At 12.15pm today the Mirror Pool in front of Bradford Town Hall was the site of a unique socially distant demonstration – a giant human peace symbol formed by 75 local campaigners to mark the 75th anniversary of the first atomic explosion. The demonstration remembered all lives lost as a result of the testing and usage of nuclear weapons and called on Bradford Council to formally support the UN Treaty to ban all nuclear weapons across the globe.
The event took place under very strict social distancing guidelines, something which has presented considerable logistical challenges for the organising group.
“We had to do something to mark this milestone, but wanted to ensure we didn’t put anyone at risk. The solution we came up with, was to mark out the symbol with painted pebbles placed 2 meters apart. Every participant was given a specific number ahead of time to ensure we all maintained a safe distance. We didn’t know if people would go for it, but the only problem has been too many people wanting to be involved!” said Mike Barrett a local artist and graphic designer, who mapped out the event.
Campaigners want Bradford to join the growing list of global cities to back the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear weapons, which now numbers in the hundreds from Manchester to Munich, Sydney to San Francisco.
Bradford has a great history as a city of peace and this was well evidenced in the 75 local people taking part. From religious leaders and local councillors to peace campaigners and representatives of Bradford’s ground-breaking Peace Museum and Peace Studies Department, alongside the myriad groups that have sprung up to support refugees fleeing conflict around the world.
Reverend Dr Jonathon Pritchard, the Lord Mayor’s Chaplain said – “Nuclear weapons are morally wrong. The devastation they would cause would have an impact on the entire world, and therefore it’s incumbent on all of us to do something about it. We can’t just let the situation stand”
“The UK ranks number three in the world in spending on weapons of mass destruction, how does that help local people in the challenges we face today? We should be investing in health and social care at home and peace building abroad.” said organiser Sue Easterbrook of Bradford Women in Black.
Mukhtar Ali a local campaigner and trade unionist added “I’ve always been opposed to nuclear weapons, but I think now that the pandemic has made other people think more carefully about what real security actually means. The biggest threat we have faced as a society here has not come from other countries with nuclear weapons, but from an invisible disease. And that just highlights why we need to stop spending money on weapons of mass destruction, and use the money instead for building better support system to keep us safe in future”
Each demonstrator took home their peace pebbles, which they will then bring to Norfolk Gardens in Bradford on August 8th to create a cairn which will commemorate 75 years since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
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Notes for editors
- The Trinity Test at Alamogordo, New Mexico took place on the 16th of July 1945, ushering in the nuclear age. It was to be the first of 528 nuclear weapon tests caused irreversible damage to the environment and surrounding communities. Just three weeks after the test, the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima instantly killing tens of thousands of civilians.
- The text of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was agreed by the majority of world countries in 2017. It will outlaw the production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons in the same way as the existing international treaties on chemical and biological weapons. The treaty is expected to enter international law in the next six months, but the UK Government boycotted the negotiations and has stated that it will neither sign nor recognise the treaty.
- The call to City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council is part of ‘Cities Appeal’ by International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 in recognition of their work.
- A ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings in Japan will take place in Norfolk Gardens at 11am, August 8th with Naz Shah MP for Bradford West, Councillor Doreen Lee, the Lord Mayor of Bradford, and Rt. Rvnd Dr. Toby Howarth, the Bishop of Bradford.