Mother's Day at Project ELF

May 13, 2001
Nearly two hundred activists descended on Project ELF, the Navy's controversial radio transmitter in northern Wisconsin, in the largest demonstration in the nation celebrating the antiwar origins of Mother's Day. Eleven people were arrested for blocking the driveway into the facility. Participants also wove colorful yarn webs across a forest service roadway and giant puppets enacted the suffering of children around the world due to a bloated military budget.

Project ELF has been described as a "relic of the Cold War" by Senator Russ Feingold who has introduced legislation to cut funding for the transmitter almost annually since the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980's. Opponents claim the only purpose Project ELF serves is to initiate a first strike nuclear attack against Russia's remaining nuclear forces.

ELF (short for Extremely Low Frequency} radio waves circle the globe continuously, penetrating deep into the ocean allowing the Navy's fearsome Trident submarines to submerge undetected while remaining close to their targets. Each of the 24 missiles on a submarine is equipped with up to eight hydrogen bombs which can reach their targets within fifteen to twenty minutes destroying Russian nuclear forces in their silos before they can be used.

" With Trident as the sword and the missile defensive initiative as the shield, the Russians are still very worried that during times of international crisis, the United States may be tempted to win a nuclear war by striking first," said Bonnie Urfer, co-director of Nukewatch. Urfer is currently serving six months in federal prison for cutting down poles supporting the ELF transmission lines last June. " We are very encouraged by the resurgence of particularly student activists, many of whom were still children when the Cold War was raging out of control," said Urfer.

John Laforge, the other co-director of Nukewatch, was one of those arrested Saturday afternoon. He had only been out of jail a few hours after serving two months in jail for a similar trespass action last January. "A ground swell of antinuclear activity is taking place in Europe as they feel more vulnerable to the effects of a nuclear exchange should it ever take place," said LaForge. "The Russians came within minutesof launching their nuclear missiles in 1995 when they mistook a Norwegian weather satellite for incoming American missiles," said LaForge. "The danger with nuclear forces is the perceived need (by US and Russian military counterparts) to use them or lose them," said LaForge.

Julia Ward Howe is credited for starting Mother's Day in 1870 as an attempt to urge mothers not to give up their children as fodder for war. Groups around the US have staged protests to mark the day since the end of hostilities with the old Soviet Union.