Written by Ben Purden
On May 4th, 2019, residents of Conway gathered at their annual town meeting as they do every year, to vote on issues such as the town budget, town laws, articles put forward by town boards, and citizen petitions. This year was no different, except that residents weighed in on a matter of great global significance: the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Brought before the town meeting by citizen petition, following a campaign led by local activists, supported by Nuclear Ban US, residents voted to pass the resolution “Calling for the US to Join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
In the spring of 2019, Conway was ultimately one of seven other small towns in western Massachusetts that took up the fight to raise awareness and support for the 2017 Treaty. Like the residents of Belchertown, Montague, and Chesterfield, residents of Conway felt that it was necessary for them to make a statement about the affairs of the nation, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a powerful industry, and to start the action in their own backyard.
Conway’s resolution began by calling on its own Select Board to “take all necessary steps” to align with the Treaty. This means that the Select Board was tasked with determining what it can do as a governing body to prohibit any activity related to nuclear weapons on town land, reject contracts with nuclear weapons producers, and divest town funds from the same. Campaigners have defined this as alignment with the treaty as it follows the letter of Article 1(e) of the Treaty, which makes it illegal to “assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any of the prohibited activities.”
The resolution goes on to call on national leaders to sign the Treaty, and onlegislators of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to pass pending legislation concerning the Treaty.
Sponsored by state representative Lindsey Sabadosa and state senator Jo Comerford, bills H.3239 and S.2157 would create a Citizen’s Commission to study what would be needed to sever all ties with the nuclear weapons industry. Additionally, the Commission would investigate what opportunities might replace the economic activity currently invested in creating weapons of mass destruction, that instead might be directed to a green economy.
That legislation is currently in committee and its passage requires constituents to call their representatives. Town residents will need to make sure that their local government follows through on what it can do.
Following up on the resolutions passage, campaigners from Nuclear Ban US confirmed that copies of the resolution were sent to state and federal representatives for Conway. It was also determined by the Select Board that further legislation is required to make the values expressed in the resolution binding, meaning that new petitions will need to be raised before the town’s next annual meeting.