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A look back at “Bump the Dump”

by Frederick Sinclair

Thirty three years have passed since the citizens of Allegany County stood in opposition to the NYS Low Level Radioactive Waste Siting Commission (Commission) and the Nuclear Industry who attempted to locate a radioactive waste disposal facility in our community. 5,000 strong, County citizens confronted the Dump Commission in Belfast and said NO ! “ We will fight you in the science, we will fight you in the courts and if necessary we will fight you in the streets!” proclaimed an Alfred University professor. The uproar from the crowd was deafening; still resonating in the hearts and spirit of those who stood fighting to protect our quality of life.

The development of a Non Violent Civil Disobedience strategy spawned the Allegany County Nonviolent Action Group (ACNAG), who began training those who would stand directly in the way of site development, and be prepared to be arrested. The numbers of the front line resistance steadily rose to hundreds of see trained recruits with orange armbands. An extensive network of lookouts at proposed sites, communications via citizens band (CB) radios, pre planned barricades and methods of blocking access to proposed sites were developed.  A ACNAG war room sheltered the heart of the resistance. In concert with ACNAG, an organized citizens group Concerned Citizens of Allegany County (CCAC) educated the public, mounted court challenges, published a newsletter, raised over a quarter million dollars from donations and fundraisers, set up a headquarters in a Wellsville storefront. CCAC joined with our local Assemblyman and the County legislators in a legal challenge that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Local scientists, professors and the County Soil and Water Conservation District made up the technical team which conducted the scientific and technical investigations and confronted the Commission face to face. Technical arguments successfully proved the Commission justifications for picking Allegany County were a sham.   Several ACNAG confrontations with the Commission and NYS Troopers denied them access to study multiple proposed sites. Arrests numbered over a hundred.  The music of several musicians and bands  combined to form; Bands Against Nuclear Dumping In This State. The  original  music is a creative force which masterfully inspired the entire movement. To this day BANDITS songs of protest resound as a lasting monument to the epoch events.

In the Spring of 1990, at Caneadea Bridge , dozens of ACNAG trained resistance made their stand and blocked the Commission and a full squad of State Troopers from crossing that bridge. The State forces were determined, however, and after arresting the front line of grandparents chained to the bridge, many arrests followed.  After troopers and Commissioners navigated around the farm equipment and giant hay bale barricades, ACNAG brought up from the rear the last hope; twelve draft horses with thirteen riders. Masterfully they approached the advancing Commission forces.  In a narrow stretch of road they spun their mounts in a circular fashion blocking advancement. Troopers drew their batons, poked and hit at the horses, then singled out one heroic rider and beat his hands to relinquish hold of the reigns. A troopers steel toed boot and foot was mashed under the weight of a spooked draft horse. The horseman was dragged down face first into the mud. The confrontation reached critical mass and the Captain of the invading force ordered a retreat.

The violence of the troopers against the horses and citizens was recorded on film by reporters and made the national news. Governor Mario Cuomo ordered the Commission to stand down and stay out of Allegany County. Ironically, the NYS attorneys joined in a successful CCAC and Allegany County challenge on its way to the Supreme Court.  NYS taking/forced ownership of nuclear industry radioactive waste was declared unconstitutional. The Commission was defunded. There never was a radioactive waste dump built in New York State.

The video documentary of these events can be seen on You-Tube under the title “My Name is Allegany County.” Re-mastered cd’s of the BANDITS music and the book ” Linked Arms” are available through CCAC. The complete history of events and related materials are archived at Herrick Memorial Library in Alfred.   

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