When Mary Moore began protesting Bohemian Grove's annual schmooze-a-thon and its nuclear repercussions in 1981, Occupy mastermind Micah White hadn't even been born. But as Occupy's twentysomethings joined Moore's silver-haired Bohemian Grove Action Network under the redwoods to hear a firsthand account of the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown and its aftermath, chanting "no nukes" suddenly seemed relevant again.
Every summer, 2,500 members of the exclusive Bohemian Club descend on the 2,700-acre redwood grove in Monte Rio for two weeks of "arts, music, theater, lectures, and fellowship," according to spokesman Sam Singer. Critics have long decried the potential for backroom deals at the grove; in 1942, portions of the Manhattan Project were allegedly planned at the encampment.
"These are the elite men of the corporate, financial, military, and government worlds," Moore says. "We're worried about how their policies affect you and me. And we want to tell people how they make decisions — this isn't how you learned it in civics class."
Occupiers from Reno, Nev., Portland, Ore., Los Angeles, and across the Bay Area turned out on July 14 for the first Occupy Bohemian Grove event, dubbed "The Creation of Care" in opposition to the club's "Cremation of Care" bonfire. Between protest songs, marching bands, and poets were a panoply of perspectives: Code Pink spoke out against the proliferation of drones; Project Censored lambasted corporate media.
"I want you to listen to the voice of Fukushima," said kimono-bedecked Chieko Shiina, through a translator. The crowd paid rapt attention as Shiina described her life before what the Japanese call "3/11" — the day a 9.0-magnitude earthquake shook the island, leading to the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
For more than a decade, Shiina grew her own food, bartered with neighbors, cooked on a wood stove, and chased fireflies with her grandchildren in the summertime. After the meltdown, her garden and firewood were contaminated. Her stove became "like a tiny nuclear power plant in my home."
Local children developed chronic nosebleeds, colds, and diarrhea, which doctors dismissed as stress-related. Shiina wants to open a clinic to treat survivors like them.
"Every day we are living in uncertainty," she said. The audience — baby boomers and millennials alike — erupted in a "no nukes" chant, fists pumping.
Of course, the Bohemian Club and its protesters operate in completely separate spheres. The club's lecturers have included nuclear physicist and Manhattan Project founder Edward Teller, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. "The Bohemian Club is neither for nor against nuclear power," Singer says. "It doesn't take stands."