As world leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. this week for the start of a Nuclear Security Summit, activists gathered in McPherson Square on Friday urging them to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
Activists with the anti-nuclear group Global Zero rallied with a four-story inflatable missile, which they said represented one of the 15,000 nuclear weapons that exist around the world today, and called on leaders attending the summit to create an actionable plan to get rid of them.
"As with the most powerful social movements in history, young people are turning out around the world to fight this fight. And they're backed by a powerful group of political leaders and security experts who understand that the only way to prevent nuclear terrorism is to eliminate all nuclear weapons," former CIA counter-proliferation operative Valerie Plame Wilson said on Thursday.
The summit opened Thursday with a meeting between President Barack Obama and foreign allies who helped develop last year's historic peace deal with Iran. He said that worldwide security of nuclear weapons has improved overall, but that "the threat of nuclear terrorism persists."
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Yet as Global Zero said ahead of its rally, the summit will only focus on the elimination of nuclear material like enriched uranium, without addressing the weapons that exist today.
"There can be no such thing as 'nuclear security' so long as nuclear weapons exist," Global Zero said.
The group's executive director, Derek Johnson, said in a statement, "The use of even one nuclear weapon anywhere in the world would be a global humanitarian, environmental and economic catastrophe. We should not wait for such an event to happen—where casualties could number in the hundreds of thousands in the first few minutes—before we act urgently to eliminate them."
"If we’re serious about preventing this nightmare scenario, what we need now is a Nuclear Weapons Summit that brings the key countries together to discuss real plans to verifiably eliminate all nuclear weapons worldwide," Johnson said.