This article appeared in the June 18, 1977 edition of The Nation.
On April 30, more than 2,000 marchers descended on the nuclear construction site here. Thanks to their numbers, their discipline, coolness and determination–but thanks also to the ill-considered response of the state’s highest authorities–this demonstration by aroused citizens will almost certainly be remembered as a watershed event in the direct-action politics of the 1970s. It was the third organizied occupation of the site of the $2 billion, 2,300-megawatt atomic plant proposed by the Public Service Company (PSC) of New Hampshire, and it received worldwide attention.
The first march was on August 1, last year, when the Clamshell Alliance, a loose coalition of anti-nuclear groups from around New England, staged a rally less than a mile from the site (see Wasserman: The Nation, September 11, 1976). Six hundred braved a rainstorm to attend; eighteen occupiers, all natives of New Hampshire, marched onto the site, carrying seedlings and saplings, and were arrested by local police.
Three weeks later, the alliance staged a second occupation in blazing summer heat. Fifteen hundred came to that rally, and this time 180 marched onto the site. The occupiers–who included representatives from all six New England states–had been specially trained in the tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience, and were organized into "affinity groups" of eight to twenty members.
They marched onto the site without violence, were quickly arrested by New Hampshire State Troopers and held overnight at the nearby Portsmouth National Guard Armory. The following morning, the occupiers were released on personal recognizance bond.
By then, the Clamshell Alliance, though barely a month old, had become the most controversial anti-nuclear group on the American scene. It served public notice that patience with the days of lobbying and legal intervention had come to an end.
A third occupation of the Seabrook site was scheduled for the fall, but for complex reasons, the organization shifted gears and chose instead an energy fair and mass bike ride which, on the weekend of October 23, attracted more than 3,000 participants to the Hampton Beach State Park, 2 miles across the marsh from the plant site. At the fair, the alliance set April 30, 1977, as the date for the third occupation, and then settled in for a long winter of organizing.
In the spring the anti-nuclear forces were given a strong boost by town meeting victories in Seabrook and six other towns along the New Hampshire seacoast. Seabrook had voted in January 1976 to oppose construction of the plant; at its 1977 town meeting, it voted to ban transportation of radioactive materials through its streets. It was joined by all its contiguous New Hampshire neighbors and, in early May, Salisbury, Mass., which has a common border with Seabrook on the south, also voted against the plant, thus closing the circle.
Meanwhile, the local Clamshell groups worked toward the April 30th occupation. Each chapter conducted training sessions aimed it improving relationships within the group, as well as instruction in role-playing and legal background to prepare people for the occupation itself.