The Trial of Transform Now Plowshares: Many Acts of Hope (by Kim Joy Bergier)

Editor’s Note: This is a thorough retrospective (with lots of informative links) on the recent Transform Now Plowshares trial (from Kim Joy Bergier, Coordinator of Michigan Stop the Nuclear Bombs Campaign).


The stage was set for hope on April 23, 2013 during pre-trial hearings when for over an hour “Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark testified that continued production of nuclear weapons at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge could be considered unlawful, if not illegal, because it violates the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty signed in 1968 during his tenure at the Justice Department.”

With that great news around 200 people, at least 55 from out of state, and a dozen reporters participated in some way during May 5th to 10th set of events around “The Trial of Transform Now Plowshares” (TNP3) for Megan Rice, Mike Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed. As Art Laffin so eloquently concluded: “Filled with a spirit of resurrection hope, we all sang together: “We Shall Not Be Moved” before entering the court.”

There were so many well written articles that I encourage you to read as many as you have time for, while most of the key articles can be found.  The latest information to follow the TNP3 so you can support them can be found on: On www.orepa.orgsee address and instructions for how to write to Megan, Mike and Greg (who are, as of May 23rd in Irwin County Detention Center a privately run jail in Ocilla, GA). You will also see how it is important to write to Judge Thapar via Bill Quigley and OREPA before September 23rd

An easy action you can take is by signing the on line petition at the bottom of the online article by Clare Hanrahan (see below). As time goes on even more video clips, pictures and articles are coming out, so I’ve added a few more links.  If you want direct links to TV coverage see my e-mail from May 14th (or reply to this to ask for it).

There was a lot of State, National & even international media coverage about the Transform Now Plowshares Trial

The main way to know the history and news around nuclear weapons issues at Y-12 is Frank Munger’s Atomic City Underground blog:

Several articles are on Reuters 

May 11: AP “Nuclear Protestors, Including Sister Megan Rice, To Remain Jailed in Tennessee For Months”

Dan Zak, writer of “The Prophets of Oak Ridge”, told us that it has been a long time since The Washington Post has printed the 1st 8 pages of their newspaper for one article. This is a masterpiece of research and team effort, giving more extensive coverage than any other media. See:

May 6 – 8, 2013, are three excellent reports of The Trial written by Ralph Hutchison, Coordinator ofOak Ridge Environmental Peace The first report included this well-written description: “The redemptive parts of a day filled with tedious legal process of dubious value were the parts that sandwiched the hours in court. A rousing skit, simple, powerful and direct, on Knoxville’s Market Square drew curious onlookers as a bomb was transformed into a scenic landscape and dozens of supporters marched, chanting ‘Transform Now!’ and drumming on their way to the courthouse.”

A Japanese film crew was filming May 5th & 6th and will incorporate this in a special program in Japan!

May 13th “Woe Unto the Empire of Blood –Transform Now Plowshares Convicted and Jailed” by Clare Hanrahan includes a link to a petition on The White House website.  I think three key paragraphs are [with my additions in brackets]:

“In courtroom testimony, Sr. Megan Rice said she felt led by the Holy Spirit, and was ‘more and more surprised’ to find herself reaching the highly enriched uranium materials facility, HEUMF,where they spray-painted on the bunker’s northwest corner, “Woe Unto the Empire of Blood.” The HEUMF stores as much as 400 tons of the radioactive material, [enough to make around 10,000 nuclear weapons] shipped from throughout the U.S. and the world, to a facility referred to several times in the courtroom as “the Fort Knox of uranium.” No one was there to greet them, despite a security apparatus costing as much as $150 million dollars a year. 

In Knoxville on May 8, after two days of argument and testimony and with just 2 1/2 hours of deliberation, the federal jury of nine [white] men and three [white] women found the three seniors guilty of both charges: damaging government property over $1,000, and injuring the national defense, a sabotage charge levied by the prosecution after the defendants refused a plea agreement on a trespass charge and asserted their right to a trial. 

‘Clearly we were led by the Spirit in and around us’, Sr. Megan testified. ‘We needed to bring the truth…nuclear weapons are war crimes’. ‘They were the thermometer,’ Defense Attorney Bill Quigley said. ‘They didn’t cause the fever; they exposed it. Don’t blame the thermometer.’


On May 8th Col. Ann Wright gave excellent testimony with such credibility that any rational unbiased jury surely would have found these three nonviolent well-intended & loving activists not guilty of sabotage. Some of her report:

“Nine months ago, on July 28, 2012, three persons, with the snip of four fences found themselves in the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons complex beside the most sensitive and dangerous of all buildings in the nuclear weapons program of the United States–the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF). Sister Megan Rice, an 83 year old nun from in Washington, D.C, Michael Walli, a 63 year old veteran with two tours in Vietnam and now a “missionary” for the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker house in Washington, D.C. and Greg Boertje-Obed, 5[8], a Vietnam era Army medical officer and now a Minnesota house painter were arrested and charged with harming the national defense and causing more than $1000 damage to a government facility. In the case of the Y-12 Oak Ridge trial, a federal judge reprimanded the three defendants and convicted them to the county jail, citing dangers they had caused to national security. No U.S. government official was charged with dereliction of duty for jeopardizing national security in the lack of protection for nuclear weapons at the Y-12 Oak Ridge Nuclear Complex.”


May 18th, “Barbara Hickey: Judge should acquit Y-12 protesters on charges of sabotage”

The recent verdict of guilty in the Transform Now Plowshares case is a miscarriage of justice. All evidence presented at the trial showed incontestably that the three protesters are deeply committed to nonviolence and that all their symbolic actions were nonviolent, intended to bring a message of peace and healing to the bomb plant. Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed have been convicted of intent to injure the defense of the United States. Because their July 28, 2012, break-in at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant inadvertently caused a security crisis and subsequent shutdown of the plant, we are told that they intended this shutdown and that it imperiled national defense. Nothing could be less true. Let us all pray that Judge Thapar will see his way to uphold law and freedom, for the sake of us all.”


******I apologize that in my first report on May 14th e-mail I neglected to include Anabel and David Dwyer as part of the Michigan contingent. They were more involved than anyone from Michigan as Anabel was legal counsel,]; they attended all the pre-trial hearing and during the trial Anabel sat in the front row of the court room. Her report will be from a lawyer’s perspective.

I took 61 pages of notes during and around the trial. One of the main sentences I heard Judge Thapar say is that he could “understand why someone would want to stop nuclear weapons that can destroy all life”.

I shared with several key people during the trial the April 27th article on Knox News After the “Wen Ho Lee scandal at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Lee was cleared of charges and won a big settlement.… on his reaction to the Y-12 break-in, [Bill] Richardson [former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Energy Secretary in the Clinton administration] said, “Well, there are still some security issues, but I didn’t think it was of the same magnitude of the Wen Ho Lee case.”  [Frank Munger asked him] “Why’s that?” “It didn’t seem as severe,” [Bill] said. “I’ve read about some of the steps that have been taken to deal with it, and I think they’re good. [Bill concluded.]”

Some video clips:

May 5th OREPA’s vigil by a Catholic female priest, Rev. Janice Sevre-Duszynska is on HeartoftheVision: (where you can see 16 activists introduce themselves).

Knox News video clips:

1)    “Transform Now Plowshares protesters garner support on first day of trial”: (2:12 includes Denise Laffin, Megan Rice & Ellen Barfield) Published on May 7, 2013: “Scores of supporters were at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Knoxville today as the trial began for the three protesters who broke into the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant last July.”

2)    “Group shows support for protesters during trial”: (3:18 )

3)    “Security guard confronts Y-12 protesters”: (1:22)

4)    “Reactions outside federal courthouse as jury finds Y-12 protestors guilty”: (2:00) includes Paul Magno, William Quigley, Ellen Barfield and circle of supporters singing “Keep on Walking” Published on May 8, 2013: “Supporters react outside the federal courthouse in downtown Knoxville as the verdict in announced that finds Y-12 protestors guilty of depredation of government property and inflicting injury to”

5)    “Songs, prayer vigil for Y-12 trio”: (1:07) with Art Laffin leading supporters in circle singing “We Shall Not Be Moved”

In time I plan to post some of my unique video clips to share on you tube as well, especially Megan, Mike & Greg’s sharings on May 5th during Festival of Hope and the skit on May 6th which became a fun dancing time then march to the courthouse.

Kim Joy Bergier, coordinator of Michigan Stop The Nuclear Bombs Campaign

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