By Lisa Macdonald
As the French government prepared to resume nuclear testing at Moruroa atoll, on September 1 and 2 another round of anti-nuclear protest actions involved thousands of people in Australia, Tahiti and France. In France, a message from Le Mouvement de la Paix to Friends of the Earth in Australia reports that a petition against the tests signed by 300,000 people over the last few weeks was presented to President Chirac on September 1. The report says that the anti-tests mobilisation is "growing strongly", with many initiatives being taken, including the formation of an anti-nuclear coalition involving 130 organisations from around the country.
In Tahiti, a wide range of activities, from protest marches across the island to public forums, media conferences and the departure of a peace flotilla for the test zone have taken place during an internationally focused "No Nukes Protest Week". A European flotilla set sail for Paris on September 1 in solidarity with the Moruroa fleet.
In Australia, up to 10,000 people rallied against the tests. In Brisbane, Debbie Marshall reports that 1500 people joined a rally called by the Anti-Nuclear Alliance. Speakers at the action included Greenpeace, the Brisbane lord mayor, Student Independent, the Queensland Greens and the Australian Democrats.
ANA, a new organisation launched to coordinate the campaign against nuclear testing in Brisbane, was initiated by the socialist youth organisation Resistance and is sponsored by more than 20 organisations including Greenpeace, the Transport Workers Union, the Community and Public Sector Union, Socialist Worker, the Queensland Greens, the Hiroshima Day Committee, the Democratic Socialist Party and the Student Christian Movement. One of the main aims of ANA is to stop the mining and export of uranium.
Speakers at the Brisbane rally emphasised the need to overcome a sense of fatalism — the feeling that the tests are now inevitable. "The challenge for the anti-tests movement at the moment is to raise the stakes so that the political cost increases with every test", said the rally chairperson, Zanny Begg.
Accompanied by a three metre high bomb covered in anti-nuclear messages which was transported up from Nimbin, the rally marched to the French consulate where protesters burned a French flag.
In Melbourne, Ray Fulcher reports that 5000 anti-tests protesters assembled in City Square for a march organised by the No More Hiroshimas Coalition.
The protesters heard speakers on the dangers of the nuclear industry, uranium mining and the role of the Australian government. Anja Lechnen of the Australian Tibet Council spoke about the impact on Tibet of China's testing program, and Olive Tau Davis, president of the Pacific Islander Council, described the movement in the Pacific Islands against nuclear testing.
To the accompaniment of sirens and flares provided by Greenpeace, the rally conducted a "die-in" and chalked their outlines on the ground in remembrance of the victims of Hiroshima.
An emergency rally has been called at 5pm at City Square on the day of the first test.
From Perth, Anne Pavy relates that 50 people participated in an anti-nuclear candlelight vigil in Murray Street Mall on September 1.
The crowd was addressed by peace activist Jo Vallentine and Vincent Berraud, an anti-nuclear activist from France. Berraud pointed out that the majority of French people oppose nuclear testing and support Tahiti's independence struggle.
"The explosion of each nuclear bomb at Moruroa Atoll should spur us to become more angry, more determined and more organised in our efforts to put an end to nuclear testing", Campaign Against Nuclear Testing spokesperson Janet Parker told a rally in Sydney on September 2.
Karen Fletcher reports that around 1000 protesters turned out at Sydney's Circular Quay, finding shelter from the rain under a railway bridge before marching to the Sydney headquarters of Cogema, the nuclear fuel company owned by the French government, to which Australia continues to export 300 tonnes of uranium per year.
The rally heard speakers from People for Nuclear Disarmament, Friends of the Earth, the Uniting Church, the Secondary Students' Anti-Nuclear Network and the Australia Tibet Council.
Reports were also given of the French Commando raid on the peace flotilla support vessel, MV Greenpeace, just hours before, in which the ship's radio and satellite communications equipment was destroyed. The vessel, which was located in international waters at the time of the attack, was being held while commandos awaited a tow vessel.
A motion to meet at the French Consulate at 4pm on the day of the first test was passed by acclamation.
Jenny Hollander and Tony Iltis write from Canberra that secondary school students there have taken the lead in organising against the tests.
More than 500 students rallied in the city on September 1 after a walkout, involving more than 1000 students, from schools throughout the ACT. The rally was organised by Students Against Nuclear Testing. Students from some schools face suspension or other disciplinary action for participating in the protest.
Dean O'Keefe, a Hawker College student and Resistance member, told the rally, "Missing a few hours of classes is nothing compared to living with nuclear warfare for the rest of our lives! Stopping Australian uranium exports is more important than a few of us getting into trouble."
At a rally in Civic the following day, the Coalition Against Nuclear Testing called on people to rally in Garema Place at 4pm on the day of the first atom bomb test, then march to the French Embassy.
From Newcastle, Margaret Allen reports that around 200 people attended the anti-nuclear rally on September 2.
The action was addressed by 11-year-old Sinead Francis, who spoke against the testing of nuclear weapons on behalf of future generations. David Tuhanuku from the South Pacific and Oceanic Council of Trade Unions related the difficulty of small countries like Tahiti campaigning against more powerful and internationally influential countries such as France, saying that Tahiti's recent protests against its treatment by the French government has been possible only because of the anti-nuclear movement's activities in Australia and New Zealand.
The Newcastle rally passed resolutions condemning the Chinese and French governments for continuing nuclear testing, and the role of the Australian government in allowing the mining and export of uranium. The action ended with a march to the Pacific Ocean, where a peace flag was raised on the water's edge.
Anti-nuke campaign maintains the pressure
By Lisa Macdonald