Paddling for Peace on the Hood Canal

By Elizabeth Murray

Paddling against the backdrop of a pristine Olympic Peninsula coastal forest framed by the jagged Olympics on one side — and a pair of pitch-black Trident nuclear submarines moored at Naval Base Kits on the other — roughly a dozen kayaktivists plied the Hood Canal last Saturday, joined by fellow nuclear resisters on speedboats and even a wooden rowboat to form a small, colorful and defiant flotilla in the second annual “Boats by Bangor” organized by the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

The nuclear resisters, whose waterborne action was part of the Ground Zero Center’s annual program commemorating of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima the Bangor base at Old Bangor, with the permission and support of local property owners. The protest boats hoisted signs such as “Resist Trident; No New Nukes” and other similarly-themed messages.

The two Explosives Handling Wharves are in the background.

Once under way, the flotilla proceeded past the pair of Trident nuclear submarines at the Bangor Delta Pier (which posts in very large letters: “Use of Deadly Force Is Authorized”), and further north to the first and second Explosives Handling Wharves before turning around. Coast Guard and Naval Base Security vessels followed and closely monitored the “Boats by Bangor” procession, but did not interfere with the jolly band of resisters.

“The anti-nuclear message of ‘Boats by Bangor’ is especially urgent in the wake of heightened tensions with North Korea and Russia,” said Elizabeth Murray, member-in-residence at the Ground Zero Center’s Poulsbo-based headquarters which shares a border fence with Naval Base Kitsap.

“The slightest political misunderstanding — not to mention technical mistake or human error involving Trident — has the potential to provoke a chain reaction leading to nuclear war and the annihilation of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of innocent people,” Murray said.

Naval Base Kitsap hosts eight of the US Navy’s 14 Trident ballistic missile submarines as well as an underground nuclear weapons storage facility. Collectively, they are believed to store more than 1,300 nuclear warheads, according to Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. Naval Base Kitsap hosts the largest single concentration of nuclear warheads not only in the United States, but most likely in the world.

The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has been a constant presence in the area since 1977, advocating an end to nuclear weapons and the eventual transformation of the base into a facility that can be used for peaceful productivity, such as the example of Greenham Common in England, which formerly hosted US nuclear weapons, and has been repurposed into public parkland and a business park.
The Ground Zero Center holds three major actions per year — on Martin Luther King Day, Mother’s Day, and Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing anniversaries. The events are free and open to the public.

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