August Resisters Have Their Day In Court

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.

(l to r) Benjamin Moore, Mack Johnson, Susan Delaney, and Ryan DeWitt

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.

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CNV ACTION: VIGIL AT TRIDENT SUB BASE BANGOR

Join Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in a legal vigil on September 19th at the Bangor Trident Base (Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor) as workers enter the gate.

We also invite you to join us at a potluck dinner, movie and sleepover starting at 6pm Monday the 18th.

If you don’t join us the evening of the 18th, please arrive at Ground Zero by 5:45 am on Tuesday morning.

The vigil is an event coinciding with the 2017 Campaign Nonviolence (CNV) Week of Actions. Since 2014, Campaign Nonviolence has organized an annual action week in September, where marches and rallies calling for a culture of peace and nonviolence have taken place in all 50 states and a growing number of countries. Last year, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in 758 Campaign Nonviolence marches, vigils, rallies and other forms of public witness calling for a nonviolent culture.

For more information on our vigil contact Michael Hill at 360-492-3016

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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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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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From Trinity to Trident, and Beyond…

Dear Friends,

Today marks the anniversary of the Trinity test, where the United States detonated the first nuclear device. I ponder the perilous journey we have taken since that first test of a nuclear bomb in the desert of New Mexico on July 16, 1945. Since the United States dropped the first two bombs on Japan soon after Trinity, nuclear weapons have never been used by one nation against another, although we have neared that precipice numerous times. Since those first two bombs the U.S. built a total of over 70,000 nuclear warheads and bombs at astronomical costs, both economic and human.

As the United States and the Soviet Union fought the Cold War from their respective development laboratories and weapons factories, planners on each side continuously struggled to stay ahead of the other. Somewhere along the way, someone got the bright idea that submarines loaded with nuclear tipped missiles were the perfect way to keep the enemy guessing. After all, a sub bristling with nuclear weapons could sneak around the seven seas, ready to launch an attack, totally surprising the enemy.

Trident was the culmination of this demonic drive – the ultimate first strike weapon (even thought the US Government calls it only a second strike weapon); today some of the Navy’s 14 Trident nuclear submarines, loaded with Trident D5 missiles, silently roam the seas, ready to launch their deadly missiles on the order of the President of the United States. Just one of these submarines would, if it were to launch all its missiles armed with a full complement of 455 kiloton warheads (rather than the smaller 100 kiloton model), unleash the equivalent of nearly 7000 Hiroshimas (the Hiroshima bomb was between 12.5 and 15 kilotons), and could kill hundreds of millions of people. What madness is this?

Yet, while tens of thousands of people labored to develop and build this system of mass destruction (Trident), others worked to resist the madness – to let others know that we were preparing the seeds of our own destruction. For Trident, it all began with the early 1970’s when a missile designer named Bob Aldridge was at Lockheed Missiles and Space Corporation working on the first Trident missile design. Bob recognized something about the maneuvering reentry vehicle that he was designing; it was designed “to home-in on underground missile silos in a nuclear first strike” (Ground Zero Newsletter, Vol. 7, Issue 3, July 2002). Bob’s conscience got the better of him (something that has not happened to the vast majority of nuclear weapon scientists or engineers), and after a family retreat following Christmas 1972 Bob submitted his resignation letter to Lockheed.

A year later Bob met with Jim and Shelley Douglass and told them of his remarkable journey from missile designer to student of nonviolence, and briefed them on the plans to create what would be known as Sub Base Bangor (West Coast home of the new Trident fleet) on the shores of the Hood Canal in Washington State, just 20 miles from Seattle. And so the seeds of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action were sown by a person with the courage to follow his convictions.

In 1977 Jim Douglass and John Williams found 3.8 acres of land with a small house right next to the Bangor fence. What a find! A year later (the first Trident missile was deployed in October 1979) Bob Aldridge sent Jim and Shelley Douglass an urgent letter warning of the first strike threat that Trident represented. First strike meant that Trident would likely be used to deliver a preemptive surprise attack of overwhelming force on the Soviet Union (not a pretty picture).

Jim and Shelley Douglass, and many others continued building the Ground Zero community (which was preceded by the Pacific Life Community) as they worked in common resistance to Trident; blocking the railroad tracks on which the “White Trains” brought the nuclear warheads, leafletting at the gates of Bangor and blocking the gate, and building awareness of the dangers (as well as the immorality and illegality) of Trident and all nuclear weapons.

Jim and Shelley Douglass

Jim and Shelley produced some wonderful writings along the way, including Dear Gandhi: Now What? Letters from Ground Zero, and JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters. The Douglasses received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Preedom Award in 1997.

Jim and Shelley will be joining others at Ground Zero Center to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of Ground Zero on July 30th.  Everyone is invited! We expect fpeople from the Pacific Life Communities, Live Without Trident, Armistice, Agape, peace walkers, fence climbers, tracks vigilers, USS Ohio blockaders, Wednesday overnighters,pagoda builders, leafleters, potluckers, plaintiffs, defendants, lawyers, Bangor workers and fellow travelers. It’s a chance to reflect on what drew us to GZ, to catch up with friends, and to create an oral history.

Click here to learn more about the event.

It will also be a time to look within and ask, “Where do we go from here?” At seventy-two years of age, aren’t nuclear weapons due for retirement! 122 nations said “YES” to that question just over a week ago when the United Nations passed the historic Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The culmination of decades of resistance and campaigning against nuclear weapons, the negotiations brought together diplomats and civil society to prohibit these horrific devices made by human hands that are capable of bringing about human extinction. Enough!

We, the people of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, are dedicated to the abolition of Trident and ALL nuclear weapons. This is no naive pipe dream. Humanity is at (or is nearing) a fork in the long road that began with Trinity. Which fork we take (and the future of humanity) will depend not just on the political actions of the leaders of the nuclear-armed nations – we can no longer wait for them – but very much on the hard work of people like you and me, and organizations like Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. Please join us!

On the journey together,

Leonard

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