LGBTQ Activists Jump Into the Atlantic to Protest Nuclear Weapons

Leon Kirschner, Robert Croonquist, Ardes Quinn, and Brendan Fay held signs as they sprinted into the ocean.
Donna Aceto

LGBTQ activists Brendan Fay and Robert Croonquist huddled with other New York-based members of International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and ran into the Atlantic Ocean at Far Rockaway on New Year’s Day as part of a public demonstration against nuclear weapons.

The activists, who plunged into the freezing waters at Rockaway Beach and 92nd Street, are pushing the City Council to move forward with a resolution asking the city comptroller to divest pension funds of public employees from sources of nuclear weapons and a bill creating an advisory committee that would evaluate nuclear disarmament and other issues geared towards making New York City a nuclear weapons-free zone. Those bills were proposed by out gay Councilmember Daniel Dromm of Queens, who has welcomed the support of dozens of co-sponsors in both cases.

The activists are asking out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to advance the measures before the Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons becomes international law on January 22.

Brendan Fay (left) and Robert Croonquist (right) wore masks remembering those lost during the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War Two.Donna Aceto

Fay wore a Rainbow-colored scarf as he stormed into the ocean and many activists held signs expressing messages such as “Nuclear weapons target New York City” and “Nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity.”

“Today we are polar bears for peace,” Fay said in a written statement. “We join this exuberant New Year’s ritual to celebrate life, health and hope. As disarmament activists, for the sake of children, their future, and love of Earth, we are determined to make our world free of nuclear weapons. Besides, this is the inspiring legacy of generations of New Yorkers like Dorothy Day, Bayard Rustin and Mayor David Dinkins.”

Croonquist, a former public school teacher who is a member of Rise and Resist and the Reclaim Pride Coalition, said he was driven to jump into the ocean when he thought about the high school students he taught at Jamaica High School in Queens.

“This legislation would divert my pension’s investments from weapons of mass destruction and redirect them to things that bring true security — investments in food, housing, climate, infrastructure and healthcare. And boy, that water was even colder than the Boundary Waters of the Northern Minnesota of my youth. What we do for love!”

Kathleen Sullivan emphasized the point that New York City remains tied to nuclear weapons.Donna Aceto
The freezing water was worth it for activists who were aiming to make a point about nukes.Donna Aceto
Matthew Bolton and Emily Welty were bundled up until it was time to jump into the sea.Donna Aceto
Activists successfully returned to land after stepping into the ocean on New Year’s Day.Donna Aceto

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