Ring Around the Pentagon: A Nuclear Frieze

You may have heard about suing for read. But what about sewing for peace?

The nationwide plan to ring the Pentagon with a banner protesting nuclear weapons will reach out to Harvard students tomorrow when local organizers of the effort visit Currier House and encourage students and staff to start making banner segments at a "sew-in" for peace.

For the past two year, contributors across the country have created banner segments in accordance with he scheme "What I would miss most in a nuclear war." According to organizers, each state will bring its finished product to Washington on August 4, the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The 50 ribbons will be tied together and strung around the government complex in a weekend-long demonstration that has been approved by the Pentagon through the General Services Administration.

"The bigger the ribbon is, the bigger the statement will be," said Abigail Jones, a state coordinator of the project who also works in Harvard's financial aid office. "This idea is just taking off around the country. We originally thought we'd just be able to go around once, but the idea seems to be so attractive to people who aren't normally involved in peace movements that we've had a huge response," Jones said, adding that there are already enough segments made to wrap around the Pentagon three times.



This summer's ceremony to unfurl the miles of banner will culminate an ongoing grassroots effort to achieve an underground nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union and a binding nuclear freeze resolution in Congress. According to Carol Grodzins, chairperson of the Massachusetts Nuclear Freeze Committee, the banner statement will be a timely one because of the Senate's decision to reconsider the Test Ban Treaty this year.

Grodzins said that the banner movement started in 1983, when over 50 pro-freeze groups--like the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the National Freeze Campaign in St. Louis--decided to approach their cause in a new way. "These groups saw the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombings as a compelling event," she explained, "We see that, 40 years later, we've still made no breakthoughs."

"Testing of weapons has continued. Our effort is essential right now, because if you can't test, you can't produce and you can't deploy," said Grodzins, who represented Massachusetts' seventh Congressional district at a national freeze convention in St. Louis last year.

The project's organizers say that their biggest concerns at the moment are generating awareness about the ribbon and coaxing people to design segments. Jones and Janet L. Irons, the two state coordinators for Massachusetts, said that they have been spreading their message by organizing "sewins" and setting up exhibits of the finished segments across the state.

Irons said, "We have a slide show of 50 segments from across the nation, and we use it to help people get started. You don't need to be a great artist or seamstress, you just need a concern for the way world politics are being handled."

The next stage of the ribbon project will start on Memorial Day, when, Irons said, the state's segments will be pieced together and displayed in preparation for the trip to Washington. Then, Irons and Jones will arrange for the banner's transportation and for volunteers who will hold up the Massachusetts segment during the wrapping ceremony.

A Women's Project?

Although the ribbon's organizers emphasize that anybody may make a segment, Jones said that the movement is largely composed of and participated in by women.

Jones added that the project's slogan, "Sew to Speak." may intimidate men or any people who do not feel confident with a needle and thread, but that all ages and sexes have contributed. Grodzina said that she has arranged for all the members of her son's third grade class to create a segment.

Organizers explained that women were greatly responsible for the passage of an above ground test ban treaty: after seeing the devastating affects that such testing was having on the cows that provided milk for people's babies, the protests and lobbying efforts of women spurred Congress into action, they said.