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FIFTY YEARS OF NUCLEAR ACTIVISM: PROTESTING THE B-1

By Molly Rush

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ROCKWELL INTERNATIONAL B-1A DURING B-1B FLIGHT TESTING PROGRAM. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO)

Protesting the B-1 Bomber at Rockwell International Headquarters, US Steel Building, Rockwell was prime contractor of the B-1 Bomber, an advanced, super-sonic bomber built to deliver nuclear weapons in an attack. TMC members regularly leafeted and protested against the development of the B-1 outside Rockwell Headquarters in the mid-1970’s. 

One day at office closing time, 14 of us entered the reception area. We stayed there all night. TMC Member Joe Hughes phoned the media to inform them of our presence. 

We spent the night discussing the Campaign with two Benedictine sisters from Erie who had joined the protest. We prayed that Rockwell might hear our demand that they end their contract with the Pentagon. The fear that the US would go to war with the Soviet Union propelled us. By morning we were arrested and walked down Grant St. to the police lockup. The media was out in force. 

Another day, protesters dressed in whiteface as victims of a nuclear bombing, moaned, and crawled on their stomachs across the Steel Building’s plaza, up the steps, and through the revolving doors. 

By the time the police came, security chief Mr. Angel was upset that the protesters had gotten inside. They were put in the freight elevator. The police arrived and arrested them. 

We actually enjoyed ourselves during such an action. Such protests give strength and often build lasting friendships. 

Eventually we had a meeting with CEO Willard Rockwell. He showed us a film on the B-1. He commented, “Isn’t that a beautiful plane?” I replied, “If only it didn’t kill people.” 

In 1988, Rockwell moved its Headquarters from Pittsburgh to four different sites. Eventually parts of the company were sold. The corporation, once the largest U.S. military and NASA contractor, with a workforce of 115,000, was defunct by 2001. 

At the time we couldn’t have imagined such an outcome. 

Molly Rush is a Co-founder of the Thomas Merton Center, and member of the New People Collective. 

NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 3. April, 2020. All rights reserved.

Categories: News

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