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Nuclear-free initiative in Cambridge, Mass., meets stiff opposition

Antinuclear activists and local citizens are gearing up for the final round of what has been ironically referred to as a ''battle'' to make this university city a nuclear-free zone.

Mobilization for Survival, a Cambridge-based political organization, gained momentum three weeks ago when the Cambridge City Council placed its controversial Nuclear-free-Cambridge initiative on the Nov. 8 municipal ballot.

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If passed by Cambridge voters and upheld by the courts, the initiative would prohibit any new research, development, testing, or production of nuclear weapons in Cambridge after the election. Cambridge also would become the first nuclear-free zone to force out companies accepting United States Defense Department contracts. Violators could be fined up to $5,000 and sentenced to 60 days in jail for each violation.

Mobilization for Survival's campaign is being waged against C. S. Draper Laboratories, a 1960s spinoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Some $100 million of Draper Lab's $140 million budget in 1982 came from defense contracts to design and build guidance systems for MX, cruise, and Poseidon missiles.

Citizens Against Research Bans, a group that organized this summer but made its official debut last week, leads the opposition. ''Draper Labs is 'involved,' (but) I wouldn't say 'behind' it,'' a group spokesman says.

Citizens Against Research Bans brought Rick Clausen here from Los Angeles to coordinate the group's efforts. Mr. Clausen says members are trying to get the message to Cambridge voters that ''the initiative is binding.''

In addition, he says, ''a number of members on the executive committee are nationally known in arms control'' and are against the initiative. ''George Rathjens of MIT, for example. Talk about prominence in the field - he's the guy.''

The group is getting its message across, Clausen says, via telephone, letters , ''Saturday leaflet-ing,'' and other grass-roots work. ''We have no budget,'' Clausen says, ''in fact, we're flying by the seat of our pants.'' He won't say how much the group has to work with but admits the group is ''raising money from local businesses.''

In Mobilization for Survival's Cambridge office, a former fallout shelter beneath Central Square, spokesman Rich Schreuer acknowledges the opposition group is ''an incredibly formidable organization'' but only due to funding.

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''We are operating day-to-day on about $2,500. We have bills for $2,000. I'd guess the opposition has already spent $100,000 on legal fees, bringing in a political consultant from California, staffing two shifts on a 21-phone phone bank, and conducting public opinion polls. . . ''

But Mr. Schreuer says Mobilization also has been distributing pamphlets, canvassing ''about 40 to 60 homes'' each night, passing out bumper stickers and T-shirts. The group has its own five-phone phone bank - a cardboard box filled with five telephones and tangled cords. ''Unfortunately, we don't have volunteers to run them tonight,'' Schreuer says.

Schreuer says Mobilization is telling people that ''passing the initiative can have an effect. It could give a boost to the nuclear-freeze movement, and it's going to send a powerful message to Washington.''

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