PLC Six found guilty of trespass on west coast nuclear weapons base

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Nick Mele for his stellar onsite reporting of the Federal trial of the PLC Six. Click here to read more about the March 7, 2017 nonviolent direct action that led to yesterday’s trial.

Tacoma, Washington, September 6, 2017: Nuclear resisters were found guilty in US District Court of criminal trespass for their nonviolent protest at a US Navy nuclear weapons installation in Washington State.

In a trial of six nonviolent activists who conducted an act of civil resistance on March 7, 2017 at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, Washington, Magistrate Judge David W. Christel found the PLC Six (Mary H. Mele, Karan Founds-Benton, Charles Smith, Betsy Lamb, Steven Kelly SJ, and Alexandria Addesso) guilty of trespassing. The defendants had all stipulated to the Navy’s version of the facts in the case but pleaded not guilty to the charge of criminal trespassing. Their motion to include international law and necessity in their defense had previously been denied at the request of the prosecution.

The six resisters had crossed the marked property line onto the Bangor Trident base while reading sections of the Nuremberg Principles out loud before being arrested by military police. They were charged with trespassing and received ban and bar letters before being released.

They were part of a demonstration at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, Washington on March 7th at the conclusion of the Pacific Life Community’s (PLC) annual gathering. The Bangor submarine base, just 20 miles from Seattle, has the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S. If Washington state were a sovereign nation, it would be the third-largest nuclear-weapons state in the world.

All were sentenced to 100 hours of community service and charged a total of forty dollars in mandatory processing fees and fines. All but Lamb were placed on probation for one year; Lamb was given two years probation because of a prior probation violation.

The judge permitted each defendant to testify about their state of mind at the time they crossed the line at the entrance to Bangor Naval Base. In moving testimony, many spoke of their personal conviction that nuclear weapons are immoral; two pointed out that the president of the United States has sole authority to launch nuclear attacks without any consultative process or review.

Charley Smith of the Eugene, Oregon, Catholic Worker, carried a copy of the Nuremberg Principles when he crossed the line, as did the others; asked to explain their significance to him, Smith replied, “Very simply, if we remain silent or do not challenge the evils of society we are complicit in those evils just as much as those giving the orders to commit crimes against peace, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.”

Alexandria Addesso, the youngest of the defendants spoke movingly of nuclear disarmament as a right to life issue for her and her generation. She noted the many threats to younger people, from climate change to economic stagnation, and said, “I might not have ten, twenty or thirty years of life ahead of me, and I want to work with my peers to end the threat of nuclear annihilation.”

In his closing argument, defense attorney Blake Kremer cited legal precedent to challenge the judge to change the framework of his thinking and temper his verdict based on the facts of the case with his sense of justice.

Before sentencing, Lamb invited Judge Christel to collaborate with the defendants in concluding the trial with an outcome that would be both creative and just. She concluded “I want to quote just two lines from a favorite piece of music of mine, the fourth cantata of Johan Sebastian Bach. Freely translated they read ‘It was an awesome war when life and death contended./The victory remains with life, the reign of death is ended. Alleluia.’ This is my hope.”

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Activists blockade west coast nuclear base in plea to de-escalate nuclear crisis with North Korea

Activists blockaded the West Coast nuclear submarine base that would likely carry out a nuclear strike against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) should President Donald Trump give the order.

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, just 20 miles from Seattle, is home to the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the US. More than 1,300 nuclear warheads are deployed on Trident D-5 missiles on the eight ballistic missile submarines based at Bangor or stored at Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) at the Bangor base.

Activists with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action held a vigil and nonviolent direct action at the Bangor base on August 14th, several days after the 72nd anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Participants briefly blockaded the base during the morning shift change by carrying banners onto the roadway at the main entrance gate.

(left to right) Nuclear resisters Susan DeLaney, Philip Davis and Charles (Charley) Smith

All were removed from the road by Washington State Patrol Officers, cited for being in the roadway illegally, and released on the scene.

Those cited were Philip Davis, Bremerton, WA; Susan DeLaney, Bothell, WA; Ryan DeWitt, Olympia, WA; Sarah Hobbs, Portland, OR; Mack Johnson, Silverdale, WA; Ben Moore, Bainbridge Island, WA; and Charles (Charley) Smith, Eugene Catholic Worker, Eugene, OR.

One of the banners implored the Trump administration to stop its incendiary rhetoric toward North Korea. It read, “No Nuclear Strike On N. Korea!”

(from left to right) Sarah Hobbs, Ben Moore and Ryan DeWitt

Ground Zero spokesperson Leonard Eiger said, “No one knows where this escalating rhetoric of President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will end. To take either leader at his word, a nuclear holocaust is an acceptable event. There is no acceptable military solution to this nuclear standoff. Diplomacy is the only way out of this mess.”

The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action was founded in 1977. The center is on 3.8 acres adjoining the Trident submarine base at Bangor, Washington. We resist all nuclear weapons, especially the Trident ballistic missile system.

Click here to see photos of the action, as well as events that took place on the Sunday prior to the action. You are welcome to download and use photos (taken by Leonard Eiger, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action).

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CONGRESS WANTS $1 TRILLION FOR NUKES. What will be left for our children?

On July 17, and continuing for eleven weeks, 26 King County Metro buses will display the following paid advertisement: CONGRESS WANTS $1 TRILLION FOR NUKES. What will be left for our children?  The ad includes a photo of a Trident nuclear submarine in Hood Canal and the eyes of a child.

 

The statement in the ad refers to the planned expenditure of $1 trillion for the next 30 years for upgrading the nation’s nuclear facilities and modernizing nuclear weapons.  The nuclear weapons modernization plan was initially planned and evolved under the Obama administration.  President Trump has given his support to this plan and stated in December 2016 that the “United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability…”

The bus ads are an effort by Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, a grass roots organization in Poulsbo, Washington, to reawaken public awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons in the Puget Sound region. The Bangor submarine base, just 20 miles from Seattle, has the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S.  If Washington state were a sovereign nation, it would be the third-largest nuclear-weapons state in the world.

Ground Zero member, Rodney Brunelle, said of the bus ad campaign, “We hope to generate a measure of citizen interest, and to begin a public discussion of nuclear weapons in the Puget Sound region. The submarine base at Bangor has the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S.  The discussion needs to begin here.”

Photo courtesy of intersection.com

The issues

* The U.S. is currently spending more on nuclear weapons programs than during the height of the Cold War.

* The U.S. currently plans to spend an estimated $1 trillion dollars over 30 years for rebuilding the nation’s nuclear facilities and modernizing nuclear weapons.

* The New York Times reported that the U. S., Russia and China are aggressively pursuing a new generation of smaller and less destructive nuclear weapons. The buildups threaten to revive a Cold War-era arms race and unsettle the balance of power among nations.

* The U.S. Navy states that SSBN submarines on patrol provide the U.S. with its “most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability.”  However, SSBNs in port and nuclear warheads stored at SWFPAC are likely a first target in a nuclear war.  The latest Google imagery shows three SSBN submarines on the Hood Canal waterfront.

* An accident involving nuclear weapons occurred on November 2003 when a ladder penetrated a nuclear nosecone during a routine missile offloading at the Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor.  All missile-handling operations at SWFPAC were stopped for nine weeks until Bangor could be recertified for handling nuclear weapons.  Three top commanders were fired but the public was never informed until information was leaked to the media in March 2004.

* Public responses from governmental officials to the 2003 missile accident were generally in the form of surprise and disappointment.

* Due to ongoing modernization and maintenance programs for warheads at Bangor, nuclear warheads are routinely shipped in unmarked trucks between the Department of Energy Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas and the Bangor base.  Unlike the Navy at Bangor, the DOE actively promotes emergency preparedness.

* The award-winning documentary, Command and Control, and the critically-acclaimed book, Command and Control, by Eric Schlosser, address a dangerous nuclear weapons accident in Arkansas in 1980, and raise important issues for this region.

The bus ad

The bus ads measure 30 inches tall and 144 inches in length and are posted on the sides of 26 King County Metro buses that run through downtown Seattle.  An interactive map of the bus routes may be viewed at http://mapping.titan360.com/atlas.aspx?mapId=49878   The bus ads will run on buses traveling as far south as Federal Way and as far north as Edmonds.

Two bus companies in the Puget Sound area refused to run the ad.  

On June 22, Sound Transit in Seattle told Ground Zero: “Sound Transit’s advertising policy prohibits advertisements that Sound Transit reasonably believes promotes or implies a position on any proposed or existing laws or advocacy on disputed or controversial issues.

Community Transit in Snohomish County also refused to run the ad.  On June 23, Community Transit declared that the ad was a political advertisement which is defined under Community Transit policy as “advertisements that contain political speech referring to a particular ballot question, initiative, petition, referendum, law, candidate, political party or social issue or expresses or advocates opinions or positions upon any of the foregoing. This prohibition includes any advertisement referring to or depicting a candidate for public office in any context.”

Nuclear weapons and resistance

In the 1970s and 1980s, thousands demonstrated against nuclear weapons at the Bangor base and hundreds were arrested.  Seattle Archbishop Hunthausen had proclaimed the Bangor submarine base the “Auschwitz of Puget Sound” and in 1982 began to withhold half of his federal taxes in protest of “our nation’s continuing involvement in the race for nuclear arms supremacy.”

More than 1,300 nuclear warheads are deployed 20 miles west of Seattle on Trident D-5 missiles on SSBN submarines based at Bangor and nuclear warheads stored at Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC).

One Trident SSBN submarine at Bangor is estimated to carry about 108 nuclear warheads.  The W76 and W88 warheads at Bangor are equal respectively to 100 kilotons and 455 kilotons of TNT in destructive force.  One submarine deployed at Bangor is equal to more than 1,400 Hiroshima sized nuclear bombs.

On May 27, 2016, President Obama spoke in Hiroshima and called for an end to nuclear weapons.   He said that the nuclear powers “…must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without them.”  Obama added, “We must change our mindset about war itself.”

On December 22, 16 President Trump endorsed a growing arms race and posted to Twitter, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” 

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The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action was founded in 1977.  The center is on 3.8 acres adjoining the Trident submarine base at Bangor, Washington.  The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action offers the opportunity to explore the roots of violence and injustice in our world and to experience the transforming power of love through nonviolent direct action. We resist all nuclear weapons, especially the Trident ballistic missile system.

Upcoming Ground Zero events:

* The annual Interfaith Peace Walk led by Bainbridge Island Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple starts in Corvalis, Oregon on July 30 and ends at the Bangor submarine base on August 14.

* Ground Zero Peace Fleet in Elliott Bay to meet the Navy fleet on August 2.

* From Hiroshima to Hope event at Green Lake on August 6 commemorating the victims of the Hiroshima bombing 72 years ago.

* Boats by Bangor on August 12, will be a flotilla of small boats in the waters of Hood Canal out past the perimeter of Naval Base Kitsap Bangor.

* The Annual Ground Zero Hiroshima/Nagasaki Commemoration on August 12 through August 14 at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action with a vigil and nonviolent civil resistance at the entrance to Bangor.

Please check our website at www.gzcenter.org for updates.

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Peace activists to meet the U.S. Navy Fleet arrival at Seafair

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Peace activists to meet the U.S. Navy Fleet arrival at Seafair on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 in Elliott Bay

Contact:    Glen Milner (206) 365-7865
Mary Gleysteen (360) 265-1589
Day of the event (206) 979-8319

Local activists will stage a water-based nonviolent protest against the glorification of weapons of war at the Seattle Seafair festival.  Peace activists will meet the U.S. Navy fleet in Elliott Bay.

Other peace activists will meet on land at Waterfront Park on the Seattle waterfront at the same time for a nonviolent demonstration against weapons of war.  The rooftop of Bell Harbor Marina is closed to the public this year, and Piers 62/63 are construction areas.

What:  Peace activists at Seafair.  This is the sixteenth year for this demonstration. 

When:  Wednesday, August 2, noon, Peace Fleet in Elliott Bay.  Demonstration on land at Waterfront Park (just south of the Seattle Aquarium) at 1 PM.

Where:  In Elliott Bay, near Pier 66.  Demonstration on land at Waterfront Park (just south of the Seattle Aquarium.)

For the sixteenth year, peace activists will address the public display of warships and warplanes in our community.

Why would we demonstrate for peace at a Seattle maritime festival?  Because the celebration of warships in our harbor helps bring about the normalcy of modern war.

The fleet arrival at Seafair is a public relations and recruiting event for the U.S. Navy.  Previous years have brought Trident nuclear submarines complete with nuclear warheads and Navy warships used to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles in the first and second Wars on Iraq and the War on Afghanistan.  The fleet is displayed for four days in downtown Seattle at tremendous cost to taxpayers while crucial social services in education, health care, and transportation are being cut for lack of funds.

Please see Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet — Peace activists at Seafair on August 2, 2017

The Peace Fleet is an incarnation of earlier demonstrations: the People’s Blockade of U.S. Navy vessels carrying munitions during the Vietnam War; and the Peace Blockade in Hood Canal, demonstrating against the arrival of the first Trident submarine, the USS Ohio, at the Trident submarine base at Bangor in 1982.

The Peace Fleet began on August 2, 2000 when the Trident submarine, USS Alabama, arrived in downtown Seattle for Seafair, complete with up to 192 nuclear warheads.

In 2011, Seafair and the Navy changed the public viewing area on the rooftop of Pier 66 into a private event.  This is the location where in previous years the public had been invited to view the Parade of Ships.  In past years, the number of peace activists including the singing group, the Raging Grannies, equaled the number of other rooftop observers.  In 2016, the rooftop was open to the public for the first year since 2010 without incident.  The rooftop is closed again this year to the public.

2012 was the first year for the Coast Guard’s permanent rule for its no-protest zone, or so-called “safety zone,” in Elliott Bay.  The Coast Guard agreed with the ACLU that Peace Fleet boats should be able to remain in the area between the Coast Guard’s 100-yard exclusionary zone from Navy vessels and the safety zone which extends 100 yards from Pier 66.  See below the Coast Guard map for Pier 66 for 2014 showing the Seafair Parade of Ships route along the waterfront.

In 2013, the US Navy did not attend Seafair due to military budget cuts in FY 2013 resulting from the Budget Control Act of 2011, also known as sequestration.  The Department of Defense decided in 2013 to halt participation in community relations or outreach events that come at additional cost to the federal government.  In April 2013, a spokesperson for the Navy’s 3rd Fleet said that the round-trip bill for fuel alone for three warships from San Diego to attend the Seattle Seafair festival in 2012 cost $1.1 million.

On July 14, 2017, on a vote of 344-88, the House of Representatives passed a $696 billion National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2018.  Of the 10 Washington State representatives, only Representative Jayapal voted against the defense bill.  The bill far exceeded the amount of money sought by the Pentagon and the Trump administration.

On June 14, 2016, on a vote of 85-13, the Senate passed a $602 billion National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017.  Both Senators Murray and Cantwell voted for the defense bill.  Likely they will both support the Senate bill this year.

The Peace Fleet this year, as in past years, will require no public funds or public resources.

The next Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action event is August 12-14 at the Ground Zero Center in Poulsbo, and at the Bangor submarine base, in commemoration of the bombing of Hiroshima and NagasakiOn August 12, Peace Fleet vessels and other vessels will sail past the Trident submarine base in Hood Canal in a Boats by Bangornonviolent demonstration.

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United Nations Adopts Historic Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons

This morning in New York, at the end of its final session, the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Unlike other treaties, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, this is the first true multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty negotiated since the dawn of the nuclear age.

The final vote was 122 to adopt, 1 against (Netherlands), and 1 abstention (Singapore). The Netherlands was the only NATO country to participate in the negotiations. All of the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries boycotted the negotiations (BIG surprise).

The Treaty will be open for signature by any member state starting on Sept. 20 during the annual General Assembly and would enter into legal force 90 days after being ratified by at least 50 countries.

In a Joint Statement – demonstrating the epitome of doublespeak – released after the treaty was adopted, the United States, Britain and France said, “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.” The statement demonstrates how the nuclear-armed nations still cling to the archaic and tenuous doctrine of nuclear deterrence: “Accession to the ban Treaty is incompatible with the policy of nuclear deterrence, which has been essential to keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years.”

“The theory only works if you are ready to use nuclear weapons, otherwise the other side will call your bluff,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Deterrence, she added, is also “based on a perception that leaders are rational and sane.”

As expected, the statement invoked the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a reason for disregarding the Treaty and cited how it “risks undermining the existing international security architecture which contributes to the maintenance of international peace and security,” while disregarding the fact that historical and current policies (particularly of the United States) have created and are exacerbating the current nuclear crisis with the DPRK.

The final irony in the Joint Statement is the three nations’ alleged commitment to the NPT: “We reiterate in this regard our continued commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and reaffirm our determination to safeguard and further promote its authority, universality and effectiveness.”

The disarmament community never expected that any nuclear-armed country would sign the ban treaty initially. Instead, we hope that the treaty’s widespread acceptance elsewhere will eventually increase the public pressure and stigma on those harboring and threatening to use such omnicidal weapons, and make holdouts reconsider their positions. It will be a long haul!

There is historical precedent in previous treaties that banned biological and chemical arms, land mines and cluster bombs, demonstrating how weapons once regarded as acceptable are now widely, if not universally, reviled. “While the treaty itself will not immediately eliminate any nuclear weapons, the treaty can, over time, further delegitimize nuclear weapons and strengthen the legal and political norm against their use,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

The treaty adopted today will outlaw the use and threat of use, as well as testing, development, production, possession, transfer and stationing in a different country. It also provides a pathway for nuclear-armed nations that choose to join, with a process for destroying nuclear stockpiles and enforcing a nation’s pledge to remain free of nuclear weapons.

Los Alamos Study Group Director Greg Mello said: “It is difficult to overstate the accomplishment represented by this Treaty. It makes a sea-change in nuclear affairs, the effect of which will be felt only over time and with further yeoman efforts. It is a real milestone accomplishment in support of human civilization, an historic step in bringing the age of nuclear terror to an end.”

Mello also reminded us of the phenomenal efforts and co-leadership that went into bringing about this historic Treaty: “The Treaty could not have been possible without the leadership of, and engagement by, literally hundreds of civil society organizations, ably coordinated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), underpinned by the untiring work of the Reaching Critical Will (RCW) program of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF). The ban campaign, the fruition of which we see today, really began and was co-led throughout by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Dozens of other organizations could be mentioned, without which this Treaty could never have been produced.”

The day after the adoption of this landmark Treaty marks the 21st anniversary of the historic International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on the Legality of Nuclear Weapons. In that opinion the Court concluded “that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law.”

Today begins a new era of stigmatization of the continued preparation by the nuclear-armed nations that threatens humanity on an existential level. It will require a massive global effort by parliamentarians, NGO’s, and civil society, all working together, to bring a huge, continuous groundswell of pressure on the nuclear armed nations to not just “disarm,” but to create a paradigm shift away from violent conflict and toward mutual security assurances among nations. The framework and functioning of the United Nations must be respected and strengthened. Nonviolence MUST become the order of the day (and of the new era).

I invite each and every fellow traveler on this small, fragile, blue planet we all share to join in this struggle for a better world, a world with hope for future generations. For now I leave you with the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr on the subject:

More recently I have come to see the need for the method of nonviolence in international relations. Although I was not yet convinced of its efficacy in conflicts between nations, I felt that while war could never be a positive good, it could serve as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force. War, horrible as it is, might be preferable to surrender to a totalitarian system. But now I believe that the potential destructiveness of modern weapons totally rules out the possibility of war ever again achieving a negative good. If we assume that mankind has a right to survive then we must find an alternative to war and destruction. “Don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love. We must have the compassion and understanding for those who hate us. We must realize so many people are taught to hate us that they are not totally responsible for their hate. But we stand in life at midnight; we are always on the threshold of a new dawn.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr., “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” Strength to Love, 13 April 1960

 

Photo courtesy of Unfold Zero

 

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