[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
Countercurrents.org

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




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