by Mack Johnson
ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL MITIGATION HEARING AFTER ANTINUCLEAR ACTION BY GROUND ZERO ACTIVISTS
On November 7, 2017, Kitsap District Court was the setting for the latest in a series of mitigation hearings by members of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.
Seven activists had entered the roadway during a vigil against nuclear war and promoting the end of the trident nuclear weapons system: Charley Smith of Eugene, OR; Sarah Hobbs of Portland, OR; Phil Davis of Bremerton, WA; Benjamin Moore of Bainbridge Island, WA; Susan Delaney of Bothell, WA; Ryan DeWitt of Olympia, WA; and Mack Johnson of Silverdale, WA. The last four people chose a mitigation hearing to explain the circumstances and reasoning behind their action.
Judge Kevin Kelly presided; he had observed previous mitigation hearings and listened attentively. Defendants gave powerful prepared statements attesting to their acts of conscience. Susan presented evidence of dozens of military nuclear-weapons accidents during the Cold War; Ben spoke of Thoreau’s call to resist unjust laws; Ryan highlighted the contrast between the few nuclear states’ drive to maintain nuclear stockpiles and the desire of the overwhelming majority of nations and billions of individuals for a world free of nuclear weapons. Mack followed with evidence that nuclear weapons violate several treaties the USA has signed (and enforces selectively around the world!) and a few facts about the immense power of these bombs that should make their use unthinkable. Judge Kelly acknowledged the mitigants’ commitment and sincerity, found that they had committed the
infraction, and lowered the fines of all four from $68.00 to $25.00, the lowest amount he could legally assign. There have now been several years of mitigation hearings by GZ activists, with all resulting in reduced fines and one outright dismissal of charges in October 2016.
It was a very positive and moving experience for the participants, their supporters, and even the courtroom staff. The court clerk stated afterwards that she had been clerk during GZ’s first white-train trial in 1985, and that she had been moved to tears then when she read that jury’s verdict (not guilty).
Ground Zero members expect to continue their efforts to inform the public about nuclear weapons through direct action and mitigation in the future.
Click here to read about and see photos of the August nonviolent direct action that was the subject of these mitigation hearings.