Free Abortion on Demand! No Forced Sterilization!
Counter Demonstration against the Walk for Life:
Saturday, January 21st at 11:00 am
We'll gather at the Philip Burton Federal Courthouse, 450 Golden Gate Avenue to rally, then march to Civic Center where the Walk for Life West Coast will hold their rally.
The National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice is still fighting for bodily autonomy for all, in spite of the overturn of Roe v Wade. The misogynists and racists are emboldened and are working to ban the abortion pill and contraceptives, roll back queer rights and strip protection of Native American and trans children.
Here in San Francisco, Reproductive Justice SF is organizing a rally and counter-protest against the Walk for Life West Coast. And we need you!
It is only weeks away and we will be rallying for reproductive justice to show everyone that we are a pro-abortion city. We need you to join us for a united action that includes everyone who is deeply concerned about the far right's agenda. We especially need people to support the tasks of organizing this united effort! Contact us at email@example.com with questions and to volunteer.
Spread the word by sharing the flyer linked here, and via social media on Instagram and Facebook .
Join our upcoming planning meetings:
Thursdays: 1/5 and 1/19 at 6:30 pm
Via Zoom: https://bit.ly/reprosfcoalition
Together we can insist that the right wing will not continue their reign of terror unopposed.
Look for future National Mobilization events on the anniversary of Roe V Wade at https://reprojusticenow.org.
What we call for:
* Restore & expand Roe v. Wade; safe, legal abortion on demand without apology
* Repeal the Hyde Amendment
* Overturn state barriers to reproductive choices
* Stop forced sterilization
* No to caged kids, forced assimilation, & child welfare abuses
* End medical & environmental racism; for universal healthcare
* Defend queer & trans families
* Guarantee medically sound sex education & affordable childcare
* Sexual self-determination for people with disabilities
* Uphold social progress with expanded voting rights & strong unions
#AbortTheCourt #MyDecisionAlone #UnjustLawsWillBeBroken
Our mailing address is:
Reproductive Justice - San Francisco
747 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
Ruchell is imprisoned in California, but it is important for the CA governor and Attorney General to receive your petitions, calls, and emails from WHEREVER you live!
SIGN THE PETITION: bit.ly/freeruchell
SEND DIGITAL LETTER TO CA GOV. NEWSOM: bit.ly/write4ruchell
Call CA Governor Newsom:
CALL (916) 445-2841
Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish,
press 6 to speak with a representative and
wait for someone to answer (Mon. - Fri., 9 AM - 5 PM PST / 12PM - 8PM EST)
Call Governor Newsom's office and use this script:
"Hello, my name is _______ and I'm calling to encourage Governor Gavin Newsom to commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison. Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long. In the interests of justice, I am joining the global call for Ruchell's release due to the length of his confinement and I urge Governor Newsom to take immediate action to commute Ruchell Magee's sentence."
Write a one-page letter to Gov Gavin Newsom:
Also, you can write a one-page letter to Governor Gavin Newsom about your support for Ruchell and why he deserves a commutation of his sentence due to his length of confinement (over 59 years), his age (83), and the health risks of an elderly person staying in California’s prisons.
YOUR DIGITAL LETTER can be sent at bit.ly/write4ruchell
YOUR US MAIL LETTER can be sent to:
Governor Gavin Newsom
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Email Governor Newsom
Under "What is your request or comment about?", select "Clemency - Commutation of Sentence" and then select "Leave a comment". The next page will allow you to enter a message, where you can demand:
Commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison.
He was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence. Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long.
Write to District Attorney Gascon
District Attorney George Gascon
211 West Temple Street, Suite 1200
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Write a one-page letter to D.A. George Gascon requesting that he review Ruchell’s sentence due to the facts that he was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence. Ruchell’s case should be a top priority because of his age (83) and the length of time he has been in prison (59 years).
· Visit www.freeruchellmagee.org to learn more! Follow us @freeruchellmagee on Instagram!
· Visit www.facebook.com/freeruchellmagee or search "Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee" to find us on Facebook!
· Endorse our coalition at:
· Watch and share this powerful webinar on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u5XJzhv9Hc
WRITE TO RUCHELL MAGEE
CMF - A92051 - T-123
P.O. Box 2000
Vacaville, CA 95696
Write Ruchell uplifting messages! Be sure to ask questions about his well-being, his interests, and his passions. Be aware that any of his mail can be read by correctional officers, so don’t use any violent, explicit, or demoralizing language. Don’t use politically sensitive language that could hurt his chances of release. Do not send any hard or sharp materials.
of Detroit Shakur Squad
The Detroit Shakur Squad holds zoom meetings every other Thursday. We educate each other and organize to help free our Elder Political Prisoners. Next meeting is Thurs, Jan 12, 2022. Register to attend the meetings at tinyurl.com/Freedom-Meeting
Supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal march down JFK Blvd. past the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice and City Hall, in Philadelphia, Friday, December 16, 2022.Jessica Griffin / Staff Photographer
Results of Mumia Abu-Jamal's Court Hearing
December 16, 2022
In October, Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons strongly signaled in a 30-page opinion that she is leaning toward dismissing the defense appeal.
However, she gave the two sides one last chance Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 to argue their positions. The lawyers did so in a courtroom filled with about 50 Abu-Jamal allies, as well as Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, and a smaller number of her supporters. Mumia Abu-Jamal was not present.
Clemons said she would rule within three months. Before ending the hearing, the judge asked the prosecutors and defense lawyers to make sure that Abu-Jamal’s lawyers had reviewed every scrap of evidence that the District Attorney’s Office could share.
“I do not want to do this again,” she said.
Watch the live-stream of the Dec. 16 Court Rally at youtu.be/zT4AFJY1QCo.
The pivotal hearing follows a hearing Oct. 26 at which the Judge said she intended to dismiss Abu-Jamal’s appeal based on six boxes of evidence found in the District Attorney’s office in Dec. 2018. Clemons repeatedly used procedural rules – rather than allowing for an examination of the new evidence – in her 31-page decision dismissing Mumia Abu-Jamal’s petition for a new trial. (https://tinyurl.com/mtvcrfs4 ) She left the door open on Abu-Jamal’s appeal regarding the prosecution’s selection of jurors based on race.
Abu-Jamal’s attorneys Judith Ritter, Sam Spital and Bret Grote filed a “ Petitioner’s Response to the Court’s Notice of Intent to Dismiss PCRA Petition” (https://tinyurl.com/mvfstd3w ) challenging her refusal to hold a hearing on the new evidence.
Just this week, the UN Working Group on People of African Descent filed an Amicus brief, a friend of the court document that reinforced the facts and arguments in Mumia's attorney's PRCRA filing. (https://tinyurl.com/587r633p ) They argued that no judicial time bar should be applied when the defendant is a victim of historic racial bias that may have tainted the possibility of a fair trial and due process.
At a press conference Dec. 13 announcing the Amicus brief, the Hon. Wendell Griffen, Division 5 judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit Court for Pulaski County, Arkansas said, “Clemons is only the second Black judge to hear any aspect of Abu-Jamal’s case. Will she have the courage to say that there are too many factors here that compel for Mumia to justify dismissing the motion? This evidentiary hearing is required, because exculpatory evidence was concealed.” (https://youtu.be/Xh38IKVc_oc )
Griffen clarified his statement on Dec 14 during a Democracy Now interview (https://youtu.be/odA_jjMtXQA): “Under a 1963 decision that every law student knows about, and every lawyer that does criminal law practice, in Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court of the U.S. held that due process of law is violated when the prosecution conceals evidence relevant to guilt or punishment from the bench. In this country, that kind of precedent should have required Mumia to be released and the Commonwealth decide whether or not to prosecute him based upon having revealed the right evidence. That hasn’t been done.”
More details on Abu-Jamal’s case can be found at
https://tinyurl.com/ymhvjp8e and https://tinyurl.com/34j645jc.
Urgent support needed for cancer-stricken, imprisoned writer/artist, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s Legal Fund!
Fundraiser for an attorney to represent Rashid’s struggle for medical careA campaign is underway to hire an attorney to represent Kevin Rashid Johnson’s struggle for medical care. The prison has denied this care to him, despite a cancer diagnosis discovered over one year ago for which no treatment has yet been provided.
Here is the donation link for Rashid’s legal fund: Please be as generous as you can.
Sign the petition:
If extradited to the United States, Julian Assange, father of two young British children, would face a sentence of 175 years in prison merely for receiving and publishing truthful information that revealed US war crimes.
UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that "it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America".
Amnesty International states, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”
Human Rights Watch says, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”
The NUJ has stated that the “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.
Julian will not survive extradition to the United States.
The UK is required under its international obligations to stop the extradition. Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty says: "Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense."
The decision to either Free Assange or send him to his death is now squarely in the political domain. The UK must not send Julian to the country that conspired to murder him in London.
The United Kingdom can stop the extradition at any time. It must comply with Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and Free Julian Assange.
Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale
Laws are created to be followed
by the poor.
Laws are made by the rich
to bring some order to exploitation.
The poor are the only law abiders in history.
When the poor make laws
the rich will be no more.
—Roque Dalton Presente!
(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)
 Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.
“In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper
A film by Kenneth A. Carlson
Teaser is now streaming at:
Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022
“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com
Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”
That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.
Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.
For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.
The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
By Margaret Atwood*
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.
*Witten by the woman who wrote a novel about Christian fascists taking over the U.S. and enslaving women. Prescient!
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
By Yara M. Asi, Dec. 29, 2022
Ms. Asi is an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida’s School of Global Health Management and Informatics.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/29/opinion/international-world/palestinians-health-west-bank.html
This year, during the lead-up to the Israeli elections, I returned to my hometown, Nablus, in the occupied West Bank, to work on a research project and spend time with my family there. I had received a grant to study the impact on Palestinians’ health of Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians’ movement — such as checkpoints, travel permits (including those required for medical care), the separation wall spanning the West Bank and road closures.
My previous work and the existing research done on Palestinian health and well-being gave me a good sense of what I would find: multiple burdens in access to health care and predictably high rates of depression, stress, anxiety and insecurity.
I expected to hear stories of struggle, loss and trauma. And I heard dozens of them, particularly among the young, who feel acute despair.
What I didn’t expect was that my trip would coincide with the deadliest month in the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2006: At least 150 have been killed so far in 2022, including more than two dozen children, almost all as a result of Israeli military violence. Or just how directly I would experience the day-to-day violence that defines the lives of Palestinians.
As talk swirls of even more severe crackdowns on Palestinians from the extreme right-wing coalition created by Benjamin Netanyahu, who is soon to be the prime minister of Israel again — and maybe even of the often predicted third intifada, or uprising — it’s important to stop and take stock of how bad things have already been for Palestinians in the West Bank — especially in 2022.
A few weeks into my trip, Nablus, a city of about 160,000, was blockaded by the Israeli Army in efforts to quell the Lion’s Den, a newly formed Palestinian armed resistance group based there. The city was effectively cut off from the rest of the West Bank — an occupied territory already cut off from the world in many ways — by the Israeli military, a closure that was not lifted until three weeks later. This meant that all vehicles leaving or entering the city were subject to hourslong waits and searches (including, sometimes, searches of Palestinians’ phones and social media accounts) or denied access to leaving or entering the city entirely. This had devastating effects on the city’s economy and blocked access to health care, education and social gatherings, not to mention immeasurable stress and uncertainty among the city’s residents.
The closure of the city at a time of already escalating military and settler violence was an act of violence in and of itself, a part of the collective punishment that is consistently justified on security grounds but operates under the assumption that all Palestinians are potential threats and must be treated as such.
Palestinian youth have never known free movement or life without the constant and violent rule of the Israeli military. This is the context in which the Lion’s Den, which has claimed responsibility for several shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers, has arisen. Israel’s most recent clampdown on the West Bank, including the siege of Nablus, is in large part meant to dissuade popular mobilization around these groups.
The crackdowns meant that all Palestinians had to adjust even the most minute aspects of their lives to avoid settler violence and encounters with the Israeli military, which is stationed all around the West Bank.
During the closure, life for many living in and around Nablus was essentially put on hold as they waited for the Israeli government, an entity that Palestinians have no power to elect and that has no accountability to them, to make the decision to lift the closure and allow life to go back to some semblance of normal. The closure happened during the beginning of the celebrated Palestinian olive harvest season, preventing many families, including mine, from gathering to pick their olives and subjecting those who dared to do so to an even greater risk of attacks from settlers. Everyone I talked to in Nablus said these were the worst conditions they could remember for decades — since the second intifada in the early 2000s, for those old enough to remember it.
As I conducted a series of focus groups with doctors, nurses, patients and medical faculty members and students, it became clear that it was impossible for me to measure the extent of the damage caused by Israel’s lockdown. The unrelenting buzzing sound of Israel’s military surveillance drones, which patrolled Nablus 24/7 for weeks, for example — many people referred to it as a form of psychological torture. How can I measure that? For one focus group, a public health faculty member arrived 90 minutes late, explaining that the road she tried to take to enter the city was blocked by a checkpoint, so she had to go a different way, recounting the experience as casually as someone might describe mistakenly putting on two mismatched socks. What does it say about a population’s psyche when events like these are normalized?
I have long felt a responsibility to convey the reality of the situation for Palestinians not only as a researcher committed to justice and equity but also as someone whose family hails from the West Bank. I was born in Nablus to a woman from a nearby village and a man from a Palestinian town that was enveloped by Israel upon its establishment in 1948. My father taught journalism and political science in Nablus before he moved us to the United States, where I grew up. I’m now a professor myself, because I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I’m not a political scientist as my dad was; I’m a scholar of public health. Of course, the two subjects are intertwined in any setting: Health is inherently political. But in Nablus, I was reminded of just how deep that connection is.
That context has remained, for the most part, much the same for the past 50 years, with periods punctuated by slightly more freedom for Palestinians and other periods that featured heavy restriction and violence. I visited family in the West Bank every summer as a child and for most of my adult life. I remember the long, winding checkpoint lines, with hostile Israeli soldiers looking through our documents. I remember the electricity curfews imposed by Israel, leaving us to spend nights using only candles and lanterns. I remember being able to travel to the airport in Tel Aviv but having to switch taxis halfway through the journey to the West Bank because Palestinian taxis weren’t allowed to pick us up. Now I and others of Palestinian descent, regardless of citizenship or country of residence, aren’t even allowed to use that airport without special Israeli permission. Instead, because Israel bombed the last Palestinian airport and won’t allow construction of a new one, we travel in and out of the West Bank through Jordan. (A lucky few have recently been able to fly out of an airport in southern Israel.)
The last night before I was scheduled to leave, Israeli military forces raided the old city of Nablus, killing five Palestinians and injuring at least a dozen more. For me, it was a sleepless night, knowing what was happening just minutes away.
The next day, after many panicked calls with a taxi company, which assured me it could get me out of the city, I left. Unlike Palestinians forced to live under these conditions every day, my time there had an end date. Now I am left to examine and analyze my data.
Yet I recognize that there is no study, no matter how rigorous, that can capture what it feels like for Palestinians living under Israel’s more than half-century military occupation, especially in moments like this.
Perhaps the biggest struggle in my role as a scholar, however, is in making recommendations about what to do. Sure, some extra mental health facilities would help people deal with the trauma. Increased use of telehealth appointments might reduce the need for many Palestinians to travel for care. Targeted health promotion and prevention efforts would improve Palestinian health more broadly, making it less necessary to interact with their broken health system at all. The Palestinian Authority has not been active in making the efforts it could to improve Palestinian health with the limited tools it has, instead enriching the elite and increasing its security budget.
And yet none of these recommendations tackle the core barrier to Palestinian health, well-being and thriving. As a recent report on the mental health of Palestinians noted, “If the disease is political, then the solution also lies in the political: ending the occupation and eradicating the structures of repression and inequality.”
As international governments, media organizations and advocacy groups focus on the outcome of Israel’s recent elections, concerns over increased repression of Palestinians are valid, but they fail to fully recognize what took place just this past year. We need to worry about what’s to come, but we also cannot ignore the violence and heavy mental health strain that has already corroded yet another generation’s well-being and hope for a stable and dignified existence.
The closure of Nablus ended shortly after my return to the U.S., and the almost daily killing of Palestinians has now slowed down, albeit slightly. Palestinians are back to what the rest of the world often calls relative calm but in reality are circumstances that no population can or should accept. Looking only at physical well-being as it relates to the aftermath of shootings in the West Bank or bombing campaigns in the Gaza Strip flattens the experience of living, working, playing, raising children, going to school and trying to build a life in such an environment of uncertainty, trauma and violence. One that has lasted for decades and may easily last decades more.
The proposal has angered many of Japan’s neighbors, particularly those with the most direct experience of unexpected exposure to dangerous levels of radiation.
“Motarilavoa Hilda Lini, a prominent politician and activist in Vanuatu, has said, ‘We need to remind Japan and other nuclear states of our Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement slogan: If it is safe, dump it in Tokyo, test it in Paris, and store it in Washington, but keep our Pacific nuclear-free.’”
By Pete McKenzie, Dec. 30, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/30/world/asia/japan-fukushima-wastewater-pacific-radiation.html
Tanks storing radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The government plans to release the water, treated, but still slightly radioactive, into the Pacific starting in spring 2023. Credit...Ko Sasaki for The New York Times
Examining a Marshall Islands baby. For decades after the 1954 test, the U.S. government sent doctors to the Marshall Islands to track the health of people exposed to the fallout. They found that many experienced severe cancers. Credit...Smith Collection/Gado, via Getty Images
Every day at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, officials flush over a hundred tons of water through its corroded reactors to keep them cool after the calamitous meltdown of 2011. Then the highly radioactive water is pumped into hundreds of white and blue storage tanks that form a mazelike array around the plant.
For the last decade, that’s where the water has stayed. But with more than 1.3 million tons in the tanks, Japan is running out of room. So next year in spring, it plans to begin releasing the water into the Pacific after treatment for most radioactive particles, as has been done elsewhere.
The Japanese government, saying there is no feasible alternative, has pledged to carry out the release with close attention to safety standards. The plan has been endorsed by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.
But the approach is increasingly alarming Japan’s neighbors. Those in the South Pacific, who have suffered for decades from the fallout of a U.S. nuclear test in the Marshall Islands, are particularly skeptical of the promises of safety. Last month, a group representing more than a dozen countries in the Pacific, including Australia and the Marshall Islands, urged Tokyo to defer the wastewater releases.
Now, Japan is poised to forge ahead even as it risks alienating a region it has tried in recent years to cultivate.
Nuclear testing in the Pacific “was shrouded in this veil of lies,” said Bedi Racule, an antinuclear activist from the Marshall Islands. “The trust is really not there.”
Much of that mistrust is rooted in the unlikeliest of events. In 1954, snow fell on the tropical atoll of Rongelap. Residents of the reef, in the Marshall Islands, had never seen such a thing. Children played in it; some ate it. Two days later, U.S. soldiers arrived to tell them the “snow” was actually fallout from America’s largest nuclear test, which took place on nearby Bikini Atoll and irradiated Rongelap after an unexpected change in wind direction.
In the test’s aftermath, hundreds of people suffered intense radiation exposure, leading to skin burns and pregnancy complications. Decades later, people of the Marshall Islands still feel its impact through forced relocations, lost land and heightened cancer rates. “You feel this deep sorrow,” Ms. Racule said. “Why were we not good enough to be treated like human beings?”
The people of the Marshall Islands were not the only ones affected. Twenty-three Japanese fishermen were sailing near Rongelap at the time. All suffered intense radiation sickness, and one died six months later as a result.
Their exposure led to Japan’s first large antinuclear protests.
“The whole antinuclear movement here in Japan came from the huge public mass actions after the Bikini Atoll testing,” said Meri Joyce, an antinuclear organizer at the Japanese activist group Peace Boat.
When asked about Pacific nations’ concerns, a representative for the Japanese Foreign Ministry said that as the only country to have suffered from atomic bombings in war and given its connection with the 1954 test, Japan empathized with their fears around radiation exposure.
That shared history and experience of nuclear exposure has contributed to some Pacific activists’ sense of betrayal. “Our Japanese friends and partners in the nuclear movement have been really fighting hard,” Ms. Racule said. “It feels like such a huge injustice.”
In a statement last year, Youngsolwara Pacific, a prominent environmental advocacy group, asked, “How can the Japanese government, who has experienced the same brutal experiences of nuclear weapons in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wish to further pollute our Pacific with nuclear waste? To us, this irresponsible act of trans-boundary harm is just the same as waging nuclear war on us as Pacific peoples and our islands.”
Pacific nations’ current frustration comes a year after Japan announced a “Pacific Bond” policy. The prime minister at the time, Yoshihide Suga, promised to take stronger action on climate change and to strengthen relationships with Pacific nations in what appeared to be an attempt to push back on growing Chinese influence in the region.
To soothe Pacific concerns, Japanese authorities emphasize that their analysis shows that the wastewater plan is safe. Almost all radioactive particles will be removed from the wastewater before it is released, except for a hydrogen isotope called tritium that Japanese experts and others say poses a relatively low health risk.
“By diluting the tritium/water mixture with regular seawater, the level of radioactivity can be reduced to safe levels comparable to those associated with radiation from granite rocks, bore water, medical imaging, airline travel and certain types of food,” Nigel Marks, a nuclear materials researcher and associate professor at Curtin University, said in a statement distributed by the Australian Science Media Centre.
Mr. Suga pledged to “do our utmost to keep the water far above safety standards.” The Japanese government sees no alternative to the releases other than vaporizing the wastewater, which would be similarly controversial. Storage is becoming difficult as land runs short around the Fukushima plant, whose reactors have been off-line since the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, which caused a catastrophic electrical failure that led to the meltdown.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said the plan “is in line with practice globally, even though the large amount of water at the Fukushima plant makes it a unique and complex case.”
“The release of wastewater from the Fukushima reactors is an unfortunate necessity,” Brendan Kennedy, a chemistry professor at the University of Sydney, said in the Australian group’s statement. “The volume of contaminated water makes long-term storage of this impractical.”
Other nuclear plants around the world routinely discharge treated wastewater containing tritium. Unlike other common radioactive particles, tritium replaces the hydrogen atoms in water molecules, allowing it to pass unaffected through normal radiation filters. As a result, according to Dr. Kennedy, it is “essentially impossible” to remove.
The efforts to win over skeptical Pacific leaders have not been helped by a previous lack of transparency. Until 2018, Tokyo Electric Power Company — which operates the Fukushima plant — indicated that the vast majority of the wastewater had already been treated. That year, however, the power company acknowledged that only a fifth had been treated sufficiently.
The Japanese Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry subsequently said more than three-quarters of the wastewater still contained unsafe levels of radioactive material other than tritium because the company had not changed the decontamination system’s filters frequently enough. The company has promised to re-treat the wastewater before it is released.
Consequently, many in the Pacific remain suspicious. In its most recent request that Japan defer the planned releases, the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s main diplomatic body, noted that a panel of experts it had appointed to scrutinize the plan said there was “insufficient data” to prove its safety.
Motarilavoa Hilda Lini, a prominent politician and activist in Vanuatu, has said, “We need to remind Japan and other nuclear states of our Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement slogan: If it is safe, dump it in Tokyo, test it in Paris, and store it in Washington, but keep our Pacific nuclear-free.”
The Japanese Foreign Ministry’s representative indicated that the government expects to proceed with the planned releases, subject to safety confirmation by the power company and the I.A.E.A. Last year, Mr. Suga, the former prime minister, said disposing of the wastewater was “a problem that cannot be avoided.”
But it seems increasingly likely that solving that problem will jeopardize Japan’s efforts to build closer bonds with its Pacific neighbors and exert greater influence in an increasingly contested region.
“It feels like such a huge injustice,” Ms. Racule said. “It’s almost like an arrogant display. That it doesn’t matter what we say, they still do what they want.”