Newspaper: The Sentinel

Date: April 9, 1979

Article: The rally: Not just activists

Author: Dennis O' Brien


HARRISBURG - Like most rallies, impassioned radicals called for an end to Three Mile Island and its "nuclear time bomb."

Folk singers led chants.

Petitions were signed and a number of bumper stickers and buttons were sold or handed out.

Marching demonstrators wore gas masks, shouted slogans and carried signs with sayings that read "Ban the nuke," "Danger, radiation city," and "Nuclear power is not healthy for little children and other living things."

But there was something different at this demonstration - something that set it apart from the antiwar rallies of the 60s.

MOST OF THE demonstrators, out under cloudy skies Sunday on the Capital steps, were not the fire breathing activists or militant reactionaries that called for an end to Vietnam before it became popular.

They were central Pennsylvania's middle class. Factory workers, preschool children, old men and mothers - the type you might see on a floor wax commercial or in a cigarette advertisement.

Mixed in with the long hair, the blue jeans and the army jackets, were the hard hats, the baby carriages and the teenagers in football jerseys.

"The whole TMI thing is something that's got me worried," said Angela Herrider, a Middletown resident and the mother of two children.

"It's the kind of thing husbands and wives are fighting about. The husbands are saying there's no danger and the wives want their kids out of there," she said.

Herrider, with one five-year old and one eight-year old, said she intended to go back to college, but is now using the money she saved for tuition to enroll her children in a private school in Maryland.

"WITH RADIATION, the things is, you never know about the effects," said another mother from Mechanicsburg. She looks to the crowd of about 1,000 people at the rally and adds, "The reason only this many people showed up is that they're still afraid to come out… and I'm talking about my neighbors."
Meanwhile, Dr. Thomas Winters, a physician from the University of Massachusetts, told the crowd that "there's nothing you can do to run from the (radiation's) effects.

"There are two ways you can battle with the end effects, though," said Winter, a member of a group called Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"You can use a very complicated and expensive method of chemical treatments, or you can just make sure that no nuclear plants like Three Mile Island are ever built," Winters said to a cheering crowd.
The rally slated for 2 p.m. at the capitol, was planned by Three Mile Island Alert, a group that has opposed TMA for several years.

BUT IT WAS apparent from the rally that the group was not a full-time organization, or one that was used to planning major assemblies.

At times, the public address system failed. They ran out of copies for the press of the list of speakers and their names.

There were repeated pleas for money and most of the eight or ten speakers were concerned local residents, not polished performers.

Dr. Judith Johnsrud, co-director of the statewide Environmental Coalition on Nuclear Power, charged that Metropolitan Edison had been illegally operating unit two of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant since it started up Dec.31.

She claimed there were no environmental impact statements filed before the unit began operating and the plant violated certain safety requirements of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act.

She said the group has filed a petition in the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. stating that the plant's license was improperly issued.

If the group wins the case, Met Ed, the government and the plant's designers will be liable for the damages, Johnsrud said.

"You were told that this type of accident couldn't happen now you know that it could," she said. "How ready were you to evacuate, did you have your birth certificates, your insurance policies and your other records packed and ready? How informed were you? she asked.

Ken Cassidy, a factory worker from Middletown told the crowd that he was very concerned about the Three Mile Island and about the lack of information he had about the incidents,
WITH A pregnant wife and a 14-month-old baby, he said he didn't know who to believe.

"They waited 2½ days before telling us that we should leave the area," said Cassidy.

He adds that in the near future he intends to leave the area permanently.

"They claim that the biggest advantages to nuclear power are that it's safe, that it's inexpensive and that it's all right for the environment, but I think this has shown that it's not safe, it's not cheap and it's not going to be around, I hope," he said.

Renny Cushing, a founder of the antinuclear Clamshell Alliance, based in Seabrook, N.H., said the alliance was supporting the antinuclear drive in Pennsylvania.

"They said that it's safe now at Three Mile Island, and that the danger's over. But it's not over, it's only beginning."