Transform Now Plowshares: A Trumpet Call to All of Us

by William “Bix” Bichsel

On July 28, 2012, Sr. Megan Rice, shcj, 84yrs, Michael Walli, 64yrs, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 59yrs hiked a ridge and cut through four fences to reach the new U.S. storehouse for Highly Enriched Uranium, which is needed for the production of thermonuclear weapons. These weapons, used to threaten other nations, are in violation of the U.S. Principles of Nuremberg (U.S. Law), in which citizens are directed to resist illegal acts by their government. The refurbishing of the weapons is in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which the U.S. pledges complete nuclear disarmament.

(l to r): Michael, Megan and Greg (art by The Washington Post)

(l to r): Michael, Megan and Greg (art by The Washington Post)

They name their lawful act of resistance: Transform Now Plowshares Action, following Isaiah’s injunction, “They shall hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” With faith in following the non-violent Jesus, they poured their blood, painted words of justice and hammered on the walls of the HEU Building.

They were convicted of sabotage (threatening the security of the U.S.) and depredation of government property and were sent directly into jail as terrorists to await sentencing (which took place ten months later). They were charged with $52,000 of damage- mostly to the fences. One of the attendees of the trial drew a parallel, “Would anyone let fences surrounding Auschwitz stand? Much less should we let fences guarding nuclear weapons stand.”

Sr. Megan Rice was given 35 months imprisonment, both Michael and Greg were given 62 months. Jack and Felice Cohen-Joppa, editors of the “Nuclear Resister” stated: “As the Hibakusha (survivors of the terror from Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings)”; so do Megan, Michael and Greg offer their lives to prevent similar massacre.

Ralph Hutchinson, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, stated: “Though their bodies are in prison, their voices are free reminding us that the central issue of this action and trial have not been resolved- as long as the government continues to produce thermal nuclear weapons of mass-destruction in Oak Ridge or anywhere, people are required to resist.”

Lynne Greenwald of the ‘Disarm Now Plowshares Action’ (DNPA) at Bangor in 2009 reminds us that the day of this sentencing is the same day, Feb 18th, as the sentencing to death (by guillotine) of Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and six other members of the White Rose Resistance to Nazi Germany’s fascism in 1943 and also the day in 1985 when Lynne and six activists carrying white roses sat on the tracks leading into the Bangor Naval Base blocking the white train carrying nuclear weapons into the base.

Sr. Megan Rice who has spent her life living among and teaching the urban poor of our country and Western Africa, while also resisting U.S. militarism for the last 25 years, when questioned by Judge Thapars: “Do you have any regrets?”, responded: “Only for not starting 70 years earlier.”

` Greg Boertje-Obed has been most faithful in his quiet powerful witness against all weapons through many selfless actions of resistance. He has been separated from his wife and daughter for ten years.

Michael Walli is a Vietnam Vet who received a bronze star. After the service his life changed to caring for the homeless and marginalized people in a number of our cities. At the sentencing he asked Judge Thapar to look at his face and see the face of the future~ the many who will follow in resistance.

Fr. Steve Kelly, sj, another member DNPA (Nov-2009) said that the judge’s sentence gave great help to the U.S. in its efforts to categorize peace activists and whistle blowers as terrorists. The guilty verdict is meant to instill fear in the citizens. In contrast to this, Jesus says to Megan, Michael, and Greg: “Be Not Afraid.”

Fr. Bill Bichsel, sj, also of DNPA says that the possibility of redress of grievances, from any of our branches of government, is blocked. The heroic action and subsequent sentencing of the three is a trumpet call to all of us.


Yesterday’s sentencing of Greg, Megan and Michael, the three members of Transform Now Plowshares, was the culmination of the government’s collusion with the Nuclear Industrial Complex.  It is collusion in the sense that the government is breaking many laws, including international humanitarian law, in its continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the courts cannot help but see and uphold established precedents, including the Nuremberg Principles. Supposed justice was “blind” to the wrong things in this case, and essentially every other case of this kind.

There is no lack of irony in the timing of yesterday’s sentencing. Seventy-one years ago on February 18, 1943 Sophie Scholl and other members of The White Rose were arrested at the University of Munich for dropping leaflets protesting the evils of the Third Reich.  Click here for an article on this piece of history.  Sophie, her brother, and the other members of The White Rose clearly understood the consequences of their actions, should they be caught.

tnp three sentenced

Greg, Megan and Michael also understood the probable consequences of their actions, and took their action with joyful hearts and fully prepared to accept those consequences. Judge Thapar gave all three significant prison time – Megan 35 months, and Greg and Michael each received 62-month sentences.  The judge’s intention by giving such long prison terms was to dissuade others to engage in such actions and instead to pursue “legal” means.

Of course, those of us pursuing nuclear abolition clearly understand the futility of legal means, which we have all tried over and over. As Felice and Jack of The Nuclear Resister said in a recent post about the Transform Now Plowshares sentencing: “YOU CAN JAIL THE RESISTERS BUT NOT THE RESISTANCE.”

Our thoughts and prayers go out to our brothers and sister in resistance on the next stage of their journey.


Sentence postponed for Transform Now Plowshares

Thanks to Patrick O’Neill, who writes for National Catholic Reporter, for this TNP sentencing update.
Sentence postponed for Transform Now Plowshares

Patrick O’Neill | Jan. 28, 2014, in NCR Online (

KNOXVILLE, TENN. A late-afternoon snowfall that blanketed the South led to the postponement of the sentencing of three Catholic anti-nuclear activists in federal court on Tuesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Amul R. Thapar issued a continuance in the case of Sr. Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli when he was told the courthouse would be closing at 2:30 p.m. because of the snowfall. The case, which involves more than a half-dozen lawyers, was reset for Feb. 18.

The three, who call themselves the Transform Now Plowshares, are facing long prison sentences for sabotage following their July 28, 2012, break-in at Y-12 nuclear weapons facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn. They were convicted May 8, 2012, of “injuring the national defense” and depredation of government property, charges that carry up to 30 years in prison. Federal guidelines in the case call for the three to receive from five to nine years in prison.

In Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, which was witnessed by more than 100 supporters of the group, defense lawyers argued that Thapar should “downwardly depart” from the sentencing guidelines suggested by the federal prosecutor.

Thapar also agreed with the government’s contention that the defendants were responsible for making restitution to the government of $52,557.

The judge disagreed with defense contentions that the defendants were entitled to leniency because they had accepted responsibility for their actions. Federal prosecutor Jeffrey E. Theodore argued that the defendants were not entitled to departure from the guidelines because, “They have never admitted to criminal conduct.” The Plowshares activists, who take their name from Isaiah 2:4 (“They shall beat their swords into plowshares; their spears into pruning hooks. One nation will not lift sword against another, nor shall they train for war anymore”) have claimed they were following international law when they gained access to the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, which contains a stockpile of weapons-grade uranium. Once inside the facility, the three chipped the building’s structure with hammers and sprayed “biblical graffiti” before lighting candles and awaiting arrest.

“The critical point is contrition, and I don’t think any of the defendants are contrite about what they did,” the judge said. “The defendants will not be given acceptance of responsibility.”

Thapar also denied the defendants’ claim that they deserved leniency because they believed their “criminal acts” at Y-12 “were committed to prevent a perceived greater harm” (the possible use of nuclear weapons). Thapar said, “I understand that the defendants perceived a greater harm, but I think the United States has a different point of view.”
The judge still will hear arguments for departure based on the argument that the case includes “special or unusual circumstances.” Toward that end, the defense called four character witnesses, each of whom praised the defendants as committed peace activists who were led to nonviolent direct action out of their love for creation and humanity.

In her testimony, Yale professor and author Mary Evelyn Tucker, a longtime family friend of Rice, said, “It is clear that Megan is a person of high moral principles with a profound Christian commitment to alleviate suffering and advance the cause of peace.”

Catholic Worker Kathy Boylan, who lives with Walli at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington, D.C., testified that “Michael Walli is trying to save our lives; your life, Judge Thapar; your life, Mr. Theodore. Listen to him.”

Witness Wilfred “Andy” Anderson called for the release of the three, calling them “terrific” and “decent, warm-hearted human beings” who did not “present a danger to society.”

The Society of the Holy Child Jesus, Rice’s religious order, is also calling on Thapar to be lenient. “We’ve been hoping and praying for either a suspended sentence or a lenient sentence, especially because of (Sr. Megan’s) age,” Sr. Sandra Lincoln, who was representing the society at the hearing, told NCR. Rice turns 84 on Friday. “She has a heart condition and over 50 years of service in our community.”

Boertje-Obed’s wife, Michelle Naar-Obed, told NCR the judge wasn’t in charge of the outcome. “I know it’s the Holy Spirit who’s in charge here,” she said.

[Patrick O’Neill, a freelance writer from Raleigh, N.C., is a longtime contributor to NCR.]

Source URL:


Transform Now Plowshares needs you to:
Write a letter, send a postcard, and help others to send postcards to Judge Thapar.

Click here to view the postcard to Judge Thapar on behalf of the Transform Now Plowshares.  Download it (PDF file) and take it to your local printer, get a stack of them made and take them to events and get people to sign them or just print off one copy for yourself, sign it, stamp it, and put it in the mail. We are hoping to get thousands signed and sent.

Greg Boertje-Obed, Michael Walli and Megan Rice are currently in the Irwin County Detention Facility in Ocilla, GA, awaiting their sentencing on September 23, 2013. The three were found guilty by a jury in Tennessee in May on two counts; interfering with or obstructing the national defense (sabotage) and depredation of government property. Both counts are considered violent acts and fall under the definition of “federal crimes of terrorism”

The maximum sentence that each of the three can receive is 30 years. Likely not to happen, however their sentencing guidelines which is often what judges use, can vary up to about 10 years.

At this point, the 3 have asked for their supporters and friends to write to the judge asking for justice to be brought back into their case in this sentencing phase. They are asking for downward departures from the high guidelines based on recognition that theirs was an act of nonviolence, hope, and love and NOT terrorism. There has been legal precedence for downward departures in at least 2 other plowshares cases where the defendants were convicted of “sabotage”.

The blog site has posted 3 basic talking points for people to use in order to write a letter to Judge Thapar. The address for sending letters is also posted (see under “write the prisoners” tab on website). A personal letter to the judge will likely have a high impact on his discernment process.

Under the tab “write the prisoners” are 3 basic talking points for people to use in order to write a letter to Judge Thapar. The address for the where to send the letter is also there. A personal letter to the judge will likely have a high impact on his discernment process.

In order to make things even easier and in hopes of generating many letters to the judge, we have developed a postcard which has the letter and the address already written. All you need to do is sign it and put it in the mail. There is a bit of space for adding a sentence or two if you want.

Image of the postcard to Judge Thapar

Text of the postcard to Judge Thapar

Click here to view the postcard to Judge Thapar on behalf of the Transform Now Plowshares.  

So, download it and take it to your local printer, get a stack of them made on postcard stock and take them to events and get people to sign them or just print off one copy for yourself, sign it, stamp it, and put it in the mail. We are hoping to get thousands signed and sent. 

We NEED to get thousands signed and sent!!!

Michele Naar-Obed,

This will make a difference and the TNP needs your help with this. Thank you for your support.

PLEASE NOTE!  The PDF document has two pages; one side is the text of the postcard, and the other is the address side.

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

Can the law and justice ever meet?

Can the law and justice ever meet?

By Michele Naar-Obed

Following on all that has been reported about the Transform Now Plowshares action and trial I wanted to add a couple more observations and what I think are inspired insights. I submitted these insights along with a few other questions to the legal and support team and now want to share them with our wider Catholic Worker community. They are given here in the form of excerpts from a letter I sent to the legal team:

It struck me that the govt or the corporations felt so threatened by Megan and Michael going to those congressional hearings that they tried to criminalize that by saying they violated a condition of release. I think this is very telling. Remember Greg’s closing statement with regards to the “Good Samaritan” parable. He said we have heard the cries of the people on the side of the road and there are many of them. We are trying to raise their voices, their voices and stories of oppression of fear of living under the threat of the bomb, of feeling the depredation and loss of life-giving resources plundered and squandered for the benefit of a few.

The prosecution badgered them about going to far. Why can’t they protest from inside the new hope building or the side of the road he asked over and over again?

They couldn’t because they needed to bring the voices of all those people on the side of the road directly to the beast. They marked the beast, they tapped on the shoulder of the beast and begged the beast to listen. Then they went to the people who feed the beast, the lawmakers and policy makers and begged them to listen too. They were begging them to stop feeding the beast with more money. And then they went to the courtroom to the jury in hopes of convincing them that they did this for them too. Megan tried so hard to get them to recognize the spiritual death so many of the workers have undergone by protecting that beast and remaining silent even as they watched their brother and sister workers get sick and die.

I really think that these are the things that the shadow government run by these trillion-dollar corporations want to silence. criminalizing them and locking them up is their attempt to assassinate the Word made flesh and carried by the Holy Spirit by the hands and feet of Megan, Michael and Greg and all of us who are supporting them. They are hoping that by criminalizing them especially by labeling them as terrorists, they will be able to defame their character and take away their credibility. But they must know that they have to do that to all of us because you can’t take away the Spirit as long as there are a few people to receive Her and welcome her. That’s what Catholic Workers do.

And now we are asking you, the lawyers in particular to bring this message into the judges chambers. This is where justice and the law has the opportunity to meet and this is where justice and mercy might kiss (I think that is from Micah). As you continue to analyse what happened in that courtroom and where you will go next with the law in this last phase of sentencing, I’m hoping you will consider these thoughts that the Spirit raised with me in the night.

Happy Mothers Day, Peace, Michele


Editor’s Note: Read Judge Thapar rules: Convicted Y-12 protesters must stay in jail until sentencing at the Transform Now Plowshares blog.

Transform Now Plowshares: Let the trial begin!!!

Dear Friends,

As I write this our dear friends Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed of the Transform Now Plowshares are in the thick of the second day of their trial in Federal District Court in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Yesterday was jury selection. Today they get down to the real business at hand.

Bix travelled back to Knoxville to be with them, and based on the photo I saw of him whooping it up with Sr. Megan during yesterday’s street celebration, it should be quite a week.

This trial is NOT – although one might not know it from nearly any of the media coverage – about lax security at a major nuclear weapons production facility (although one might ask questions about that).

  • It is about the total lack of security provided by the continued pursuit of nuclear weapons.
  • It is about the fundamental immorality of weapons that kill indiscriminately and on a massive scale, and leave a continuous trail of death far into subsequent generations.
  • It is about the fact that it is impossible for nuclear weapons and true human security to co-exist.  Nuclear weapons are against all that is human, and do not fit within any moral framework.
  • It is about why the United States continues to consider itself above our own laws, international humanitarian law and treaty obligations.
  • It is about asking questions such as how does the continuing buildup (by the US) of its nuclear weapons infrastructure along with the production of new weapons systems (example: the new generation of ballistic missile submarines in research and development) move us towards a nuclear weapons free world???
  • It is about whether we will we choose to base our nation (and our world) on a culture of peace or a culture of violence?  And nuclear weapons are truly the taproot of violence.

The Transform Now Plowshares has a website/blog where you can keep up with trial developments on a daily basis.  While you’re at the  blog you can sign up (see the upper right hand column) to get updates by email.

Let’s hold Greg, Megan and Michael and all who support them through their trial in our thoughts and prayers this week and beyond.

In Peace,


Transform Now Plowshares URL:

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