With the Anti-Corporation F29 protests under their belt, Occupy Portlanders have set their sights elsewhere: Washington's Hanford nuclear waste site. A handful of anti-nuke Occupiers, peeved by the speed (or lack thereof) of the nuke site's cleanup that began in the late 80s, plan on hauling the Portland-centric rally to the eastern Washington locale on April 15. But, unlike recent Occupy demands, this "day of awareness" isn't a call for action, but more a call for clarity on what is going on at the site. To get a better grasp on what fueled this event and what it has in store, I called up rally organizer Miriam German.
So what triggered this rally? Why Hanford?
A friend of mine from the Tri-Cities actually brought up the idea. She had hopes of becoming an organic farmer, which was obviously an oxymoron with a nuke site in your backyard, and wanted to make some change. A lot of people are left in the dark when it comes to Hanford's history and cleanup progress. It's a time bomb, really. It's vital that we bring the similarities between the site and the Fukishima plant into the light before it's too late.
Sunday, April 15 is the day before Earth Day. We thought this would coincide nicely with the ideas behind a day focused on bettering the environment. It's also a little over a year since the Fukishima disaster — an event that could easily be mimicked at Hanford.
What are you ultimately hoping to achieve with the rally?
First and foremost, awareness from those living near the plant to those in Washington, D.C. The country needs to learn about what's going on here. We're going to have a bunch of educated speakers giving presentations on the issue. We ideally hope to push the Hanford clean-up effort up the list of priorities of the government.
Have you spoken with Hanford officials about your impending visit? What's their take on the rally?
Yes. I had a conference call with middle management last week and invited them to attend. I made sure they understood that it's not a protest — our mission is to bring the issues out into the open. I told them "You are the ones who look terrible for not moving along with the clean-up. This will help both of us." They will let me know next week if they plan on making an appearance.
How have you gotten the word out about the rally? Who's involved?
We've reached out to Occupiers all across the country in hopes of having multiple rallies in solidarity on the 15th. We also have Columbia Riverkeeper, Hanford Watch, Beyond Nuclear and Oregon Conservancy involved (representatives from these groups will speak at the rally). Of course, Occupy meetings in Portland are the best source of outreach.
Why is this an Occupy pursuit?
Well, I thought if Occupy is good at anything, it's being persistent. And that's what we want!
Keep your eye out next month for coverage of the April 15 rally.