Swords to Plowshares at the national weapons labs: Late 70’s/early 80’s

Poster from July 1979 protest at University of California Regents meeting
Poster from July 1979 protest at University of California Regents meeting

In the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, I was part of a movement to convert the nation’s premier nuclear weapons developing labs (Lawrence Livermore in California, and Los Alamos in New Mexico) from labs that primarily focused on research in nuclear weapons to ones that focused on human needs.

The UC Nuclear Weapons Labs Conversion Project (UCNWLCP) was born as a coalition of Berkeley Students for Peace, the Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC, and the War Resisters League West.  Livermore and Los Alamos were managed by the University of California (and still are). Our goal was to use the university’s management influence to press for “swords to plowshares.” We lead teach-ins, held direct actions, brought petitions to the Regents, and build coalitions with University and lab employees and scientists.

After a few years of work, it became clear that the University either did not have, or would not use, their management power to move towards more peaceful labs. At this point, our call went from ‘conversion’ to severing the University’s ties with the labs.

In the early 1980’s, another group formed with more of a direct action focus, the Livermore Action Group. Both UCNWLCP and LAG worked tirelessly on the issue of creating more peace-focused labs.

In 1979, UCNWLCP published a document titled Shaping Alternatives at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory: A Preliminary Analysis. The four main authors were Wendy Batson, David McFadden, Diane Thomas-Glass, and Jim Watson. Many other groups and individuals worked on the research and production of this document, and I thought it should be preserved electronically for history…so here it is: Shaping Alternatives at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

Here is a website with a good history of this movement.

PS. I scanned a copy that I have, and OCR’d it to convert it to text, so some of the text may have small errors in it, but what I looked at looked pretty accurate.

PPS. If you look in the Acknowledgements, you’ll see my name 🙂

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