BANGOR — Five protestors associated with an international peace movement were arrested Monday after cutting through three security fences to reach an area where nuclear missiles are stored at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
Cited on suspicion of trespassing and destruction of government property were Bill Bischel, 81, a Catholic priest from Tacoma; Anne Montgomery, 83, a nun from New York; Susan Crane, 65, of Baltimore; Lynne Greenwald, 60, of Bremerton; and Steve Kelly, 60, of Oakland, Calif.
The nuclear weapons opponents were “apprehended in accordance with standing security procedures for incidents of this nature,” according to a Navy press release. They were turned over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, cited and released at about 4 p.m.
“At no time was the safety of Navy personnel, property, or the public threatened in any way,” according to a Navy press release.
The protestors said Tuesday that they used bolt cutters to infiltrate the perimeter fence at around 2 a.m. Monday and slipped onto the base under a full moon. They walked along the ridge above Delta Pier and the weapons-handling wharf, then followed a road east to their destination — the weapons storage bunkers.
“We were hidden in plain sight the whole time,” Greenwald said.
Another pair of fences stood between the group and Strategic Weapons Facility-Pacific, where nuclear missiles for the base’s Trident submarines are stored. The protestors cut through them, setting off an alarm at around 6:30 a.m. They were quickly swarmed by Marines.
The protestors held up a banner that read “Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident: Illegal + Immoral.” They put their arms out, gave peace signs and tried to look as non-threatening as possible to keep from being shot, Greenwald said.
Plowshares is an international anti-nuclear weapons movement that gets its name based on scriptures in the Bible that encourage beating “swords into plowshares.”
The protestors complained about being handcuffed, hooded and kept on the ground for four hours.
“We had some intruders in a very strict-security place, and for them to be treated like criminals probably was the right thing for our security forces to do for awhile until they understood who they were, what they were doing there and what we needed to do to maintain our security,” said Navy Region Northwest spokesman Chris Haley.
Deadly force is authorized in SWFPAC, Haley said.
There have been dozens of protests at the base’s gates, and people have been arrested for walking a short distance onto federal property. But nobody has tried to cut through the fence before. Security measures worked, Haley said.
“We had a breach, we found the breach, we responded and everybody walked away healthy,” he said. “I don’t think we have any more concerns today than we had before.”
Security forces didn’t know how many people were involved or whether intruders might have driven onto the base, so the identification of everybody leaving the base was checked after the incident. That backed up traffic, but there was not a lockdown on Monday, Haley said.
The protestors said they wanted to bring to light the number of nuclear weapons in the community. The protestors say they believe the weapons are instruments of death that prevent peace in the world and waste money that could be put to better uses.
Greenwald and Bischel have participated in protests at the base organized by Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, but this action was on their own, acting in the Plowshares tradition, they said. Plowshares has staged about 100 nuclear resistance actions worldwide since 1980.
The group wasn’t trying to make a point that base security could be broken but wanted to get as close as possible to weapons they despise, they said.
“Our intent in talking to any media is not to emphasize how we broke through security or were treated but the real terror of the Trident nuclear weapons system,” Greenwald said.
Both trespassing and destruction of government property are misdemeanors, said Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle. The maximum penalty for trespassing is six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. It’s a year in jail and a $100,000 fine for destroying property. The tickets will be processed in San Antonio, which takes about 40 days. Letters will then be sent to the protestors to appear before a judge in Tacoma, Langlie said.