At their annual town meeting on April 27, 2019, the residents of Leverett, Massachusetts, voted unanimously to adopt article 43 of the town warrant, “A Resolution Calling for the US to Join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
The resolution calls on the federal government to sign the Treaty and to encourage the other eight nuclear-armed nations to do likewise. It then calls on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to align with the Treaty as a state. And finally, it calls on the Town of Leverett to align with the Treaty as a town.
Leverett residents passed the Back from the Brink resolution at their last town meeting in 2018, calling on the federal government “and the nation” to embrace the new Treaty which bans nuclear weapons. The 2019 resolution takes this one step further, by taking seriously what one town, as part of “the nation,” can do to align itself with this Treaty and to put more pressure on the federal government to sign it.
Leverett is already a “Nuclear-Free Zone,” declaring back in 1983 that “No nuclear weapons may be designed, produced or deployed within the Town of Leverett…” The 2019 resolution builds on this by calling on the town selectboard to “take all necessary steps to align with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
Campaigners have defined “aligning” with the Treaty to mean not only prohibiting the development, production, or deployment of nuclear weapons within their own jurisdiction, but also divesting city funds from the companies making nuclear weapons and refusing to sign city contracts with those companies, as far as state laws allow. This is to comply with Article 1(e) of the Treaty that makes it illegal to “assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any of the prohibited activities.”
It will thus be up to the Leverett selectboard to look at how the town of Leverett can implement these additional commitments and help put pressure on the companies, as well as the federal government, to comply with the new Treaty.
At the state level, House bill H.D.3477, introduced by Lindsay Sabadosa, and Senate bill S.D.1688, introduced by Jo Comerford, call for the establishment of a Citizens Commission to look into the implications of aligning the whole state with the Treaty. These bills are now in committee and there will be a public hearing on them later this year.
Leverett and other small hill towns of Western Massachusetts led the way to a “Nuclear Freeze” in the 1980s by passing town resolutions that subsequently swept across the whole country and helped bring the Cold War to an end.
These same towns are now leading the way to a total ban on nuclear weapons by passing town resolutions to align themselves with the Nuclear Ban Treaty. Other town meetings considering similar resolutions over the next few weeks include Montague, Chesterfield, Conway, Belchertown, Shutesbury, Deerfield and Colrain.
Campaigners are hopeful that this new movement in support of banning nuclear weapons altogether can once again sweep across the country as the Freeze did in the 1980s, finally putting an end to the threat of nuclear holocaust that still hangs over all of us, despite the fact that the Cold War ended over 25 years ago.