white house historical association > president's park / citizen's soapbox : a history of protest at the white house
The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 prompted the beneficial commercial use of nuclear materials in medicine, various industrial and research functions, and the generation of electrical power.  For a half century, these benefits have been countered by the fear of public exposure to hazardous levels of radiation. The dangers posed by nuclear technology, ranging from radiation poisoning to use of weapons that could lead to the annihilation of the human race, have struck a chord with people of all walks of life. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was common for a small group of community representatives to oppose plans to build a nuclear power plant near their homes.  The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 1979, are two incidents that provoked significant concern nationwide.  

Lafayette Park has been a stage of choice for the small but steady stream of citizens concerned with the possibility of nuclear war. Periodically in the 1980s, larger groups frequented the park to protest the build-up of nuclear weapons. Given the long history of nuclear arms production, the issue has had a power to draw long-term, or "career," demonstrators. These citizens are not only a constant reminder of the issues they represent, but a symbol to park visitors of America's tradition of protesting. Whether with community groups, national organizations, or as individuals, advocates of nuclear disarmament have traveled great distances to voice opposition in front of the White House, sometimes employing unorthodox methods to be heard.  The “peace vigil,” for example, has maintained a continual presence in Lafayette Park for more than 25 years. Anti-nuclear demonstrators represent a community undefined by political, or even national, affiliations.

MORE: Visit the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission online

citizen's soapbox > open page
one > introduction
two > suffragists
three > truman assassination attempt
four > civil rights
five > anti-war protests, 60s-70s
six > nuclear disarmament
seven > pro-life & pro-choice
eight > the cause continue
nine > conclusion
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