Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa have dedicated most of their adult lives to the pursuit of a peaceful, nuclear-free world. For nearly 40 years, they have published the Nuclear Resister, a newsletter chronicling the arrests of anti-nuclear war and anti-nuclear power protestors. Through this publication, Felice and Jack educate the public about the arrests of activists and inspire support for imprisoned protestors.
In fighting for the anti-nuclear cause, more than 100,000 protestors have been arrested in the past 40 years. They have been charged with everything from trespassing to destruction of government property, to depredation of Navy property. Still, the cause and messages of imprisoned protestors live on through the chronicles published on the Nuclear Resister.
For the couple’s dedication to informing the public about these arrests, the Germany-based Nuclear Free Future Foundation recently awarded them with their 2020 prize in the education category.
“For Jack and I to receive this award because of our work with the Nuclear Resister, to me just says a lot about the power of all the people, of these 100,000 arrests, of these thousand people who have been to jail,” Felice said. “It really is something that we share with all the people we’ve written about and supported over the years.”
According to Jack and Felice, some people protest on behalf of their religious beliefs or their own principles, others because of personal experiences.
The anti-nuclear message touches Jack personally. He grew up in Denver near the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant. His sister and nieces, who still live there, have all suffered from multiple chronic health conditions, and Jack attributes their illnesses to the proximity of the weapons plant.
“I feel very closely connected to the personal impact of nuclear weapons but on just a human perspective, what gives us the right to threaten to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people in a single blow?” he said. “What gives anyone that right?”
Felice found her call to action during college after learning about the suffering of people who built nuclear weapons and about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“Hearing testimony from the people who had survived the U.S. atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan 75 years ago, it’s heartbreaking and I knew that I had to do everything I could to make sure that never happened to anyone again,” Felice said.
According to the Cohen-Joppas, the coronavirus pandemic has minimized the number and frequency of protests. They said anti-nuclear activists are hesitant to risk being arrested for fear of outbreaks in prisons across the country.
“The focus of the Nuclear Resister is prisoner support and right now there has been someone in a Georgia jail since April of 2018,” Felice said. “He’s now waiting for sentencing. We’ve got the COVID-19 situation so people are really hesitant to do anything that might risk going to jail because there are outbreaks of coronavirus in jails and prisons.”
Despite abating protests, Felice said technology has helped circulate the stories of arrested and imprisoned protestors.
“The first issue of the newsletter was written on a manual typewriter and now it’s all done on the computer,” she said. “Now we have a website and we have Facebook and Twitter pages, and we send out an e-bulletin. So, in terms of being able to provide timely support for the prisoners, now we can update people easily and regularly if calls are needed or letters to the judge are needed.”
Felice and Jack passionately support the anti-nuclear cause through the publication of their newsletter. The messages and call to action documented in the Nuclear Resister have inspired and rallied protestors for decades, and the 2020 education award is a testament to their impact on the activist community.