In August of 1985, Jessie Cocks, Nancy Hale and Jim Driscoll from the Nuclear FREEZE Campaign decided to recruit Peter Bergel, Ted Coran and Nancy Heskett, and became the founders of The Great American Peace Test – a project of the Nuclear FREEZE Campaign. This was later shortened to American Peace Test (APT). In the fall of 1985, this group organized 30 days of nonviolent civil disobedience at the Nevada Test Site (NTS), leading up to the Reagan/Gorbachev Summit in Iceland. Well over 100 people were arrested.
Early the following year the American Peace Test became a separate organization, and that summer APT held its first large action at NTS. Dan Ellsberg and Oregon Congressman Jim Weaver spoke at the protest. Bill Rosse of the Western Shoshone National connected with APT around this time. APT continued to organize anti-nuclear demonstrations at the NTS, for, and with, groups like Union of Concerned Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Great Peace March. Support came from individual celebrities such as Carl Sagan and Martin Sheen for APT activities. Although APT protestors had been arrested and charged with trespass through 1986, by that winter, organizers Peter Bergel and Jessie Cocks were cited for “conspiracy to commit trespass,” a more serious criminal charge. These charges dragged on for almost a year, but were finally dropped, thanks to the assistance of Carl Sagan and Nye County Sheriff Lt. Jim Merlino.
By 1987 APT organized much larger gatherings at the NTS with celebrities such as Teri Garr, Casey Casem, Robert Blake, and Kris Kristofferson involved. That same year APT core staff appeared at a series of exclusive house parties in major cities across the country attended by wealthy donors and celebrities like Sheen, Ellsberg, Brian Willson, Peter Yarrow, Ronnie Gilbert, E. L. Doctorow, and Mary Stuart Masterson.
In early 1988 five thousand people attended the largest APT protest so far. Twelve hundred were arrested in one day. New celebrities such as Top Forty DJ Casey Kasem – the most listened to person in the world – , six members of the U.S. Congress attended the large protest and the U.S. national media covered the event for days. Even the Olympic flame was carried to the protest by a team of runners. However, at the same time APT was being consumed by internal conflicts. During the following months, the entire staff, including all the founders, were fired and the organization was taken over by a new board. Throughout the next year APT got $80,000 into debt and the new board resigned. With the internal conflicts and financial instability APT organizers sponsored smaller events. Over the next few years APT flounders, and Larry Levy, David Solnit attempted to pay off APT’s debts. By the mid 1990s with a partial Comprehensive Test Ban as U.S. policy and declining attendance at protest, APT members voted to close down the organization. Protests at the NTS continued, sponsored by other organizations.