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.

 

‘Resistance is the Secret of Joy’: Two Recent Court Cases

“Resistance” is the secret of joy, wrote Alice Walker in Possessing the Secret of Joy. In the great 20th century experiment of nonviolent civil disobedience, there are currently two cases worth keeping an eye on, reading about, and providing prayerful and material support to those involved.

Dennis Apel

1. Dennis Apel, longtime Catholic Worker, founder of Beatitude House in Guadalupe, Calif., and organizer of the peace witness outside the Vandenburg Air Force base, recently had his case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. [Send donations to support Beatitude House here: 4575 9th St., Guadalupe, CA 93434]

Issue: When a military installation share custody over a public highway and designated “protest area,” can the base commander bar someone from that area? In what cases is a “public road” a “military zone”?

Judgment: Yes, a “military . . . installation” for purposes of § 1382 encompasses the commanding officer’s area of responsibility, and it includes Vandenberg’s highways and protest area.

Justice Ginsburg and Sotomayor concurred with the judgement. But, they said, “a key inquiry remains, for the fence, checkpoint, and painted line, while they do not alter the Base boundaries, may alter the First Amendment calculus …  it is questionable whether Apel’s ouster from the protest area can withstand constitutional review.”

It’s likely that Dennis’ lawyer will bring the case again, this time making a constitutional argument. Read more on this case here.

transform_now_plowshares2. Greg Boertje-Obed (age 58), Sister Megan Rice (age 84), and Michael Walli (age 65), Catholic peace witnesses, were sentenced last week to federal prison for roughly 5 years for Greg and Michael and 3 years for Sister Megan, for crossing the property line of the Oak Ridge, Tenn., nuclear weapons facility and spray painting bible verses and religious slogans on the outbuildings. (Read Washington Post reporter Dan Zak’s groundbreaking coverage.) [Send donations to assist the Transform Plowshares here: Dorothy Day Catholic Worker 503 Rock Creek Church Road, NW, Washington, D.C. 20010]

Their public witness was called Transform Now Plowshares. It is part of the faith-based Plowshares Movement, an effort by people of faith to transform weapons into real, life-giving alternatives, to build true peace. Inspired by the prophets Micah and Isaiah, Jesus and Gandhi, Transform Now Plowshares began a symbolic conversion of the Y-12 Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility on July 28, 2012.

Issue: The U.S. government charged the defendants with willful injury of a national defense premises with intent to harm the national defense (“Count One”) and willful injury or depredation of property of the United States in excess of $1,000 (“Count Two”). On May 10, 2013, Thapar cited the definition of “federal crime of terrorism” to rule that the protesters must remain in jail until their sentencing. The charge of sabotage – which could have brought a life sentence – was brought forward, discussed, and ultimately dropped.

Judgement: Judge Thapar sentenced Megan Rice to three years in prison for breaking into the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and defacing a bunker holding bomb-grade uranium, a demonstration that exposed serious security flaws. The two other defendants were sentenced to more than five years in prison, in part because they had much longer criminal histories. Judge Thapar said he was concerned they showed no remorse and he wanted the punishment to be a deterrent for other activists. They were also charged with more than $50,000 in fines.

Quotes worth noting:

A. “What is the national defense the three are accused of sabotaging? The answer to that question is not defined in the statute. The prosecution wishes to punish the defendants for interfering with national defense without 1) defining what national defense is and without 2) defining what part of their definition of national defense was interfered with by defendants.

The prosecution wants to use the vague sabotage charge as a blunt instrument to prosecute defendants and also as an impregnable shield to avoid admitting that there are preparations for a nuclear war going on at Y-12. The prosecution wants to proceed without admitting that materials for nuclear weapons are prepared, refurbished and stored at Y-12 or allowing defendants to put on any evidence about those weapons. There is a very good reason for the reluctance of the prosecution – the weapons themselves, thermonuclear warheads produced or refurbished at Y-12 are designed solely to reliably and effectively unleash mammoth amounts of heat, blast and radiation. The uncontested fact is that these weapons, as the prosecution well knows, cannot discriminate between civilian and military and are uncontrollable in space and time. They are designed to cause such massive damage that they necessarily would inflict unnecessary and indiscriminate suffering upon non-combatants and thus violate 18 U.S.C. § 2441. Likewise, the planning, preparations or threat to commit the war crime in 18 U.S.C. § 2441 are crimes in themselves.

This is why the prosecution wants to prosecute defendants for interference with a national defense without explaining that the “national defense” which defendants are claimed to be interfering with is totally based on first-strike thermonuclear weapons.” —OBJECTION TO MAGISTRATE’S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS NEW SABOTAGE CHARGE IN SUPERSEDING INDICTMENT

B. “[Judge] Thapar said the recommended sentences seemed extreme given the circumstances and did not distinguish between saboteurs and peace protesters. “Here, it seems like overkill,” Thapar said of Rice’s recommended sentence. “Six-and-a-half years for Megan Rice? Isn’t it supposed to be sufficient but not greater than necessary?”

Announcing the shorter sentences, the judge cited Rice’s decades of service and Walli’s military history, among other things. And he said he gave similar sentences to Walli and Boertje-Obed to avoid sentencing disparities. Even while emphasizing the importance of deterrence, though, Thapar acknowledged the good works of the defendants, which have ranged from volunteering in soup kitchens to teaching science in Africa.

“The court can say it is generally distressed to place good people behind bars,” Thapar said. “But I continue to hold out hope that a significant sentence may deter…and lead (the defendants) back to the political process that they seem to have given up on. Without question, the law does not permit the breaking and entering into the secure facilities of the United States.” Thapar urged the trio to use the political process and their community of supporters to go to Washington, D.C., to try to abolish nuclear weapons.”–Oak Ridge Today

C. Also fascinating is the “Heartland” Amicus brief and response by the defense on federal sentencing guidelines. Judge Thapar asked for guidance on whether he had to use the federal sentencing guidelines for “terrorism” in judging a nonviolent peace witness and how much he could take into account a defendant’s “good works” and contribution to the community.

Both cases remind me of practices in the early Christian church. A 3rd century Christian manual, called the Didascalia, reads as follows:

You shall not turn away your eyes from a Christian who for the name of God and for His faith and love is condemned to the games, or to the beasts, or to the mines; but of your labor and of the sweat of your face do you send to him for nourishment, and for a payment to the soldiers that guard him, that he may have relief and that care may be taken of him, so that your blessed brother be not utterly afflicted.[]

Y-12 Nuclear Facility Goes on Lockdown After Catholic Nun Breaches Security

Officials at the Y-12 nuclear facility show off “state-of-the-art security technology” (NNSA, 2010)

Joe Newman, director of communciations for the Project On Government Oversight, follows up on the most recent Plowshares action of religious civil disobedience held at the Oakridge nuclear facility in Tennessee. The Y-12 facility “enriched” the uranium used in the nuclear attack by the U.S. on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. (Read more about the Transform Now Plowshares.)

As officials at the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility sort through their recent security breakdown, they’ve decided it might be best to move all of their nuclear materials, including highly-enriched uranium, into their on-site vaults.

The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Frank Munger reported that the “security stand-down” is expected to last into next week. The federal contractor that runs the Oakridge, Tenn., facility made the decision with the support of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Munger writes:

According to the federal NNSA, “This is being done to address additional security training and execution deficiencies identified by the contractor after Saturday’s incident. However, all nuclear materials at Y-12 are in safe, secure storage and we remain entirely confident in the security of Y-12’s facilities.”

Sr. Megan Rice
The Saturday “incident” involved three peace activists, including an 82-year-old nun, Sr. Megan Rice, who cut through three fences surrounding the facility, posted a banner on one of the buildings and poured human blood on the premises, according to the News Sentinel’s orginal story about the break in.The activists were arrested under federal trespassing charges and are expected to appear in court Thursday.

The Project On Government Oversight’s Peter Stockton, an expert in nuclear security, told Munger that the security breach could be a sign of a much bigger problem.

“The DOE’s unprecedented response to last weekend’s break-in, alarming as that incident initially appeared, suggests that it has revealed even more drastic flaws in the security at the Y-12 facility,” Stockton said via email. “At this point we can only guess what those flaws might be.”

The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.–Isaiah 2:4

Plowshares Action: ‘Transform Now’ at Oak Ridge Nuclear Facility

Oak Ridge, TN—Early on Saturday morning, July 28, three Catholic plowshares activists performed a disarmament action in response to U.S. government plans to invest $80 billion to sustain and modernize the nuclear weapons complex, which should in fact be phased out.

Calling themselves Transform Now Plowshares, Michael R. Walli (63) left, Sr. Megan Rice (82), and Greg Boertje-Obed (57) right, entered the Y-12 nuclear weapons facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, as a prophetic Christian witness to prioritize people over bombs.

They released a faith-based statement citing Isaiah 2 and saying, “A loving and compassionate Creator invites us to take the urgent and decisive steps to transform the U.S. empire, and this facility, into life-giving alternatives which resolve real problems of poverty and environmental degradation for all.”

They also delivered an indictment citing U.S. Constitutional and Treaty Law as well as the Nuremberg Principles: “The ongoing building and maintenance of Oak Ridge Y-12 constitute war crimes that can and should be investigated and prosecuted by judicial authorities at all levels. We are required by International Law to denounce and resist known crimes.” This action is one of a long tradition of Plowshares disarmament actions in the US and around the world which challenge war-making and weapons of mass destruction.

At Y-12, the National Nuclear Security Administration plans to replace facilities for production and dismantlement of enriched uranium components with a new consolidated Uranium Processing Facility (UPF). It is budgeted to cost more than $6.5 billion.

Read the bios and full statements of Michael, Sr. Megan, and Greg here.