Attorney Barry Israel, a member of the D.C. Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Freeze, was incorrectly referred to as David Israel in a story on D.C. peace groups in the April 7 edition of The District Weekly.
The District of Columbia is targeted for destruction. There is no question. It isn't a matter of 'if', it's 'when,'" said Kathy Lundy, coordinator of the D.C. Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Freeze.
A number of newly born local peace and antinuclear groups have surfaced with groundswell grass roots support and ambitious plans to sway government thinking and educate the populace on the horrors of nuclear war. Two groups in particular, in different ways, have joined a nationwide movement that swept down last month from Vermont where 155 of 185 town meetings approved resolutions calling for a freeze on nuclear arms production.
Following the recent passage of freeze resolutions in Maryland's Baltimore City, Howard and Montgomery counties and Loudoun County in Virginia, the D.C. Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Freeze--a group of business people, housewives, attorneys, students, laborers, politicians and clergy--is now pressing for a similar resolution to be placed on the ballot for the November general election.
Today, the Board of Elections will decide whether to allow the D.C. Nuclear Freeze Initiative a place on the ballot. The initiative calls for a bilateral U.S.-Soviet freeze on nuclear arms production "in the interest of preventing nuclear war, reversing the economic impact of weapons spending, and safeguarding District of Columbia residents."
Another group, though nonpolitical, is making ambitious plans for a week-long schedule of local events designed to educate residents of the metropolitan area on the theme: "Nuclear war is unwinnable." The local chapter of Ground Zero, a national antinuclear group, will kick off Ground Zero Week on April 18, simultaneously with demonstrations in 650 cities and towns across the country. The week will begin with the placing of a ground zero marker--the point of detonation of a hypothetical nuclear weapon--in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, and end seven days later with a symbolic candlelight vigil.
"We're doing this in the hope President Reagan will give more thought to this issue, and begin to explore ways to prevent nuclear war," said Ground Zero coordinator Robin Wagner.
Members of both groups say supporters and volunteers have joined up in large numbers to help with the legwork and organization needed to bring plans, programs and policies dealing with the futility of nuclear war to the attention of the public. Attorney David Israel, a member of the freeze group, said: "We started out three months ago with a core group of 15 persons. Now we can call on up to 180 people--and we're still growing. People are worried."
Malik Edwards, the outreach coordinator for the nuclear freeze group and one of the three founders of the Malcolm X Center in Southeast, said his job was to "talk with regular folks about nuclear madness." According to Edwards, "it's not hard to organize people around an issue that questions whether a country should continue building weapons, when enough already exist to kill every man, woman and child 45 times over."
If the Board of Elections gives the initiative the go-ahead, freeze-group supporters must collect nearly 15,000 signatures to place the initiative on the ballot. "We already have representatives in each of the eight wards ready to go out and recruit citizens' groups, churches and schools, not only for their signatures, not only for their votes, but to educate them about the nightmare of nuclear destruction," said Israel, who confesses he didn't become interested in the nuclear issue until the birth of his daughter.
As part of the education process, the group is now preparing a packet of materials specially worded and designed to explain nuclear Armageddon in everyday terms. One section, culled from materials made available by the Department of Defense, the Congressional Research Service, and a three-part New Yorker magazine series dealing with nuclear war, features the local destruction that would result if (or when) the White House is ground zero for a nuclear blast. Five concentric "Circles of Destruction" would emanate from the targeted area after the surface bursting of a one megaton nuclear bomb.
* Circle One (target)--At Ground Zero, the explosion would create a crater 200 feet deep and 1,200 feet in diameter; all life and structures would be vaporized.
* Circle Two (0 to one-sixth mile radius)--In one-tenth of a second, people, vehicles, buildings and thousands of tons of earth would be engulfed in a luminous fireball, with temperatures exceeding 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Bomb shelters would become ovens.
* Circle Three (one-sixth to 2 miles)--A firestorm, driven by winds of more than 300 mph, would kill 98 percent of the people and would destroy most structures.
* Circle Four (2-3 miles)--Spontaneous ignition of clothing and falling structures would immediately kill 50 percent of the people; another 40 percent would die more slowly from third-degree burns and other injuries.
* Circle Five (3-5 miles)--Homes would be blown out or leveled; gasoline storage tanks would explode, and 50 percent of the people would be killed or injured.
The scorched area, the material goes on to say, would extend over 30 square miles; persons in exposed locations as far away as Rockville, Fairfax, or Mount Vernon would be blinded by the flash. The targeted zone would represent only one-tenth of the area vulnerable to the lethal concentration of fallout--so additional millions would die.
"These effects would be multiplied by the large numbers of nuclear weapons that would be exploded over the District of Columbia in an all-out nuclear attack. The one-megaton, after all, is a baby bomb," said freeze group coordinator Lundy.
Education is the key word for the Ground Zero group as well. Town meetings will be held every night at local schools, colleges and churches. Sites still are being selected for the many events scheduled. Wagner has suggested that those interested in attending the various films, seminars and special atttractions featuring dance and mime companies contact her office at 783-6254 and ask for the calender of events. She emphasized that many of the events are structured to appeal to children.
"We want everyone, of all ages, to be educated on this subject. We take no political positions, we are strictly an educational organization," said Wagner.
Wagner feels that one of the highlights of Ground Zero Week will be the concluding candlelight vigil at the ground zero marker at Lafayette Park. She said those who attend will be asked for 10 minutes of silence--the time Wagner said it would take for a nuclear missile launched from a submarine off the East Coast to hit the Washington.