Martha Hennessy: Letter from a South Georgia Jail

Reflection by Martha Hennessy
From Camden County Jail, Woodbine, Georgia Jail

Sunday, April 22, 2018

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against the Lord’s anointed one.(Acts 4: 23-26)

We walked in the dark, stars overhead, with Orion at our shoulder and the waning moon rising late. Praise to you Dear God, for this gift of Eden. There were fire flies and croaking frogs to keep us company. And to think the logic of Trident is the obliteration of Creation. What did God whisper to my ancestors and then to me? Swords into Plowshares! We don’t mean to make everyone furious, but why turn our blood and hammers into spray paint and bolt cutters?* Why continue to set the desecrated altar to the false idols of war? We walked onto a military base that harbors the ultimate destruction, and we prayed for the power of a message, of a witness that could reach many ears; conversion of free will towards life- giving work and away from death dealing false constructs.

We strung up crime scene tape over the model missiles and over the door to the Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic (SWFLANT), a place where war plans promise to take all we love. We wish to indict this war machine for what it is: immoral, illegal, and monstrous. Our foolish plans desire to see a world in which the suffering is lessened, our leaders begin to know what it means if they pull the nuclear trigger. Our action is an invitation to all for a change of heart that will bring us to true revolution.–Martha Hennessy (granddaughter of Dorothy Day who cofounded the Catholic Worker Movement)

*Editor’s note: the charging documents and the Magistrate referred to their possession of bolt cutters and spray paint, but ignored mention of the symbols of blood and hammers, which were used by the seven in their symbolic action. Please contribute to the Kings Bay Plowshares legal fund.

 

Catholic Leaders Still in Jail After Prayer at Nuclear Submarine Base in Georgia

19 APRIL 2018 UPDATE from Matthew W. Daloisio, part of the legal team for Kings Bay Plowshares 7:

Contribute to the Kings Bay Plowshares legal fund.

Federal Charges: We have been in touch with an Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) in the Southern District of Georgia. It is our understanding from the communication thus far that it is likely that the US Attorney will want to prosecute. At this point, we cannot give a definitive timeline, but we are preparing for a possible indictment on federal charges in early May.

An indictment would be followed by an appearance before a US Magistrate who will handle arraignment, bond and/or conditions of release, and scheduling subsequent court dates.

The AUSA has been trying to get in touch with the State Prosecutor, and we have reached out as well. He, and we expect that once the feds indict the local DA will likely drop the state charges. This may or may not mean a transfer from the Camden County jail.

Bond Challenge: As you know, on Friday, April 6th, Chief Magistrate Jennifer E. Lewis of the Camden County Magistrate Court said in court she was denying bond on the felony charges (and she set $50,000 on the misdemeanor).

We are in the process of pursuing a bond appeal. A local public defender will file an appeal on behalf of Carmen, and myself and Anna Lellelid will file on behalf of the other folks. We anticipate filing the papers in the next week, with a hearing likely to occur May 8th.

The outcome of the bond appeal is uncertain. There is a small possibility that folks could be released. A more likely scenario would be the decreasing of the misdemeanor bond amount and a setting of bond on the felony charges with certain release conditions after which folks could decide how to proceed. It is also possible that the court upholds the current determination.

State Charges: The seven folks are currently charged in state court with possession of tools for the commission of a crime and interference with government property, both felonies, and criminal trespass, a misdemeanor.

The state has 90 days (approx. July 6th) to indict and arraign on these charges. After an indictment, there will likely be a number of pre-trial hearing dates set.

Next Steps: We will continue to pursue the appeal of the bond on the state charges, although this may become a moot point if the state charges are dropped in favor of the federal charges.

We should know more in the coming weeks, and certainly by early May about what the path forward looks like.

Visit Update: We met with the women for two hours in the morning, followed by two hours with the men. I was able to go back later in the day and met with the men and women together for another two hours.

Everyone is in good spirits, happy to now have underpants, more food, and extra layers, purchased through commissary. We were able to deliver some books and a packet of legal information.

There are three men’s ‘pods’ in the jail, and one pod for women. There are 24 beds in each pod – and up to 30 people…meaning some are on mattresses on the floor. Carmen and Mark are together in a pod. Steve and Patrick are in separate pods. All of the women are together in a pod – and cell, with Clare on a mattress on the floor.

In terms of other jail logistics: (1) there are three standing counts during the day, with the first being at 5am, and the last at 11pm. The lights go off at midnight and are back on at 5am. There is limited access to fresh air, and when folks do get outside, it’s on paved ground with a fence overhead. (2) the phone is available in each pod most of the day (roughly 8am-10pm). Calls are limited to 15 minutes, and the line for the phone is fairly constant. (3) there is one computer in each pod where folks are able to send and receive emails (if you sign up for an account https://deposits.jailatm.com/webdeposits/default.aspx) –Matthew W. Daloisio

Bond Denied for 7 Catholic Protesters Who Prayed on Nuclear Submarine Base in Georgia

KINGS BAY, Ga. — Just steps away from a decommissioned submarine buried in the ground near the main gate at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia, anti-nuclear peace activists held a vigil Saturday morning to protest the U.S. nuclear arsenal and to show support for seven Catholic peace activists arrested early Thursday morning for unauthorized entry onto the base.

Pastor Eric Johnson of Durham, N.C., opened the vigil by reading from Acts 4, describing early Christians in court for disobeying local authorities and continuing to heal and preach in the name of Jesus, which was illegal:

“Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men and women, the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.”

Saturday’s peace vigil at the Kings Bay base follows the arrest of seven Catholic leaders who entered the base on Wednesday without authorization to draw attention to the global dangers of the Trident fleet and link the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

 Kings Bay spokesperson Scott Bassett told the Washington Post, “At no time was anybody threatened,” adding that there were no reported injuries and that no military personnel were in danger.
The seven activists were denied bail on Friday morning and are expected to remain in jail for at least the next several days. The detained are: Elizabeth McAlister (78), Jonah House, Baltimore; Steve Kelly, SJ (69), Bay Area, Calif.; Carmen Trotta (55), Catholic Worker, N.Y.; Clare Grady (59), Ithaca Catholic Worker (NY); Martha Hennessy (granddaughter of Dorothy Day), 62, Catholic Worker, N.Y.; Mark Colville (55), Amistad Catholic Worker, New Haven, Conn.; Patrick O’Neill (61), Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker, Garner, N.C.  … Read the rest of the article on sojo.net.
Contribute to the Kings Bay Plowshares legal fund.

 

Catholic Leaders Take Pope’s Word and Denounce Nuclear Weapons at Kings Bay Georgia

[April 19, 2018 update here.]

Seven Catholic leaders trespassed onto the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia on Wednesday. This is the first major direct anti-nuclear action taken by U.S. Catholics since Pope Francis announced in November that Catholics should condemn not only the use of a nuclear weapon but their possession.

“The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned,” the pope told participants at a conference on nuclear disarmament hosted by the Vatican in collaboration with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons passed by the United Nations in July 2017.

The seven members of the Kings Bay Plowshares, a nonviolent movement committed to “beating swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4), included Elizabeth McAlister, a revered leader in the American Catholic peace movement; Fr. Stephen Kelley, a Jesuit priest; Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day who was founder of the Catholic Worker movement and currently considered for sainthood; with Clare Grady, Patrick O’Neill, Carmen Trotta, and Mark Colville.

Carmen Trotta and Elizabeth McAlister on Kings Bay submarine base, 4 April 2018
Blood was spilled on the weapons facility crest to call attention to the purpose of the facility, which is mass destruction.

In a video statement made before crossing on to the naval base, Hennessy said: “We plead to our Church to withdraw its complicity in violence and war. We cannot simultaneously pray and hope for peace while we bless weapons and condone war making. Pope Francis says abolition of weapons of mass destruction is the only way to save God’s creation from destruction.

Clarifying the teachings of our Church, Pope Francis said, “The threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned … weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity.”

Currently, all seven are held in Camden County jail in Woodbine, Georgia. They have been denied bond. At a support vigil held on Saturday, 7 April, at 10a (EST), the supporters read sections from the book of Acts until the sheriff’s department moved the vigilers away from the entrance gate to the base.

Famed Catholic attorney William Quigley will be leading the legal defense. (Contribute to the legal fund.)

The Kings Bay submarine Base is the U.S. Atlantic Fleet’s home port for U.S. Navy Fleet ballistic missile nuclear submarines armed with Trident missile nuclear weapons.–Rose Marie Berger

MEDIA COVERAGE:

April 5, 2018
From First Coast News
From Washington Post
From Common Dreams
From the Raleigh News and Observer
From the Tribune & Georgian
From National Catholic Reporter
From Franciscan Media

April 6, 2018
From News4Jax