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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PLC Six Arraignment Follow-up (Betsy’s Detention Hearing)

As previously reported, the “PLC Six” were arraigned in a Tacoma Federal Courtroom on Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 before United States Magistrate Judge David W. Christel.

The six resisters had crossed the marked property line onto Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington state on March 7, 2017 and were charged with trespassing.

After their arraignment on June 7, Betsy Lamb of Bend, OR, was taken directly to the SEATAC Seattle-Tacoma federal jail/prison for standing firm in her statement to the judge that between now and the Sept. 6 trial for the PLC Six, she would make every effort to not undertake any action that might violate the law — but not without adding that she would do so only “as her conscience and faith permitted”.  Judge Christel refused to accept this caveat she had written in as a provision, and she refused to sign the statement without it.

Despite Lamb’s assurances that she had always appeared in Court at the appointed time and would do so on Sept. 6th, Judge Christel ordered that she be remanded into custody, noting that she had violated her probation terms. He rejected her offer to wear an ankle monitor and report regularly to a probation officer until Sept. 6th.

She was jailed, pending a detention hearing Monday, June 12th, where she made the following statement:

Lamb was only a few weeks away from the end of her 1-year probationary period for the August 2016 “die-in” at Trigger Gate (in which she participated along with seven other nuclear resisters who sprinkled ashes around each other over the “Blue Line” to commemorate the mass civilian deaths at Hiroshima) when she chose to participate in the March 2017 PLC action at Bangor Gate; despite the risks, she had said her conscience wouldn’t allow her to do otherwise. Judge Christel had been the one that imposed the probation order along with the 100 hours of community service for each of the “Bangor Eight.”

Many supporters stood up to salute Lamb for facing down the system’s enforced legality of indiscriminate mass murder weaponry (and its punishment of nonviolent resisters) as she was led away from the courtroom. The judge and prosecution appeared to take note of the number of supporters who filled the back benches of the courtroom.

STATEMENT OF BETSY LAMB AT HER DETENTION HEARING in Tacoma, Monday, June 12th:

The situation in this country that precipitated and led to the violation in question and my present incarceration remains unchanged.

Even so, as a nonviolent resister, I believe that if an action that I take has consequences, I should accept those consequences.

I believe that my willingness to be incarcerated these past days has adequately demonstrated my commitment to be faithful to God and my conscience.

I want this court to know that I understand and take seriously the conditions of release on the proposed Appearance Bond, and that it is my intention to observe those conditions.

The fire in my heart [Jer. 20:9] for the welfare and well-being of all God’s people and for a nuclear-free world will be channeled in lawful directions.

Being released to go home will allow me to follow up on some medical issues and to prepare for the trial with my co-defendants on September 6th.

At this time I feel I am prepared to sign the signature bond offered me, and would appreciate the opportunity to do so.

Thank you.

After referencing her co-defendant, she referred to the presence of some of them as well as her spouse and the numerous other supporters present.

After obtaining her signature and assuring that she had not added any conditions to those prescribed, the judge decided she could be trusted to show up for trial with the others on September 6th.

An interesting “PS” from Betsy:  When I passed through the door into the “reception” area of the SEATAC prison, apparently informed in advance of our “cause,” corrections staff greeted me with a resounding and prolonged, “NO NUKES!  NO NUKES!  NO NUKES!…”  They seemed to have known well and appreciated the previous presence of our Plowshares friends!

Trial date for the PLC Six is set for September 6, 2017, at the Tacoma federal courthouse, details TBA.
Photo by Fumi Tosu

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Standing Firm at PLC Six Arraignment

The “PLC Six” were arraigned in a Tacoma Federal Courtroom on Wednesday, June 7th, 2017 before United States Magistrate Judge David W. Christel.

Alex (Alexandra) Addesso, Los Angeles Catholic Worker, Los Angeles, CA; Karan Founds-Benton, Los Angeles Catholic Worker, Los Angeles, CA; Steve Kelly, SJ Oakland, CA; Betsy Lamb, Bend, Oregon; Mary Helene Mele, Bellingham, WA; Charley Smith, Eugene Catholic Worker, Eugene OR are charged with “trespassing” on a U.S. military installation.

The six resisters crossed the marked property line onto Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, Washington on March 7, 2017 at the conclusion of the Pacific Life Community’s (PLC) annual gathering.   They read 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.

At the arraignment Betsy Lamb of Portland, OR was taken directly to the Tacoma jail for standing firm in her statement to the judge that between now and the Sept. 6 trial for the PLC Six” – she would make every effort to not undertake any action at a military base that might violate the law – but that if her conscience and faith so dictated, she might be compelled to do so. She stated that she would agree to the conditions of release “as my conscience allows.” Judge Christel refused to accept this caveat she had written in as a provision, and she refused to sign the statement without it.

Despite Lamb’s assurances that she had always appeared in Court at the appointed time and would do so on Sept. 6th, Judge Christel ordered that she be remanded into custody, noting that she had violated her probation terms. He rejected her offer to wear an ankle monitor and report regularly to a probation officer until Sept. 6th.

She is jailed until her detention hearing Monday, June 12th at 11:30 AM (at the Tacoma Federal Courthouse, Courtroom C). A judge will decide then if she can be trusted to show up for trial with the others on Sept 6.

Lamb was only a few weeks away from the end of her 1-year probationary period for the August 2016 “die-in” at Trigger Gate (in which she participated along with seven other nuclear resisters who sprinkled ashes around each other over the “Blue Line” to commemorate the mass civilian deaths at Hiroshima) when she chose to participate in the March 2017 PLC action at Bangor Gate; despite the risks, she had said her conscience wouldn’t allow her to do otherwise. Judge Christel had been the one that imposed the probation order along with the 100 hours of community service for each of the “Bangor Eight.”

Many supporters stood up to salute Lamb for facing down the system’s enforced legality of indiscriminate mass murder weaponry (and its punishment of nonviolent resisters) as she was led away from the courtroom. The judge and prosecution appeared to take note of the number of supporters who filled the back benches of the courtroom.

Hopefully Lamb will see a good show of support when she appears before the judge again on Monday morning. She was to be incarcerated at the Sea Tac detention facility and will have it rough the next four nights (at minimum).

Trial date for the PLC Six is set for September 6, 2017. Details will be posted at the gzcenter.org Upcoming Events calendar.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Sue Ablao, Mary Gleysteen and Elizabeth Murray for contributing their reports from the arraignment.

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