December 10, 2010
For Immediate Release
Tacoma, Washington, Friday, December 10, 2010: The federal criminal
trial of five veteran peace activists facing several charges was
recessed until Monday after their jury announced late Friday they were
unable to reach a unanimous verdict on one of the counts. The
called the Disarm Now Plowshares, challenged the legality and morality
submarines at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base outside
The peace activists argued three points: the missiles are weapons of
mass destruction; the weapons are both illegal and immoral; and that
all citizens have the right to try to stop international war crimes
being committed by these weapons of mass destruction. "It is not a
crime to reveal a crime," they argued. Supporters from around the
world packed the main courtroom every day of the trial. Numerous
others followed the trial in an overflow court room.
The five were charged with trespass, felony damage to federal
property, felony injury to property and felony conspiracy to damage
property. Each faces possible sentences of up to ten years in prison.
On trial are: Sr. Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New
York; Fr. Bill Bischel, 81, a Jesuit priest from
Susan Crane, 67, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore,
Maryland; Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from
Fr. Steve Kelly, 60, a Jesuit priest from
Bischel and Lynne Greenwald are active members of the Ground Zero
Center for Nonviolent Action, a community resisting Trident nuclear
weapons since 1977.
The five admitted from the start that they cut through the chain link
fence surrounding the Navy base during the night of All Souls,
November 2, 2009. They then walked undetected for hours nearly four
miles inside the base to their target, the Strategic Weapons
Facility-Pacific. This top security area is where activists say
hundreds of nuclear missiles are stored in bunkers. There they cut
through two more barbed wire fences and went inside. They put up two
big banners which said "Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident Illegal and
Immoral," scattered sunflower seeds, and prayed until they were
arrested at dawn. Once arrested, the five were cuffed and hooded with
sand bags because the marine in charge testified "when we secure
prisoners anywhere in
Eight Trident nuclear submarines have their home port at the
Kitsap-Bangor base. Each Trident submarine has 24 nuclear missiles on
it. Each one of the missiles has multiple warheads in it and each
warhead has many times the destructive power of the weapon used on
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. In addition to the missiles
on the submarines, the base has an extensive bunker area where more
missiles are stored. That storage area is the Strategic Weapons
Facility-Pacific. That is where the activists made their stand for disarmament.
The trial brought peace activists from around the world to challenge
internationally known author and activist from the
the resistance to Trident weapons in
the Peace Culture Foundation in
facing a critical moment" because of the existence and proliferation
of nuclear weapons. Though prohibited from testifying about the
details of the death, destruction, and genetic damage to civilians
a tremendous amount of support in
Thomas Rogers, 31 years in the Navy, including several years as
Commander of a nuclear submarine, told the court he thought the
possession of nuclear weapons after the Cold War was illegal and
immoral. When asked how these weapons would impact civilians, he
responded "it is really hard to detonate a 475 kiloton nuclear device
without killing civilians." Dr. David Hall of Physicians for Social
Responsibility testified about the humanitarian core beliefs of the
defendants. And Professor and author Michael Honey told the jury about
the importance of nonviolent direct action in bringing about social change.
Prosecutors said the government would neither admit nor deny the
existence of nuclear weapons at the base and argued that "whether or
not there are nuclear weapons there or not is irrelevant." Prosecutors
successfully objected to and excluded most of the defense evidence
about the horrific effects of nuclear weapons, the illegality of
nuclear weapons under US treaty agreements and humanitarian law, and
the right of citizens to try to stop war crimes by their government.
The peace activists, who represented themselves with lawyers as stand
by counsel, tried to present evidence about nuclear weapons despite
repeated objections. At one point, Sr. Anne Montgomery challenged the
prosecutors and the court "Why are we so afraid to discuss the fact
that there are nuclear weapons?"
The government testified that it took about five hours to patch the
holes in the fences and most of the day to replace the alarm system
around the nuclear weapons storage area.
The twelve person jury reported it was unable to reach a unanimous
verdict on all counts and the judge sent them home for the weekend.
The extensive peace community gathered at the courthouse supported the
defendants and rejoiced that the jury was taking the defendants and
the charges seriously. Supporters promised to continue to protest
against the Trident and its weapons of mass destruction. They echoed
the words of one of prospective jurors who was excluded from the trial
because, when asked whether he would follow the instructions of the
judge in this case, said "I totally respect the rule of law, but some
laws are meant to be broken, that is how things change."
Jury deliberations will resume Monday.
For more information on the trial and the peace activists please see
the site for Disarm Now Plowshares
Nonviolent Action http://www.gzcenter.org/index.html/
Leonard Eiger (425) 445-2190
Media & Outreach Coordinator
*Special thanks to Bill Quigley, Legal Director for the Center for
Constitutional Rights, for authoring this news release.