[Ppnews] Prison For Peacemakers In Tacoma, Washington
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Mar 29 13:51:55 EDT 2011
Prison For Peacemakers In Tacoma, Washington
By Bill Quigley
29 March, 2011
Two grandmothers, two priests and a nun were
sentenced in federal court in Tacoma, WA Monday
March 28, 2011, for confronting hundreds of US
nuclear weapons stockpiled for use by the deadly Trident submarines.
Sentenced were: Sr. Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred
Heart sister from New York, who was ordered to
serve 2 months in federal prison and 4 months
electronic home confinement; Fr. Bill Bischel,
81, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma Washington,
ordered to serve 3 months in prison and 6 months
electronic home confinement; Susan Crane, 67, a
member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore,
Maryland, ordered to serve 15 months in federal
prison; Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from
Bremerton Washington, ordered to serve 6 months
in federal prison; and Fr. Steve Kelly, 60, a
Jesuit priest from Oakland California, ordered to
serve 15 months in federal prison. They were also
ordered to pay $5300 each and serve an additional
year in supervised probation. Bischel and
Greenwald are active members of the Ground Zero
Center for Nonviolent Action, a community
resisting Trident nuclear weapons since 1977.
What did they do?
In the darkness of All Souls night, November 2,
2009, the five quietly cut through a chain link
perimeter fence topped with barbed wire.
Carefully stepping through the hole in the fence,
they entered into the Kitsap-Bangor Navy Base
outside of Tacoma Washington home to hundreds
of nuclear warheads used in the eight Trident submarines based there.
Walking undetected through the heavily guarded
base for hours, they covered nearly four miles
before they came to where the nuclear missiles are stored.
The storage area was lit up by floodlights.
Dozens of small gray bunkers about the size of
double car garages - were ringed by two more
chain link fences topped with taut barbed wire.
USE OF DEADLY FORCE AUTHORIZED one sign boldly
proclaimed. Another said WARNING RESTRICTED AREA
and was decorated with skull and crossbones.
This was it the heart of the US Trident Pacific
nuclear weapon program. Nuclear weapons were
stored in the bunkers inside the double fence line.
Wire cutters cut through these fences as well.
There they unfurled hand painted banners which
said Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident Illegal and
Immoral, knelt to pray and waited to be arrested as dawn broke.
What were they protesting against?
Each of the eight Trident submarines has 24
nuclear missiles on it. The Ground Zero community
explains that each of the 24 missiles on one
submarine have multiple warheads in it and each
warhead has thirty times the destructive power of
the weapon used on Hiroshima. One fully loaded
Trident submarine carries 192 warheads, each
designed to explode with the power of 475
kilotons of TNT force. If detonated at ground
level each would blow out a crater nearly half a
mile wide and several hundred feet deep.
The bunker area where they were arrested is where
the extra missiles are stored.
In December 2010, the five went on trial before a
jury in federal court in Tacoma charged with
felony damage to government property, conspiracy and trespass.
But before the trial began the court told the
defendants what they could and could not do in
court. Evidence of the medical consequences of
nuclear weapons? Not allowed. Evidence that first
strike nuclear weapons are illegal under US and
international law? Not allowed. Evidence that
there were massive international nonviolent
action campaigns against Trident missiles where
juries acquitted protestors? Not allowed. The
defense of necessity where violating a small law,
like breaking down a door, is allowed where the
actions are taken to prevent a greater harm, like
saving a child trapped in a burning building? Not allowed.
Most of the jurors appeared baffled when
defendants admitted what they did in their
opening statements. They remained baffled when
questions about nuclear weapons were objected to
by the prosecutor and excluded by the court. The
court and the prosecutor repeatedly focused the
jury on their position that this was a trial
about a fence. Defendants tried valiantly to
point to the elephant in the room the hundreds of nuclear weapons.
Each defendant gave an opening and closing
statement explaining, as much as they were
allowed, why they risked deadly force to expose the US nuclear arsenal.
Sojourner Truth was discussed as were Rosa Parks,
Gandhi, and Martin Luther King.
The resistance of the defendants was in the
spirit of the civil rights movement, the labor
movement, the suffragist movement, the abolition of slavery movement.
Crowds packed the courtroom each of the five days
of trial. Each night there was a potluck and a
discussion of nuclear weapons by medical, legal
and international experts who came for the trial
but who were largely muted by the prosecution and the court.
While the jury held out over the weekend,
ultimately, the activists were convicted.
Hundreds packed the courthouse today supporting
the defendants. The judge acknowledged the good
work of each defendant, admitted that prison was
unlikely to deter them from further actions, but
said he was bound to uphold the law otherwise
anarchy would break out and take down society.
The prosecutors asked the judge to send all the
defendants to federal prison plus three years
supervised probation plus pay over five thousand
dollars. The specific jail time asked for ranged
from 3 years for Fr. Kelly, 30 months for Susan
Crane, Lynne Greenwald, 7 months in jail plus 7
months home confinement, Sr. Anne Montgomery and
Fr. Bill Bichsel, 6 months jail plus 6 months home confinement.
Each of the defendants went right into prison
from the courtroom as the spectators sang to
them. Outside the courthouse, other activists
pledged to confront the Trident in whatever way
is necessary to stop the illegal and immoral weapons of mass destruction.
Bill Quigley is part of the legal team supporting
the defendants and was in Tacoma for the
sentencing. You can learn more about the
defendants at disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com.
Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for
Constitutional Rights and a law professor at
Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina
survivor and has been active in human rights in
Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice
and Democracy in Haiti. Contact Bill at quigley77 at gmail.com
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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