Hinds Plaza Rally Commemorates Hiroshima
“SAY ‘NO’ TO HATE”: Black Lives Matter leader Hawk Newsome spoke at a Hinds Plaza rally to commemorate the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Sunday evening. Newsome is leading a group of marchers from New York City to Washington D.C. to counter-protest a Unite the Right rally planned for this weekend in D.C. on the anniversary of last year’s violent demonstration in Charlottesville. (Photo by John Lien)
By Donald Gilpin
About 90 people gathered downtown in Hinds Park last Sunday evening for a rally to commemorate the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and “to bear witness to the urgent need for global nuclear weapons abolition,” according to the Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), which sponsored the event.
In addition to the keynote speech by nuclear weapons historian Alex Wellerstein on “Reinventing Civil Defense,” poetry readings by 2018 Nobel Peace Prize nominee David Steinberg, and a performance by the Solidarity Singers, the program featured a visit from Black Lives Matter leader Hawk Newsome, who was piloting a small group of marchers on their way from New York City to Washington D.C. to counter-protest the Unite the Right rally planned for this weekend in D.C. on the anniversary of last year’s violent white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville.
Known as the Agape Marchers, Newsome and his colleagues, who spent the night with local CFPA host families, are carrying with them a message of love, Newsome said, and protesting against racism, hatred, and Nazism. The meaning of “agape,” according to CFPA executive director the Rev. Bob Moore, is “universal, unconditional love, love of god.”
“We’re marching to D.C. out of love,” Newsome told the Hinds Plaza crowd. “We plan to rally in front of the Martin Luther King statue to unite people with love. On August 12, we’ll be trying to lead people in love. I’m one of the most respected militant voices in the country, and I choose love. Join us.”
Newsome described how he went to participate in the counter-protest in Charlottesville a year ago. “We had to stand up on the side of right and say ‘No’ to hate,” he said. He described the violence as he was “bombarded and attacked by Neo-Nazis.” He was hit by rocks, and, with blood trickling down his face, he said he went to pick up a rock to throw back when he heard a “little white woman, 70 or 80 years old,” saying to him “‘you can do so much more with your words than with anything you pick up here.’”
That was the point, he said, where “he chose love” and committed to non-violence as his means of standing up for justice.
Moore, who hosted the event and spoke earlier in the day from the pulpit of the Christ Congregation Church on Walnut Street on “Faith Imperatives in the Nuclear Weapons Era,” commented on the quality of the program and the excellent turnout.
Wellerstein, a media celebrity who has appeared on NPR, the Daily Show, Fox News, and elsewhere, emphasized the need to bring the nuclear threat onto the radar screens of young people.
CFPA Assistant Director Niki VanAller noted, “Wellerstein captured the spirit of what we were going for, gave us momentum to inspire folks to keep moving forward. We still have a lot of work to do”
She added, “Nuclear weapons are real. They are out there. It’s happened before. It’s important to remember the atrocity that happened in 1945 and to work to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Steinberg’s poetry, which he read from his book, The Enemy in the Mirror, raised the question of whether we ourselves are a part of the problem of mass violence in the world, whether we are guilty of expressing anger in hurtful ways.
The commemoration program, an annual event organized by CFPA since 1980, included a moment of silence at 7:16 p.m., which corresponds to the Japanese time that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima 73 years ago, killing about 140,000 civilians and wounding hundreds of thousands more.