The good ship Golden Rule is a miracle of the modern peace movement. In its iconic quest for global peace and ecological sanity, it has been re-floated, revived … and now hit by a police boat!!!
The boat was first launched from a dock near Los Angeles in 1958 by Quaker activists intending to sail into the Marshall Islands to stop nuclear weapons testing.
Among those present was the legendary singer John Raitt, star of the stage shows Carousel and Oklahoma, and leading man in the film Pajama Game. His daughter, multiple-Grammy-winner Bonnie Raitt, has carried on the tradition of No Nukes commitment throughout her stellar career.
The 1950s Golden Rule crew of four were arrested before they could get into the test zone. One sailor for peace, Jim Peck, contracted tuberculosis while imprisoned in Honolulu.
But their cause was picked up by another boat, the Hiroshima Phoenix, which did affect the testing. The entire effort contributed mightily to a global disarmament movement that won a lasting atmospheric test ban in 1963. Millions of living creatures (possibly including you) have been saved from death and disease by the halt in radioactive fallout from the US and USSR’s flood of bombs.
The Golden Rule subsequently sank in Humboldt Bay, California. But in 2010 it was rescued by Leroy Zerlang. A crew led by Chuck DeWitt of Veterans for Peace spent five years restoring her to seaworthiness, and the Golden Rule was relaunched on June 20, 2015.
On June 8, 2016, the reborn Golden Rule sailed into Portland, Oregon, to “greet” Fleet Week – an annual maritime invasion of US and Canadian warships meant to put on a public display of military might. This year the warships include a PT boat and numerous other armed vessels.
On Thursday, June 9, the Golden Rule set sail around 1:00 p.m. to travel up the Willamette River. The drizzle was steady. The purpose was to show our colors for peace amidst the fleet week warships.
With the ship moving by motor power, the crew unfurled large red sails featuring its peace sign and the Veterans for Peace logo. Through the gray, chilly chop, the ship sailed peacefully around the men of war. There was no intent to stage a blockade or to do civil disobedience.
In the steady rain, podcasting via cell phone from the ship’s deck, the “Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show” was wet but sustainable. It featured activists Helen Jaccard and Mimi German, who discussed the ship’s history and the movement in the northwest to shut the WPPS2 nuclear power plant, the region’s last operating commercial reactor, which is losing tens of millions of dollars per year.
Finally, while preparing to sail back to dock, the Golden Rule idled behind a drawbridge, waiting for it to rise. Suddenly a Washington County patrol boat with a two-man crew came along our starboard side. The Golden Rule had been peacefully boarded at least once during the day, and there was extensive, cordial communication between us and various police patrols.
But while inexplicably floating right next to the Golden Rule, the Washington County boat suddenly gunned its engine. Neither its lights nor sirens were on. As it turned sharply away, the sharp corner of its rear smacked into the hull of the Golden Rule, about a yard directly below my feet.
“The Sheriff’s Patrol boat made an emergency maneuver to avoid an impending serious collision,” says an official press release. “The port aft of the Sheriff’s Patrol boat collided with the starboard of the sailboat.” The Sheriff’s office says the damage was “minor.”
In a separate statement, the crew of the Golden Rule called the damage “cosmetic” and said, “We were unintentionally ‘hit’ by incompetent Sheriff’s deputies.”
Standing directly above the point where the police boat’s tail smacked into our hull, it wasn’t clear to me what the two officers meant to do, or why they had sailed in choppy waters to sit within just a few feet of us. The officer in the back of the boat in stood in clear view about fifty feet from me. He showed no emotion when his boat hit the Golden Rule. I could not see the driver.
But activists working with the Golden Rule cite ongoing problems. “They decided to come up on us without any warning or signals,” says Jaccard, of Veterans for Peace. “They were not in control of their boat.”
“It was an act of aggression,” says German, of No Nukes NW. “They fucking rammed The Golden Rule peace boat!”
Meanwhile, the ship will be sailing throughout the West Coast promoting the cause of peace.
Some 58 years after its maiden voyage, this legendary little boat is once again at center stage in the global struggle against the nuclear madness.
In a nation bristling with atomic weapons and reactors, where innocent civilians are regularly gunned down en masse, this graceful vessel represents an ark of civility, nonviolence and hope.
Six decades after it first helped stop a bomb-testing program that spewed deadly radiation throughout the atmosphere and threatened all life on Earth, the Golden Rule is back to say that peace is possible … and essential to our survival.