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Council Honors A-Bomb Survivors as It Endorses ‘Back from the Brink’ Resolution

City Councilmember Paul Koretz is joined at City Hall by members of the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors (ASA) and students from Nuclear Free Schools. From left: Lesly Tobon, Kimberly Nunez, Hiroko Nakano, Midori Seino, Taeko Okabe, Junji Sarashina, Howard Kakita, Koretz, Toshiyuki Seino, Dr. Jimmy Hara, Edgar Lopez, Christopher Cruz, Gloria Montebruno Saller, Yeslie Barrios. (Courtesy Councilmember Paul Koretz)

Los Angeles has added its name to a growing number of individuals, organizations, and cities that are calling for the U.S. to take action to prevent nuclear war.

On Aug. 8, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve a resolution that urges the U.S. to embrace the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and implement important protective policies such as ending the president’s sole, unchecked authority to launch a nuclear attack, taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, and canceling U.S. plans to replace its entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons.

The resolution, timed to coincide with the 73rd anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings on Aug. 6 and 9, was introduced by Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin.

“We’ve reached a time where the nuclear threat is the greatest since the Cold War,” said Koretz. “We need to have the United States join the 122 nations that voted to adopt the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and we support a grassroots movement called ‘Back from the Brink’ which has been endorsed by cities across the country.”

Proponents of the resolution include Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA.) “Nuclear weapons pose a tremendous threat to public health,” said Dr. Robert Dodge, president of PSR-LA. “And today I’m very concerned. We are in the midst of a new arms race and have a president who has threatened to use nuclear weapons. But it’s not too late to change course. The policies recommended in this resolution provide a clear pathway back from the brink of nuclear war.”

Advocates are also concerned with environmental health impacts related to nuclear weapons. “Building new nuclear weapons poses significant risks, from the creation of deadly long-lived radioactive waste and contamination to the prospect of renewed nuclear weapons testing,” said Martha Dina Argüello, executive director of PSR-LA. “Communities near and downwind from nuclear weapons complex sites are still suffering from Cold War production. Indigenous and low-income communities of color have suffered disproportionate impacts, and will again if we don’t stop this.”

The L.A. resolution is part of a national grassroots campaign called “Back from the Brink,” which has support from prominent public health, science, environmental, faith-based and justice organizations. The U.S. Conference of Mayors voted unanimously in June to support a similar resolution, and cities throughout the country are following suit. Los Angeles is now the largest city to do so.

The U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons endorsed in the resolution also has broad support, from the American Medical Association to Pope Francis to former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry. The treaty, which was adopted last year with the support of 122 countries, bans nuclear weapons in the same way that biological and chemical weapons are banned. The U.S. and other nuclear states currently oppose it.

“U.S. leaders have been derelict in their duty to develop a sustainable security framework and achieve a world without nuclear weapons,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. “With this action, the L.A. City Council is joining the movement bringing democracy to disarmament and declaring that the people of Los Angeles have a right to live free from the fear of imminent destruction and reject the use of these weapons of mass destruction in their name.

“L.A.’s leadership will ripple across the country and awaken Americans to the immoral and catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. I thank Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA and the Back from the Brink Campaign for their tireless work and support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and I commend the bold leadership of Councilmember Paul Koretz.”

Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs for Peace Action, also noted the significance of the L.A. resolution. “Representing one of the largest cities in the country, the L.A. City Council just passed a common sense resolution calling for reasonable steps to reduce the threat of nuclear war. More and more cities are stepping up efforts to challenge Cold War-era nuclear policies and outlandish escalations in nuclear weapons spending that make us less safe.

“Taking this important action during the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the City of Angels clearly understands the importance of defending against the hell of nuclear war.”

“Angelenos are sending a powerful message that emphasizes the value of diplomacy and human life, and calls out the current nuclear system as out of sync with American principles of democracy and justice,” said Yasmeen Silva, a representative of Beyond the Bomb. “With nuclear war only a tweet away, legislators across the country are showing the American public that they won’t stand idly by while their constituents are put in danger.

“No choice carries greater consequences than the decision to use nuclear weapons. That power should not rest in the hands of any one person.”

”No More Atomic Weapons”

Prior to the resolution vote, the city presented the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors (ASA) with a commendation for their decades of nuclear disarmament efforts.

“ASA and [the late]Kaz Suyeishi, we have been educating the public about the catastrophic effect of the atomic bomb on human beings,” said Junji Sarashina, president of ASA. “We are very happy to be recognized for our efforts for the past 50 years.

“Seventy-three years after the atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, many hibakusha are still suffering from cancer, leukemia, tumors and radiation related sickness. We should abolish the nuclear weapons so no one in the future will ever use a nuclear weapon, for the sake of saving the human being.”

ASA members present for the commendation also included Midori Seino, Toshiyuki Seino, Hiroko Nakano, Taeko Okabe, Howard Kakita, and ASA Honorary Director/Historian Gloria Montebruno Saller.

“It was a very exciting and wonderful experience … I feel so happy receiving the commendation from the City of L.A. for everyone who worked so hard, especially Mr. Junjji Sarashina, Mrs. Midori Seino and Mrs. Hiroko Nakano, to keep ASA [going]until the present,” said Okabe. “At last their long years of efforts wore rewarded. I’m hoping our next generations have a peaceful world with no more war, no more atomic weapons.”

“I appreciate all of those people who worked very hard to bring up hibakusha group activity in Los Angeles area many years ago and those who maintain the activities ’til today,” said Midori Seino. “I am very happy that I could be a small part of this wonderful group.”

Nakano said she was delighted to share the news of the commendation with her older brother, who lives in Nara, and her daughter, and she thanked everyone who made it possible.

“I thought it was a major step toward getting the USA to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” said Saller. “In the meantime, I couldn’t help but thinking back to all the work done by ASA as an organization and its members in supporting peace education. It was a great recognition by the City of Los Angeles. I am sure Mama-san [Suyeishi[ is so proud and smiling down on us.”

“For decades, you have worked at telling your stories so current and future generations truly understand the devastation caused by nuclear weapons,” Koretz told the survivors.

The resolution was also supported by Fukushima Support Committee, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Nuclear Free Schools-Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High School, SoCal 350 Climate Action, Veterans for Peace, and Women’s Action for New Directions.

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