wars. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Peace group honors soldiers

By Rita J. Egan

The Women’s March and Rally to Ban the Bomb in East Setauket coincided with the North Country Peace Group’s annual reading of the 41 names of Long Island soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. After the members’ demonstration, they stood in a circle, holding up a photo of each soldier and reading his name as well as some information about them, including family members left behind.

Two members from the North Country Patriots, who stood on the opposite side of Route 25A across from the Peace Group in an opposing rally, came across the street holding a big American flag toward the end of the readings. One said that any memorial honoring soldiers needs flags. After the rally, one of the men, who asked not to be identified, said he tried his best not to interrupt the ceremony but he kept thinking to himself, “They were honoring our soldiers, but there was no American flag.”

Rosemary Maffei, of Port Jefferson Station, said the group feels showing the soldiers photos and reading their names is the group’s way of honoring the men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“We had flags at the ceremony but this is a time to remember and reflect, not flag-waving,” Maffei said.

Port Jefferson’s Myrna Gordon, another active member of the group, echoed McNulty’s sentiments.

“We feel that nuclear war is something that we have to stop,” she said. “And the buildup of armaments, and the buildup for things that might be devastating to the world, is something that we are tuned into very much. So today it’s ‘Ban the Bomb,’ next week it might be something else. We’re not a one-issue group, but we are a peace and justice organization, and we stand firmly in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world.”

Setauket resident Susan Perretti said the statistics the group gathered from a video produced by Reaching Critical Will, a program of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, are disturbing. She said nuclear bombs are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner.

“The information we were given is there are 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and 90 percent are controlled by the United States and Russia, 1,800 of those on high alert,” Perretti said. “And they are 1,000 times more powerful than the ones the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and not to mention the irreversible damage to the planet.”

Lisa Karelis of East Setauket held a sign decorated with three flags that read “We Are All Americans,” and carried a small flag. She said she wanted to show that peace-loving citizens are also patriotic.

“I think it’s very important especially with what’s going on in politics, and the uncertainty of the person who has the finger on the button to particularly see how dangerous it is to have nuclear proliferation,” she said. “It all boils down to humans. After all humans make decisions. Anything that we can do to make it more difficult for something to happen inadvertently, or under the control of one person who may not be thinking clearly or wisely, is very important. And it’s for the benefit of all humanity, that’s why one of our signs has the Earth on it. It’s not an American issue, it’s a human issue.”

In recent months the North Country Peace Group has also organized or participated in several rallies covering various topics including climate change; excessive use of force by police; the political donations of Robert Mercer, billionaire co-owner of the Setauket-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies; and a sister march to the Women’s March on Washington.

The U.N. talks regarding nuclear weapons are taking place until July 7. The U.S. has taken the position to boycott the discussions along with about 40 other countries, according to Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

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