Disarm Now Plowshares indicted for November 2009 witness

A federal grand jury finally handed down a litany of indictments against five nuclear  resisters who entered the U.S. Navy’s West Coast nuclear weapons storage depot in a plowshares action on November 2, 2009.

On September 3, 2010 the United States Attorney announced the indictments handed down by a grand jury in Tacoma, Washington, against members of Disarm Now Plowshares came ten months after their plowshares action in which they entered Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in the early morning hours of November 2, 2009, All Souls Day, with the intention of calling attention to the illegality and immorality of the existence of the Trident weapons system.

During the action they held a banner saying…“Disarm Now Plowshares : Trident: Illegal + Immoral”,  left a trail of blood, hammered on the roadway and fences around Strategic Weapons Facility – Pacific (SWFPAC) and scattered sunflower seeds throughout the base.  They gained entry to the secure nuclear weapons storage facility known as Strategic Weapons Facility-Pacific (SWFPAC) where they were detained, and after extensive questioning by base security, FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), cited for trespass and destruction of government property, given ban and bar letters and released.

Sr. Anne Montgomery, 83, of Redwood City, California, Fr. Bill “Bix” Bichsel, 82, of Tacoma, Washington, Susan Crane, 65, of Baltimore, Maryland, Lynne M. Greenwald, 61, of Bremerton, Washington, and Fr. Steve Kelly, 61, of Oakland, California, each face up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on the government’s charges of “conspiracy, trespass, destruction of property on a naval installation, and depredation of government property.”

Following a 10-month wait, the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants are ready to face trial in the Western District of Washington stemming from their Nov. 2, 2009 disarmament action.

In the months since her action, Greenwald, a retired community health nurse and social worker, and mother of three grown children, has welcomed her first grandchild into the world.  Knowing that Jack has been born into a nuclear-armed world has given her more of a sense of urgency “to wake people up” to the imperative of nuclear disarmament, and “to expose what we choose to avoid,” Greenwald said.

Moving to Kitsap County in 1983 to join the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action Greenwald participated in several nonviolent actions at the Trident Base and is currently on probation for “crossing the blue line” August 2009. She currently lives in Tacoma and works with the Tacoma Catholic Worker.

Bichsel said he feels compelled by his faith to continue risking his freedom for peace, despite two open-heart surgeries that require him to take frequent rests during even light exertion.  “The power of the resurrection is much stronger than our destructive ways,” he said. “I believe the presence of God made manifest through the witness of nonviolent action will break the bonds of fear, hopelessness, and death in which nuclear weapons imprison us.”

The fact that five unarmed, nonviolent, peace activists could enter a deadly-force, high-security installation without being detected exposes the lie that nuclear weapons make us secure, Bichsel said.  “We hope to expose the fact that these weapons create absolutely no security.  They bring nothing but fear and further proliferation of weapons and war.”

Thirty years ago this month, Montgomery was involved in what was the first of more than 100 Plowshare disarmament actions when she was among a group of eight people who hammered on components of a Mark 12A nuclear missile at General Electric’s King of Prussia, PA weapons plant.

“It is distressing that 30 years later the nuclear weapons are still here,” Montgomery said. “And the reason that I’m acting is that they’re still here. As citizens of a nation ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ we must take our responsibility to use every nonviolent means necessary to eliminate these illegal weapons of mass destruction.”

Kelly, who has spent more than six years in prison for anti-war actions, said the abolition of slavery, an institution many people thought would never end, gives him hope that humans will turn away from nuclear weapons. The abolition of slavery required leadership, Kelly said.   The same kind of leadership from the Unites States will be required to abolish nuclear weapons.   “We’re not asking for unilateral disarmament,” Kelly said. “Somebody has got to lead, and the most reluctant party in all of this is the United States.  We’ve got to get rid of these things.  Everybody’s got to get rid of them, period.”

Funding for war and the nuclear arms race is coming at the expense of programs for the poor, Kelly said. “We’re going to crumble from within.”  As he faces trial once again, and the prospect of another long federal prison sentence, Kelly said he remains hopeful that humans will turn away from war and nuclear weapons.  “It gives me tremendous hope to live for what I may not be able to see achieved in my lifetime,” he said.

Kelly said he expects the Disarm Now Plowshares trial to be “another act of resistance” because the government will try to limit what the defendants have to say about nuclear weapons and war. The judicial body functions as a legitimizer of nuclear weapons, Kelly said. “Our actions, which could be part of the solutions, are deemed illegal, because nuclear weapons are legal,” so that courtroom becomes a place of further resistance.”

Crane, a mother of two grown children, and who is expecting her first grandchild, said one of her goals at the trial will be to show the jury that the five had no intent to break any laws, but rather they came to the Navy base to uphold international laws.  The Trident D-5 warheads at the base, highly accurate first-strike weapons “are against international law by their very existence,”

Crane said. “The nuclear warheads, if used, indiscriminately kill civilians, cause radiation burns, poison the environment and create sickness and genetic damage for generations to come.  “Additionally, these weapons are our responsibility.  They were made with our tax dollars, and will be used in our name. We are the ones who have the duty and responsibility to disarm them.”

The Disarm Now Plowshares defendants will appear in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for arraignment on September 24, 2010, at 1:30 p.m.

There have been more than 100 Plowshares Nuclear Resistance Actions worldwide since 1980. Plowshares actions are taken from Isaiah 2:4 in Old Testament (Hebrew) scripture of the Christian Bible, “God will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many people. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not take up swords against nations, nor will they train for war anymore.”

The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles west of Seattle, is home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal, housing more than 2000 nuclear warheads.  In November 2006, the Natural Resources Defense Council declared that the 2,364 nuclear warheads at Bangor are approximately 24 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal.  The Bangor base houses more nuclear warheads than China, France, Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan combined.

The base has been rebuilt for the deployment of the larger and more accurate Trident D-5 missile system.  Each of the 24 D-5 missiles on a Trident submarine is capable of carrying eight of the larger 455 kiloton W-88 warheads (each warhead is about 30 times the explosive force as the Hiroshima bomb) and costs approximately $60 million.  The D-5 missile can also be armed with the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead.  The Trident fleet at Bangor deploys both the 455 kiloton W-88 warhead and the 100 kiloton W-76 warhead.

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Editor’s Note: Click here to read the press release announcing the indictments for Disarm Now Plowshares from the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington.  Of interest is the statement by U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan that “All citizens are free to disagree with their government. But they are not free to destroy property or risk the safety of others.”  A November 4, 2009 article in Military.com, 5 Arrested for Breaking Into Navy Base, contradicts Durkan’s allegation; the Military.com article quoted a Navy press release as saying, “At no time was the safety of Navy personnel, property, or the public threatened in any way.”

3 Responses

  1. “The Disarm Now Plowshares defendants will appear in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for arraignment on September 24, 2010, at 1:30 p.m.”
    Please post how individuals or organizations can express support for their innocence.
    thank you,
    Francine

  2. […] group’s website recaps the action and has some great quotes from the activists about how they’re taking the […]

  3. […] has long been settled (hint: it’s not), the verdict also provides some hope for the activists now facing federal charges for trespassing at Kitsap County’s Bangor nuclear sub base last year. Arraignment on those […]

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