PAPEETE, Tahiti — Thousands of Tahitians, supported by politicians from around the world, marched arm in arm through the Tahitian capital on Saturday to step up pressure on Paris to cancel nuclear tests in the South Pacific.
The four-mile march into the center of Papeete was led by Tahitian independence movement leader Oscar Temaru and Japanese Finance Minister Masayoshi Takemura, the most senior of about 50 international politicians here for the march.
Takemura, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with "Stop Nuclear Tests," described the imminent resumption of underground testing ordered by French President Jacques Chirac at coral atolls in French Polynesia as a "terror."
"We are approaching the lose of the 20th Century, and nuclear testing is about to be resumed in this beautiful area of the South Pacific," he said. He spoke to 2,000 to 3,000 people gathered on the outskirts of Papeete who then marched on the French High Commission building.
"I think this is nothing but a terror for us."
Protesters carried huge banners reading "Chirac Assassin" and "No Nuclear Testing" as the colorful procession, featuring the blue and white flag of Tahiti's independence movement. Roadblocks that had brought the city to a standstill since Friday were lifted to allow the marchers into Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia.
"Our aim is to get our freedom from this colonial power and this nuclear power--they are linked," said Temaru, a leading anti-nuclear activist in Tahiti.
The march also included Australian politicians, Japanese legislators bearing photographs of victims of Hiroshima, as well as Italian, Swedish, Danish and New Zealand politicians. Local women and children sang Tahitian songs.
Temaru was arrested along with a group of Greenpeace activists Friday for raiding the main Mururoa Atoll test site by ship and inflatable boats. He was returned to Tahiti along with 22 Greenpeace activists and Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, the non-voting Democratic delegate to Congress from American Samoa.
France plans to hold seven or eight tests at Mururoa and its Fangataufa atoll test site before May, 1996.