by Beth Rakoncay
May 5, 2012 – Japan shut down all 52 nuclear reactors following Fukushima, the worst meltdown in history last year.
June 7, 2012 – About 70 women, including 10 women from Fukushima, did a “die-in” in front of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence to protest against the restart of Ooi Nuclear Power Plant. Before the die-in, 10 Fukushima women visited the Cabinet Office and met with officials to submit a letter of requests addressed to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. This video clip shows the words from the Fukushima women and part of the die-in. On the very next day, June 8, 2012, Prime Minister Noda held a press conference and declared he would restart Ooi Nuclear Power Plant.
June 8, 2012 – Japanese Prime Minister Noda announced his decision to order the restart of two nuclear reactors in the town of Ohi, in the prefecture of Fukuishima in Western Japan. Prime Minister Noda also claimed that nuclear energy will remain an important source of energy for Japan in the future, thereby reconfirming Japan’s nuclear energy policy. The following call out to action by the Japanese people was a message that we at No Nukes NW felt morally obligated to engage:
“Despite all our efforts, despite the strong resistance in the region of Western Japan surrounding Ohi, and despite the fact that a majority of the Japanese people is against nuclear power, the Japanese government is bowing to pressures of the nuclear lobby in Japan.”
“We have tried hard on our own, but now we believe that coordinated international pressure on Japan’s government is essential to bring about real and substantial change.”
“We believe that the Japanese government and the Japanese public will react very sensitively to international pressure so we wish to ask you for your support to initiate and coordinate international protest against the Japanese government.”
This Solidarity Action was called for by Hideyuki BAN, Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Kanna MITSUTA, FoE Japan, Aileen Mioko SMITH, Green Action Daisuke SATO, No Nukes Asia Forum, Akira KAWASAKI, Peace Boat, Kaori IZUMI, Shut Tomari.. No Nukes NW of Portland, OR, coordinated actions in solidarity by Coalition Against Nukes – LA, in San Francisco by No Nukes Action Committee, in NYC, and International solidarity at Japanese embassies worldwide!
June 22, 2012 – Consulate General of Japan, Wells Fargo Center, Portland, OR. No Nukes NW, the feisty group from Occupy Portland who brought you A15 Hanford Rally in Richland, WA, April 15, 2012, led this action in solidarity with the Japanese people and with the World, to help bring volume to the Japanese peoples’ voices!
ACTION: A group of about 15 people gathered at 3 p.m. on the corner of SW 5th and Columbia, under the shelter of the bike stand and under the windows of the Oregonian. Just prior to the start of the event, my daughter and I went up to the Consulate General of Japan’s office and delivered a letter to the Prime Minister’s representative (as well as a poem from a member of No Nukes NW, who could not attend, but wanted to provide her voice and thoughts and feelings), through the glass window to the receptionist.
After delivering the poem and letter, we returned outside. We made and hung origami cranes with messages to “End Nuclear Death”, until the security guard came out and asked us not to because then they would make him tell us to take them down. He said they had issues with Occupy Portland recently. I’m not sure if I laughed out loud, or under my breath, but I gave him an event flyer and explained we were here because we were protesting Prime Minister Noda’s push to restart two nuclear reactors despite the 7.5 million people in Japan demanding that Japan graduate from nuclear power. He took the flyer and I asked him to let the other security guards know what we were there for and to maybe take it up to the Consulate General of Japan and explain to them what we were doing out there, too. He did circle around a few times during our preparations for the Die-In, sign making and face/head painting.
A very wonderful woman, Sarah Hobbs, had shaved her head, as is her summer habit, and I painted a Japanese phrase on her scalp stating “Absolutely against restarting Oi Nuke”. It’s one thing to paint in a foreign language, it’s another thing to paint in a foreign language on someone’s scalp. I hope I did it justice. This is the same phrase seen in signs in Japan (see women in video above).
We made signs to hang on our bodies as we got ready for our Die-In action. At 4:45 we walked to the front of the Wells Fargo Tower to re-enact what it is like to suffer from deadly radiation exposure. We painted tears of blood and bleeding from the mouth and other orifices, as seen in radiation poisoning. My daughters donned gas masks to bring the visual forward. We held signs saying, “Exposed to radiation from Japan…Died of cancer in Oregon” and “There is no Honor in Suicide” to underscore the fact that restarting and continuing this path of destruction is deadly folly! “History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man…Godzilla!”
In a loud, strong voice I read the letter to the Prime Minister Noda and the poem and the Die-In began. As we walked out to the front of the Wells Fargo Tower, I’m told they locked their doors. Issues with Occupy, you know. Simultaneously, an Occupy the Banks action was going on across the river at Chase Bank on Hawthorne and they, too, locked their doors. We, as Occupy, got two that day. I get a kick out of that. There were two security guards standing at the top of the steps watching; people watching from the windows of the Oregonian; people watching as they traveled home from work on a busy Friday afternoon via bus, street car.
After we all fell “dead”, came clickety steps of people walking the sidewalk past and among us. We laid out on the sidewalk on SW 5th Ave. in downtown Portland as if dead in the rain to illustrate the results of continuing down this path of destruction.
As we fell to the ground, the girls in the gas masks dropped origami cranes, for hope and inspiration, upon our bodies. And then they dropped dead. Steam from the rain rose from our lifeless bodies and the raindrops outlined our forms, so that after the 11 minutes and 11 seconds that we spent dead you could see the lingering, lengthy image of death traced on the ground. A woman from the Consulate General office came out, spoke to the security guards on the steps, and then came down the steps giving us a nod, smile, and a thumbs up. She was not the only one.
After the Die-In, my daughter went up the steps and offered the two security guards an origami crane. They stood with their arms folded across their chests (we all know the stance) and she left the cranes on the steps next to them. Then we left. Die-In participants took cranes with the “End Nuclear Death” and “No Nukes! No More!” messages and deposited them in various places on their way home to illustrate how this contaminant and killer subtly moves.
In post-event discussion with my daughters, we all noted that, as we peeked from under our signs, sunglasses, or gas masks, people walked by us deliberately not looking–as if they couldn’t look. Even the Oregonian right next door did not come out to investigate. This is important. They learned first-hand that We are the media now.
Going to the Melt Down was a pretty intense experience, I think. When I went with my mom to deliver the letter to the Prime Minister office, wow, that was scary! Twenty-seven floors up I came up and I was just dizzy haha, not sure of what we were expecting, but it all turned out fine. I wore a gas mask later for the die-in and that was really strange! People kept staring like umm… okee then… and it was like YEAH. PAY ATTENTION. STUFF IS HAPPENING HERE! We made all these different cranes that my sister and I dropped on the “dead” people and then finally we died, which was pretty intense. If I had to live in one of those gas masks that would be…. impossible. Not only was it difficult to breath, it was difficult to see and at one point I had to cover up one of the holes in the end of my mask to get enough oxygen. When I went to give the origami birds to the two security guards (who didn’t take them, so the cranes were left on the steps) I had the mask on wrong and couldn’t breathe at all. Frightening thought. What if we had to really use those and yours was malfunctioning when you were outside? what then? Exactly. We don’t need that. But all in all, I believe that the Melt Down was a very powerful event and was extremely fun!!
~Willow Rakoncay, 13
“I am willing to shave my head and have people stare at me to get out the message, that the restart of these reactors is a bad idea. Sacrificing hair is small compared to the sacrifice of human lives! The loss of one life, in the name of so called cheap energy is one too many!”
“This whole thing is a Cluster Fukushima!”
The disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan continues. Children and the residents continue to be contaminated and the Fukushima Diaichi No.4 reactor could still collapse in another major earthquake with thousands of used nuclear rods giving off even greater contamination.
“The No. 4 reactor is visibly damaged and in a fragile state, down to the floor that holds the spent fuel pool,” said Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute and one of the experts raising concerns. “Any radioactive release could be huge and go directly into the environment.”
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon expressed similar concerns during a recent trip to Japan. We continue to work on getting attention and action from OUR representatives to push forward this campaign for change and objective awareness on a global scale. We must continue to speak out as a World Community to stop the restarting of these plants and demand the closure and decommissioning of nuclear power plants worldwide.
Simultaneous Shut Down, Not Meltdown events took place along the U.S. west coast as part of an International Solidarity Movement led by a coalition of six groups Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), FoE Japan, Green Action, No Nukes Asia Forum, Peace Boat, and Shut Tomari . Our No Nukes NW of Portland was coordinated in solidarity with actions in Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, in Los Angeles, CA, with Coalition Against Nukes LA, in San Francisco by No Nukes Action Committee, in NYC, and worldwide!
This is not only an issue for the Japanese people and surrounding environment: It is an issue for the world at large! The Pacific Ocean is now polluted with cesium and other nuclear materials which continue to pour into it from the rivers of Fukushima. Tuna caught off the coast of California is contaminated with radiation from Fukushima. The Japanese government, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and the main stream media have been silent about their responsibility for the nuclear contamination of the entire Pacific region. We must speak up and amplify the voices so directly affected today! We must speak out to protect ourselves, children and our childrens’ children….Silence of Complicity is a crime of epic proportions!
As Dr. Helen Caldicott put the call out for Occupy to get involved during her speech at the A15 Hanford Rally, so we too put out the call! We need EVERYONE to get involved in making efforts to change the system at large. TEPCO, the U.S. government and the Obama administration continue to tell the people that the nuclear plants are all safe and that taxpayers should continue to subsidize the nuclear industry.
Please join us at No Nukes NW! There are 104 nuclear plants in the United States and many others worldwide that demand our attention, voice and action. Shut Down, Not Meltdown! We need voices and numbers to fight this insidious destructive path into the future. We need your help to forge a new, safer, and productive road. Occupy is a verb, an action word!!!
Let’s go, Occupy!