Blocking the Doors of the Treaty Blockers & the Nuclear Ban Treaty’s 3d Anniversary

This weekend marks the 3d anniversary of the coming-into-force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

( The TPNW now has seventy “states parties” and two dozen governments moving to see it ratified. The Entry Into Force anniversary will be celebrated all over the world as the best means of preventing accidental or deliberate detonations of the most poisonous and overwhelmingly destructive weapons in human history. (Universalization would also end today’s regular use of nuclear weapons which are employed by nine governments the way bank robbers use a pistol: without pulling the trigger, they still get the loot. It’s no deterrence but armed robbery.)

So far, the nine nuclear-armed governments have dismissed the TPNW as a political annoyance, the naïve aspiration of an unschooled group of UN member states (the 122 out of 193 that voted for enactment). This neo-colonial condescension shrewdly ignores the millions of people from TPNW-friendly countries who are sick from radiation poisoning after being targeted by the nuclear mobsters’ bomb testing and uranium mining.

However, no tangent but a super-majority of UN members decided that the nuclear powers must have lied when they promised in 1970, in Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) — 57 years ago — “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date”, etc., etc. After six decades, “at an early date” has become the laugh line of international law. And the phrase was of course vague enough for nuclear threat mongers to ignore it indefinitely, while asserting their lawful adherence. The U.S. state department still claims on paper, “The United States is in full compliance with all of its NPT obligations, including Article VI.” (

Fed-up with decades of such lip service, 122 United Nations governments took to heart Art. VI’s mandate to pursue disarmament in good faith, and in 2017 they produced the TPNW. The treaty is now part of the “rules based order” that President Biden loves to pose with.


Early last month, the United Nations held its second meeting of governments that have ratified the TPNW. Although held at UN headquarters in New York City, the United States stuck to its jaundiced opposition and ignored the gathering.

It strikes anti-poverty activists as particularly outrageous that U.S. policy forbids participating in efforts to rid the world of the colossal expense of nuclear weapons. With 38 million U.S. citizens living in poverty, and 16% of all children in the United States — 11.6 million kids total — living in poverty, the cost of the nuclear arsenal appears obscenely viscous and unjust, not just to advocates for the homeless.

This is why a group of 18 homeless shelter providers (mostly) took the opportunity of the UN nuclear ban treaty meeting to risk arrest pointing the finger at U.S. rejection of the TPNW, U.S. nuclear weapons production, and its global nuclear threats.

On November 30, a group of about 45 gathered outside the U.S. mission to the UN, directly across the street from UN HQ. The group — organized mostly by homeless shelter providers with the Catholic Worker Movement — brought out banners and stickers and nonviolently embodied the global disgust and anger over U.S.-led opposition to abolishing nuclear weapons.

Around lunch time, the group arrived and with a novel “bumper sticker” — oversized at about 3-feet by 9’ — and successfully stuck it to the U.S. mission’s large plate glass front wall. They then divided into small groups that took to blockading the three entrances to the mission. This exercise in nonviolent civil resistance garnered not a peep from the commercial media which favors reporting on terrorist actions, gun violence, and VIP scandal.

The mission doors were blocked for a few hours, the New York police zip-tied and hauled the radical peaceniks off to the precinct. After 4 p.m. the 18 were released with a December court date pending. That hearing resulted mostly in suspended sentences, which is a nearly perfect irony regarding nuclear weapons, which still hang like suspended sentences over everyone.

Nuclear weapons abolitionists and homeless shelter providers blockaded the doors to the US Mission to the UN Nov. 30, 2023 during the Second Meeting of UN States Parties to the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Photos by Felton Davis, New York Catholic Worker


John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.