New York City action focuses on city investments and tax-payers’ contribution to the nuclear arms race.
Volunteers from Count the Nuclear Weapons Money and 350NYC.org organized a nuclear weapons money counting in front of New York City Hall today to support calls on the City Council to divest city pension funds from nuclear weapons companies, and to establish a public commission to implement and advance New York City’s role as a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.
‘We counted out $4.8 billion in 4,800 mock notes each of $1million each, taking this money from mock nuclear weapons,’ said Christopher Salata, Co-founder of Peace Accelerators and organizer of the event. ‘This is the amount of money invested by NYC pension funds in nuclear weapons companies, that is $474 million, plus the amount of tax money from New York State residents that goes into the U.S annual nuclear weapons budget, that is $4.3 billion out of a total US nuclear weapons budget of $61 billion. ’ (Source: How much do you pay for nuclear weapons).
The action was held to support City Council draft resolution Resolution 976 which calls on New York City to divest from the nuclear weapons industry, and Initiative 1621 to reaffirm New York City as a nuclear weapons-free zone and establish an advisory committee to implement this status.
“City of New York pension funds should not be used to support any aspect of nuclear weapons production, plain and simple,’ said Councillor Helen Rosenthal (Manhattan, District 6), co-sponsor of Resolution 976. ‘Helping to fund nuclear proliferation (whether directly via investments in weapons manufacturers, or indirectly via Citibank and other financial institutions with ties to weapons makers) runs contrary to what this city and our 300,000+ municipal workers stand for. Our teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and so many other public sector workers have devoted their careers to making life better for their fellow New Yorkers. We cannot in good conscience assist in underwriting the catastrophic loss of life and environmental ruin that would result from a nuclear conflict.’
The City Hall campaigners re-allocated the mock money to baskets representing Sustainable Development Goal 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 16 (Peace, justice, disarmament and strong institutions). ‘This demonstrates the strong connection between nuclear disarmament and climate protection,’ said Mr Salata, ‘It also highlights the proposal in Initiative 1621 to strengthen the institutional support from NYC for nuclear disarmament by establishing a public commission on New York’s role as a nuclear-weapon-free zone.’
The campaigners presented an Open letter to New York City Council supporting Resolution 976 and Initiative 1621. The letter also supports the decision by the City Council in 2018 to divest the NYC $189 billion pension fund from fossil fuel companies within five years. The letter was endorsed by representatives of over 20 New York peace, disarmament and climate action organizations, plus some investors and entrepeneurs. This is another indication of the growing cooperation between the fossil fuel divestment campaign and the nuclear weapons divestment campaign.
‘Climate change and nuclear weapons catastrophe are the two most pressing existential threats to humanity,’ said Alyn Ware, Member of the World Future Council and Co-founder of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign. ‘So, it’s no surprise that there a many cases of cities divesting from both fossil fuels and nuclear weapons concurrently or consecutively.’
“Just possibly we have enough nuclear weapons. Just possibly we could spend the money on schools and hospitals and food for the hungry,” said 350.org founder Bill McKibben who was not at the action but who supports the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money campaign.
The action was part of the “Count the Nuclear Weapons Money” action taking place throughout United Nations Disarmament Week (Oct 24-30, 2019). Its mission is to highlight a global campaign to constrain nuclear arsenals by bringing scrutiny and divestment pressure to the lobbying, budgets, banking and investments that drive the funding for nuclear weapons, and redirecting the money toward impact investing for climate protection and sustainable development.
Throughout the seven days of nights of Disarmament Week, including today in front of City Hall, campaign participants are working around the clock to physically count out (in fake million-dollar bills) the trillion dollars nuclear weapons states are spending on maintaining, modernizing and expanding nuclear arsenals over the next ten years. That money could be spent instead to reduce geopolitical tensions driving increased reliance on nuclear weapons and achieving climate and sustainable development goals.
‘I wholeheartedly join with the Count the Nuclear Weapons Money initiative and so many other organizations in supporting the goals of U.N. Disarmament Week, and am proud to co-sponsor Resolution 976 and Intro 1621 with Council Members Dromm and Kallos,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.