By John LaForge
â€œHow brave it is to believe that in todayâ€™s world, reasoned, nonviolent protest will register, will matter. But will it?… The threshold of horror has been ratcheted up so high that nothing short of genocide or the prospect of nuclear war merits mention. Peaceful resistance is treated with contempt. Terrorismâ€™s the real thing.â€Â â€” Arundhati Roy
Initial Court Appearances
James Holmes was in court Mon., July 30, in Aurora, Colorado, charged with 142 counts of murder, etc. The whole world knows of this initial hearing for the alleged murderer/terrorist because every detail of Holmesâ€™ life is now regularly put at the top of TV and radio news shows and above the fold in every newspaper. Someone kills a lot of people and the media swarms.Not so if your action was a peaceful attempt to prevent massacres.
On exactly the same day,Â the first court appearanceÂ took place in Knoxville, Tenn. for disarmament activists Michael Walli, 63, of Washington, DC, Megan Rice, 82, of New York City, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth, Minn. (Greg is a married father of one and a former ROTC medical clerk trainee.)
You wonâ€™t have heard or read a word of these pacifists because their action was free of violence and mayhem. On the contrary, their protest was against nuclear madness and the continuing waste of hundreds of billions of dollars on nuclear warhead production, and it involved hoisting a banner and issuing an indictment against illegal U.S. weapons.
Early on July 28, the three walked into one of the countryâ€™s â€œmost militarily secureâ€ sites â€” theÂ Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. â€” and conducted a bold protest against the governmentâ€™s plans to spent $80 billion on upgrading the nuclear weapons production complex.
Activists Evade Nuclear â€œSecurityâ€
According to statements released by the three and phone callsÂ from Blount County jail in Tenn. where they are being held, they entered Y-12 before dawn, passed throughÂ four fences and entered the maximum security â€œUse of deadly force authorizedâ€ area, whereÂ theyÂ hoisted banners, spray painted messages and poured their bloodÂ (drawn by a nurse) on the Highly Enriched (weapon-grade) Uranium Materials Facility.
Appearing before federal magistrate Bruce Guyton, the three face one charge of federal trespass which carries a max of one year in prison and/or a $100,000 fine. Felony charges may be pending.
The indictment of nuclear weapons production delivered by Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed cites U.S. Constitutional andÂ Humanitarian Treaty Law, as well as the Nuremberg Principles. It says in part,Â â€œThe ongoing building and maintenance at Y-12 constitutes warÂ crimes that can and should be investigated and prosecuted by judicialÂ authorities. We are required by International Law toÂ denounce and resist known crimes.â€
The action, which they called â€œTransform Now Plowshares,â€ is one of a long tradition of PlowsharesÂ actions in the U.S. and around the world which challenge or interfere with war plans andÂ weapons of mass destruction, and which often take inspiration from the Old Testament prophesy to â€œturn swords into plowshares and study war no more.â€
At Y-12, construction is under way to replace facilities for producing â€œenriched uraniumâ€ for H-bombs. It is budgeted to cost over $6.5 billion. Stealing these funds from hungry and impoverished people forces them to starve, hence the protestersâ€™ use of blood to â€œnameâ€ Y12.
Anniversary of Hiroshima, Nagasaki Massacres
You may have thought that the nuclear war budget was shrinking and that the President honestly meant something when he spoke of â€œa world without nuclear weapons,â€ but youâ€™d be mistaken.
The President and Congress have funded new construction of a pair of projects at Y-12 â€” one of which was reached by the protesters â€” for producing uranium for new U.S. H-bombs.
One of the laws mentioned by the activists, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, obliges the U.S. to undertake complete nuclear disarmament. Y12 openly contravenes this law.
While the world notes the anniversary of the U.S. atomic bomb massacres at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Greg, Megan and Michael wait in jail to endure the wrath of an embarrassed nuclear weapons establishment.
Prosecutors who will advance the federal case against them may not want to call their government work â€œprotection of the Bombâ€ â€” especially in the face of international law requiring its abolition â€” but thatâ€™s what it is.
Still, the media wonâ€™t criticize harsh treatment of the pacifists. While the press over-kills the multiple murder story in Colorado, our TV nation seems to agree with George Carlin: The United States isnâ€™t warlike, it just likes war. Â Î¦
John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin.