The Birth of a National Anti-Nuclear Movement
On August 1, 1976, 18 people walked onto the proposed site of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant and were arrested for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. This would be the first civil disobedience action of the Clamshell Alliance. Three weeks later, a second occupation involved 180 New England residents who were arrested and held in a local armory overnight, and subsequent peaceful protests continued from there.
This movement would go on to make a significant and resounding contribution to the culture of nonviolent resistance in the United States and beyond.
45 Years Later
On August 1, 2021, several of these activists (and some new ones!) gathered at the World Fellowship Center in Albany, New Hampshire to look back at the founding of the Clamshell Alliance, to discuss current national nuclear power issues, and to share important developments in alternative energy, including the increasingly optimistic prospects of offshore wind.
You can view this meeting on Herb Moyer’s video, Paul Gunter Update on Nuclear Power and Politics.
Read another chapter from this story…
On April 30, 1977 thousands of members of the “Clamshell Alliance” and other anti-nuclear citizens moved onto the Seabrook Nuke site to stage a demonstration/protest against the construction of the nuclear plant. Negotiations with then Governor Meldrim Thompson started on May 1st to try to reach a peaceful solution. However, protestors were determined to stay on site.
Thus began the largest mass arrest of anti-nuclear protestors in US history at the Seabrook Nuke site. (It is noteworthy that the then Governor of Massachusetts and later Presidential candidate, Michael Dukakis, refused to send Massachusetts State Police to make arrests. NY and RI did send their State Police to help make arrests).
In all, 1,414 activists were arrested by the end of May 2nd. Some people spent an overnight in large “cattle trucks” awaiting distribution/transportation to the Portsmouth, Manchester, and other armories.
Interestingly, those armories became “Academies of Anti-Nuclear Activism,” staging theatrical performances, music creation, and workshops about anti-nuclear activism. It was in an armory that Charlie King penned the song, “Acres of Clams.”
The demonstrators were arraigned in the Portsmouth Armory. The judge offered to release New Hampshire residents on their personal recognizance, but would not give other state residents the same deal. The result was bail solidarity, where New Hampshire residents stayed jailed along with other state residents, forcing the state of New Hampshire to feed and safely house all of the trespassers. Many people remained in “jail” for up to two weeks before their case was heard.
UPDATE: The Clamshell Alliance has reformed, and you can read their full history on their new website: https://clamshellalliance.com/history/
About Paul Gunter
Co-founder of the Clamshell Alliance & Director of Beyond Nuclear
Paul Gunter specializes in reactor hazards and security of operating reactors; prevention of new reactor construction; regulatory oversight; climate change; the nuclear power-nuclear weapons connection; organizing and movement-building; radiation impacts on health; and wildlife impacts.
A lead spokesperson in nuclear reactor hazards and security concerns, Paul acts as the regulatory watchdog over the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear power industry. He is a 2008 recipient of the Jane Bagley Lehman Award from the Tides Foundation for environmental activism for his work on the nuclear power and climate change issue. He has appeared on NBC Nightly World News, The Lehrer News Hour, BBC World News, and Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now.”
Paul was a cofounder of the antinuclear Clamshell Alliance in 1976 to oppose the construction of the Seabrook (NH) nuclear power plant through nonviolent direct action that launched the U.S. antinuclear movement. Prior to joining Beyond Nuclear, he served for 16 years as the Director of the Reactor Watchdog Project for Nuclear Information and Resource Service. An environmental activist and energy policy analyst, he has been an ardent critic of atomic power development for more than 30 years. Paul is a New Englander who was born in Mississippi and raised in Detroit, Michigan.