The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center in Boulder, Colorado is a multi-issue organization working for environmental and social justice to defend human rights and protect the planet. The organization is celebrating 40 years of activism in 2023, dating back to a landmark action of civil disobedience at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant just outside of Denver in 1983.
The Rocky Flats site was still an active facility for production of plutonium bomb triggers for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal at the time. After years of protests failed to make an impact, activists were able to draw more than 17,000 people to join together hand in hand on October 15, 1983 to encircle the Rocky Flats site around its 17-mile perimeter. The action was designed to send a message to the government – “End the nuclear arms race!” The Encirclement was an unprecedented action that built on efforts from the Rocky Flats Truth Force, a small group of activists who had engaged in civil disobedience in 1978-1979 to block train tracks where supplies were delivered to the facility.
Arrestees in Rocky Flats Truth Force actions included legendary Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and renowned beat poet Allen Ginsberg. These efforts also garnered attention from the FBI, which started an investigation into environmental crimes at Rocky Flats that ultimately led to a 1989 raid which shut the facility down.
The Encirclement catalyzed the formation of the Boulder Peace Center, later renamed as the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. A commitment to non-violence and training members in non-violent direct action (currently in conjunction with 350 Colorado) have remained hallmarks of the organization’s philosophy ever since.
The struggle for environmental justice at Rocky Flats has continued with the frontline effort to get the heavily contaminated Superfund site properly remediated following an inadequate cleanup. Insiders allege that problems were covered up at Rocky Flats. Jon Lipsky – the FBI agent who led the 1989 raid – later retired early in protest of FBI orders to remain mum about controversy regarding the Department of Justice grand jury investigation into the extent of the contamination at the site and related acts by DOE officials and contractor Rockwell International (which managed the site from 1975-1989.)
The RMPJC was part of a coalition of groups that sued the federal government in 2019 to have the grand jury files unsealed to find out if the site had really been appropriately remediated before 6,000 acres were re-opened as the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge in 2018. The grand jury files were sealed when the DOJ settled with Rockwell in 1992, indemnifying the individuals involved and letting Rockwell off the hook with an $18.5 million fine (less than the bonuses that had been paid out for operating Rocky Flats.) But the lawsuit revealed that the DOJ couldn’t find the files, with more than 60 boxes of documents gone missing!
The RMPJC continues working to shine a light on the Rocky Flats case, including local battles with the Rocky Flats Stewardship Council that was installed in place of the former citizens advisory board to host meetings that seem to support the DOE’s position for site management. The effort to get a proper cleanup at Rocky Flats remains a plank of the organization’s Nuclear Guardianship Collective, which has also been campaigning to close down the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge due to ongoing concerns about plutonium contamination.
Other current campaigns include working with the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability on nuclear non-proliferation and de-escalation of the United States’ trillion dollar nuclear modernization program; pressuring the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents to divest from fossil fuels; opposition to global free trade deals and their unjust Investor-State Dispute Settlement clauses that allow corporations to sue countries for alleged lost profits; and working against NATO expansion. This effort included hosting Medea Benjamin from Code Pink for a week of talks about the war in Ukraine in April of 2023.
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Air Pollution, Drought, Heat, Water Contamination, Wildfires
Environmental Justice Concerns
Air Pollution, Coal/Coke Plants and Emissions, Fracking/Oil and Gas Development/Pipelines, Hazardous/Toxic Sites, Nuclear Power Plants, Superfund Sites
Affordable Housing, Art Activism, Direct Relief and Aid, Fighting Industrial Contamination, Halting Bad Development, Policy Reform, Renewable Energy
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