Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jury for Tacoma "Disarm Now Plowshares" Activists Still Out

News Release

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 Tacoma

Washington trial has been going on since Tuesday. The five defendants,

called the Disarm Now Plowshares, challenged the legality and morality

of the US storage and use of thermonuclear missiles by Trident nuclear

submarines at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base outside Bremerton, Washington.


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 Tacoma Washington;

Susan Crane, 67, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore,

Maryland; Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from Bremerton Washington; and

Fr. Steve Kelly, 60, a Jesuit priest from Oakland California. Bill

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 Iraq or Afghanistan we hood we did it

to them."


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

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. 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

the US use of the Trident nuclear weapons. Angie Zelter,

internationally known author and activist from the UK, testified about

the resistance to Trident weapons in Europe. Stephen Leeper, Chair of

the Peace Culture Foundation in Hiroshima, told the jury "the world is

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

from the US nuclear attack on Hiroshima, he testified defendants "have

a tremendous amount of support in Hiroshima." Retired US Navy Captain

Thomas Rogers, 31 years in the Navy, including several years as

Commander of a nuclear submarine, told the court he thought the US

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 or Ground Zero Center for

Nonviolent Action



Leonard Eiger  (425) 445-2190

Media & Outreach Coordinator

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action


*Special thanks to Bill Quigley, Legal Director for the Center for

Constitutional Rights, for authoring this news release.




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