Jury Reaches Verdict in Disarm Now Plowshares Trial

From left: Bix, Susan, Steve, Anne and Lynne

Tacoma, Washington, Monday, December 13, 2010: The federal criminal trial of five veteran peace activists that began December 7 ended today after the jury found them guilty on all counts. The five defendants, called the Disarm Now Plowshares, challenged the legality and morality of the US storage and use of thermonuclear missiles by Trident nuclear submarines at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base outside Bremerton Washington.

In their defense the peace activists argued three points: the nuclear missiles at Bangor are weapons of mass destruction; those weapons are both illegal and immoral; and that all citizens have the right and duty to try to stop international war crimes from being committed by these weapons of mass destruction.

The five were charged with trespass, felony damage to federal property, felony injury to property and felony conspiracy to damage property. Each defendant faces possible sentences of up to ten years in prison.

On trial were: Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York; Bill Bischel, SJ, 81, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma Washington; Susan Crane, 67, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore, Maryland; Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from Bremerton Washington; and Steve Kelly, SJ, 60, a Jesuit priest from Oakland California. Bill Bischel and Lynne Greenwald are active members of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, a community resisting Trident nuclear weapons since 1977.

The five admitted from the start that they cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Navy base during the night of the Feast of All Souls, November 2, 2009. They then walked undetected for hours nearly four miles inside the base to the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific (SWFPAC). This top security area is where the Plowshares activists say hundreds of nuclear missiles are stored in bunkers. There they cut through two more barbed wire fences and went inside. They put up two big banners which said “Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident Illegal and Immoral,” scattered sunflower seeds, and prayed until they were arrested at dawn. Once arrested, the five were cuffed and hooded with sand bags because the marine in charge testified “when we secure prisoners anywhere in Iraq or Afghanistan we hood them…so we did it to them.”

The eight Trident nuclear submarines home ported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor each carry 24 Trident D-5 nuclear missiles. Each missile carries up to eight warheads, each one having an explosive yield of up to 475 kilotons, over 30 times the destructive force of the weapon dropped on Hiroshima.

Additionally, Bangor is home to SWFPAC where nuclear warheads are stored ready for deployment.  Located just 20 miles west of Seattle, it is home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal, housing more than 2000 nuclear warheads.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the 2,364 nuclear warheads at Bangor are approximately 24 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal, more than the combined nuclear warheads than China, France, Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan.

The jury heard testimony from peace activists who came from around the world to challenge the use of Trident nuclear weapons by the U.S.  Angie Zelter, internationally known author and Trident Ploughshares activist from the UK, testified about the resistance to Trident weapons in Europe.

Stephen Leeper, Chair of the Peace Culture Foundation in Hiroshima, told the jury, “the world is facing a critical moment” because of the existence and proliferation of nuclear weapons. Though prohibited from testifying about the details of the death, destruction, and genetic damage to civilians from the US nuclear attack on Hiroshima, he testified defendants “have a tremendous amount of support in Hiroshima.”   When asked if he had encouraged the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants in any way he said, “Yes, I told them, ‘Yes, do anything you possibly can to bring this to the consciousness of the world, because Americans more than any other people in the world are unconscious of what’s going on.’ ”

Retired US Navy Captain Thomas Rogers, 31 years in the Navy, including several years as Commander of a nuclear submarine during the Cold War, said of Trident, “strategic nuclear weapons on submarines… are kept on alert, deployed, and if ever used, they are released with a coded message that’s authenticated on board the ship, and the commander of the ship shoots the missiles, delivers the weapons.  Which, in my opinion, in my knowledge, is contrary to the law of armed conflict which says a commander is responsible for – – is responsible for following the rules and principles of humanitarian law, and for not indiscriminately hurting noncombatants and for not causing undue suffering or environmental damage, and that commanding officer is powerless, and it’s an awful feeling.

The peace activists represented themselves with lawyers as stand by counsel.  Attorneys Anabel Dwyer and Bill Quigley also assisted the defendants.  Dwyer is a Michigan attorney and Board Member of The Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP), and an expert in humanitarian law and nuclear weapons.  Quigley is the Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and Professor at Loyola New Orleans.

Prosecutors said the government would neither confirm nor deny the existence of nuclear weapons at the base, and argued that “whether of not there are nuclear weapons there or not is irrelevant.”  Prosecutors successfully objected to and excluded most of the defense evidence about the horrific effects of nuclear weapons, the illegality of nuclear weapons under U.S. treaty agreements and humanitarian law, and the right of citizens to try to stop war crimes by their government.

The Disarm Now Plowshares defendants tried to present evidence about the presence of nuclear weapons at Bangor despite repeated objections.  At one point, Sr. Anne Montgomery challenged the prosecutors and the court, “Why are we so afraid to discuss the fact that there are nuclear weapons?”

There were many indications that the jury found it difficult to convict the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants.  Jury questions,facial expressions, body language and post-trial conversations all gave this impression.  One of the jurors said that from what he could tell, no one was ready to convict right away.

After the verdict was read and the Judge Settle was about to dismiss the jury, Steve Kelly stood and announced that the defendants would like to bless the jury.  Steve and all of his co-defendants stood with their hands raised in blessing as he said, “May you go in peace and have a safe, happy holiday.”

Sentencing is scheduled for March 28, 2011 at 9:00 am.

For more information on the trial and the Plowshares peace activists please see the site for Disarm Now Plowshares https://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/ or Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action http://www.gzcenter.org/index.html

Contact:  Leonard Eiger  (425) 445-2190
Media & Outreach Coordinator
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action


19 Responses

  1. A shame. Not a surprise, but a shame.

    May the sentence be as harmless and peace-full as the intentions and actions of the Disarm Now Plowshares Five.

    Peace, Tenzing in Port Townsend

  2. I am so disappointed in this jury. Our court system is a sham these days and getting worse. Justice is NOT being served when facts are withheld. I am embarrassed to say that I obtained a law degree back in the 70’s and at the time thought that was a good thing.

  3. Sad but not surprising.

    Perhaps there will be some justice in the sentencing.

    Let us know what what we can do to help.

  4. My husband and I were so honored to spend a week supporting these splefendents (just thought of the word). Splendid human beings, so courageous in their action and in their witness at trial. Whenever we got to hear their testimony, not too redacted by the court, we heard Truth. They had to struggle to get their truth out as best they could. My favorite moments were when they did opening and closing statements. And also meeting a juror after the trial who wanted their forgiveness — he was heartbroken — didn’t know he could have gone against the judge’s instructions to only consider the narrow parameters of “the law.” These parameters didn’t consider the “supreme law of the land” from the US Constitution which came from another delightful moment when Fr. Bill Bichsel brought out of his back pocket the US Constitution and read how the keeping of treaties, etc. is the supreme law of the land. Thank you Lynne, Bill, Susan, Anne and Steve!!

  5. Thank you Bix, Susan, Steve, Anne and Lynne for your convictions and for bringing to light the hypocrisy of the U. S. defense department and the continuing excuse of the U. S. Government to hide behind an every thinning vail of secrecy. Please try to appeal your conviction to the next higher court. With the WikiLeaks airing more U. S. dirty laundry, a higher court may see it necessary to listen to what you are saying and order the U. S. to abide by the NNPT and rapidly end its reliance on the Nuclear Threat, the most sever form of terrorism that this planet has known.
    Again Thanks for all you have done and will continue to do.

  6. What an honor it was to be with you during Tuesdays trial and potluck afterwards. Bless you all.
    Gordon Sturrock
    Radical Vet, for truth, justice and non-violence

  7. Peace and thank you for your hard work.

  8. May God Bless You Father Bix, (Bill), Steve. Ann, Susan, and Lynn. And also the Legal persons, sitting there with you, ready and so willing to help when you asked for it, and even when you didn’t. And those that sat behind you and prayed and had tears in their eyes and pain in their hearts, wishing to be of some help. And yes perhaps I should include the prosecution and the judge. They worked tremendously hard to present this case. Although they tried to prevent the whole truth from coming out; now it is possible for you and I to learn of the suppression of truth and the need for all of us to be more informed so that we can make more complete moral decisions ourselves. Most especially, also, God Bless the Jury. I am so sorry that they did not have all the facts to make a totally informed decision. And I think that it was not made clear enough they did not have to convict. That was also the shortcoming of either the judge or the court system. They are not fully to blame. Now, however, it is time to do better. God Bless the juror who came out to the sidewalk afterwards cryiing and said to the defendants, “Please forgive me…..”

    I have the ears that heard what you tried to say as well as the eyes that saw what you tried to convey. What I don’t have is the words to convey what I want to say.

    This morning, with my flute, I was able to convey what I wish I could in words. It played of the sorrow I feel that it was not yet time to reach out to all the people in the world and say ……Help! Life is too sacred to take a chance to waste this opportunity to rid the world of fear…of the fear of Nuclear Holocaust.

    Denny Moore

  9. So honored to be in your presence at the jury verdict. I hope we all spread the word about these exemplars of peace. I tried a bit in my blog last night:

  10. One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. After 2,000 years of fruitless wars and horrendous bloodshed, America is still spending billions on nuclear weapons knowing that it would be suicide for the entire human race if even one is launched. Meanwhile , 40,000 children die every day from lack of food, potable water, shelter, antibiotics, etc. 3 billion people struggle to survive on $2.00 a day and less. May God bless the heroic Disarm Now Plowshares members and all who are in solidarity with these blessed men and women. St Francis of Assisi and Servant of God Dorothy Day are up in heaven right now smiling away, knowing that the next generation has received the torch of the Peace of Christ and is boldly running towards the finish line of a world free of nuclear weapons and war and hate! May the Baby Jesus renew our hearts and minds this Christmas and give us the courage to emulate our Plowshares brothers and sisters! . . . With love, Sugar Bear (Lake Worth Catholic Worker / Sugar Bear Comics)

  11. […] arrest, the five were handcuffed and hooded with sand bags because, as the marine in charge testified, “when we secure prisoners anywhere in Iraq or […]

  12. Thank you for your courage and God bless.

  13. […] to the Disarm Now Plowshares blog: Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York; Bill Bischel, S.J., 81, a Jesuit priest […]

  14. Typical peace freaks. If more believed like them during WWII, we’d be speaking either German or Japanese right now. Thank God for American military superiority.

  15. the blog above- a derisive comjment about: “typical peace freaks”-

    BUT- the blogger raises a good point- how to adequately address the real violence of an al queda, a hitler?
    we must address the fears of most people- who have not studied Gandhi, Weil, Day, etc, etc
    i do not dismiss these questions
    Howard Zinn addressed them best, in my opinion- there are a lot of shades of grey (gray)

    Plowshares actions are extemely needed, in my opinion- they are tactics that the “lame stream” (thank u Sarah Palin) media cannot handle.

    i would like to direct readers to the following excellent books on the subject- Art Laffin- Plowshares Chronology, 2 Polner- Disarmed and Dangerous, Elmer- Felon for Peace, Meconis- A Clumsy Grace and all books by Phil and Dan Berrigan

  16. Hey Folks,

    I was on the stand March 2010 as a witness at the Wahopai Ploughshares trial in Aotearoa/NZ, having given evidence that I had effected the state of mind of the defendant young Sam Land.

    I had met Sam at a Pine Gap 4 court scene in Alice Springs 2006, outback Australia, shortly after we were acquitted in Dubln/Ireland of $2.5 million criminal damage to a U.S. war plane refeueling at Shannon., Airport, Co. Clare, Ireland) en route to the illegal invasion of Iraq.

    I was asked, by defense counsel, if “I recalled a conversation with Sam in a pub in Alice Springs and what was the natuire of that chat?”
    I repsonded that, “I surely did recall that chat and informing Sam that what we, the “Pitstop Ploughshares”, had done was judged legal by the criminal justice system in Ireland, just as the “Seeds of Hope Ploughshares” had been judged legal…ten years nearly to the day previously…in their £2.5 million disarmament of a BAE Hawk fighter being sold to the genocidal Indonesian government to be used against the people of East Timor.

    On cross examination, the Prosecutor put it to me that I ” had been involved in a number of these ploughshares actions. Some had been successful and some had been unsuccessful?”
    I replied “Whaddya mean? successful, unsuccessful?.
    Prosecutor: “For some you have been convicted and some you have been acquitted?”
    I replied “They’re all successful. We always get to target!. They are acts of conscience! Whether we are acquitted or convicted has nothing to do with us. It’s whether the jury has a conscience or not! That’s outta of our hands I’m afraid!”

    Many thanx Disarm Plowshares
    whereever this witness takes you and us
    I’m sure it will ber to a good place
    Solidarity and love from England
    Ciaron O’Reilly

  17. […] to the Disarm Now Plowshares blog: Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York; Bill Bischel, S.J., 81, a Jesuit priest […]

  18. […] to the Disarm Now Plowshares blog: Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York; Bill Bischel, S.J., 81, a Jesuit priest […]

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