This Week in Amherst History

As tensions mount around the world and in the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks, the issue of civilian safety becomes more and more prevalent. Interestingly, and ironically, the Amherst community was facing these same issues 41 years ago this week, although the circumstances were precipitated by different events.

“While Massachusetts tested its sirens in the state-wide civil defense alert today, two Amherst students led a protest against reliance upon bomb shelters as protection against the dangers of nuclear war,” reported The Student. In the midst of the cold war and the nuclear arms race, American citizens worried about the threat of nuclear war.

Students demonstrated in front of a billboard on Route 9 that encouraged the construction of bomb shelters as a primary defense against fallout.

According to The Student, the protestors were members of a group known as Synthesis, “an informal four-college organization designed to develop political awareness among its members … which denies any affiliation with pacifist or leftist groups, and favors disarmament, civil rights, and civil liberties.”

The demonstration, which was monitored by Massachusetts State Police, featured signs promoting peace as the only shelter and alternative to nuclear war. The group also distributed pamphlets with hopes to educate the public on this issue. “They attacked public reliance upon bomb shelters, which they declared ‘do not protect from long range fallout, bacteriological warfare, or a surprise nuclear attack,'” reported The Student.