Awaiting Trial for Breaking right into a Nuclear Base, 7 Catholic Activists Are Unrepentant – Pink Letter Christians

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By way of RNS — In April of final 12 months, on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a gaggle of seven growing old Catholic activists assembled exterior the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Marys, Georgia, and minimize a padlock at a upkeep gate.

They have been in no rush. It was nighttime. Nobody was round. And so they knew from earlier actions that stealing their approach onto a nuclear weapons facility was really fairly simple.

So earlier than chopping the padlock, they stopped to hope and to {photograph} themselves carrying three banners protesting nuclear arms. They proceeded to the subsequent safety fence, assembled for an additional picture after which, utilizing bolt cutters, minimize the fence.

At that time, they’d damaged right into a U.S. Navy base that homes six Trident submarines carrying a whole lot of nuclear weapons, lots of which have as much as 30 instances the explosive energy of the bomb that destroyed the Japanese metropolis of Hiroshima in 1945. The activists cut up into three teams: One headed to the bottom’s administrative constructing, the place the members spilled blood on Navy insignia affixed to a wall and spray painted anti-war slogans on the walkway; one other ran to a monument to nuclear warfare to bang the statuary with hammers.

The third group went to an space close to a set of storage bunkers for nuclear missiles, the place the activists ready to chop the closely electrified fence with bolt cutters fitted with rubber handles. At that time, roughly an hour after they first entered the bottom, emergency lights began flashing they usually knew they’d been caught.

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7, as they’re identified, every face a doable 25-year jail sentence, charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor. Subsequent month (Aug. 7), they’re scheduled to seem in federal courtroom for oral arguments, adopted by a trial at a later date.

At a time when many faith-based social activists have moved on to different points — refugees, poverty, abortion and local weather change — these Catholic pacifists purpose to attract consideration to probably the most ominous menace dealing with human civilization: nuclear weapons and the hazard of worldwide annihilation.

“What sort of world are leaving our youngsters?” requested Patrick O’Neill, 63, one of many activists, who runs a Catholic Employee home in Garner, North Carolina, and is out on bail however sporting an ankle monitor. “Now is an efficient time to say, ‘Don’t fall asleep. Don’t assume these weapons are props.’ We’re on alert 24/7.”

Crusading towards nuclear weapons has turn out to be a lonely battle. For many Christians, like most Individuals, it’s a distant concern.

“Those that do take this critically are few and much between and wouldn’t symbolize something like a mass motion inside American Christianity,” stated Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, an Anglican priest who previously chaired the World Evangelical Alliance’s nuclear weapons activity power.

“Then you will have these unbelievable saints that consider so strongly they’re keen to do these prophetic acts.”

A imaginative and prescient of peace

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 are a part of a 39-year-old anti-nuclear motion referred to as Plowshares, impressed by the pacific prediction of the biblical prophet Isaiah that the nations of the world shall “beat their swords into plowshares.” Its activists have made a signature of breaking into nuclear weapons bases to hammer on buildings and navy {hardware} and pour human blood on them.

They’ve been at it since 1980, when a gaggle led by the brothers Philip and Daniel Berrigan, each Catholic clergymen, broke into Constructing #9 at a Common Electrical weapons plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. The Plowshares 8, as they have been referred to as, hammered on some missile nostril cones and spilled blood on some blueprints. They have been discovered responsible and sentenced to jail.

The Berrigans had first come to nationwide consideration throughout the anti-Vietnam protests of the 1960s for burning draft information. However by the 1980s, the period of direct nonviolent motion had peaked, changed by extra typical ways similar to rallies, petitions and media campaigns. Plowshares remained the one of many solely teams to increase their confrontational however nonviolent ways into the no-nukes activism.

All seven of the Kings Bay defendants are members of the Catholic Employee motion, a set of about 200 unbiased homes throughout the nation that feed and home the poor. Amongst them are the Rev. Stephen Kelly, 70, a Jesuit priest; Elizabeth McAlister, 79, a former nun; and Martha Hennessy, 64, granddaughter of Dorothy Day, who based the Catholic Employee in 1933 and was an ardent pacifist.

The seven spent almost two years plotting their invasion of the bottom, planning between rounds of prayer. There was nobody occasion that prompted the group, although some have cited the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear weapons treaty and escalating tensions with that nation as an element.

Greater than something, the group wished to deliver renewed consideration to a problem that now not evokes a lot public concern: the very actual chance of a nuclear weapons disaster, whether or not by way of battle, terrorism or human error. The seven set their sights on Kings Bay, about 40 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida, as a result of it homes 1 / 4 of the nation’s nuclear weapons cache and since there had by no means been a Plowshares motion there.

“I’ve little question that nuclear weapons will likely be detonated,” stated O’Neill. “I don’t know if it’s going to be by a terrorist or by chance. How can we wake individuals up?”

A number of stated they’d no regrets. All seven had been jailed earlier than and have been absolutely conscious they confronted years-long jail sentences this time round, too.

“There’s by no means been a single case during which I’ve been arrested that I’m not happy with what I’ve executed or wouldn’t defend to this present day,” stated Carmen Trotta, one of many seven who has participated in quite a few civil rights demonstrations. He helps run the St. Joseph Catholic Employee Home in New York, one of many authentic websites established by Day within the space of Manhattan traditionally often known as the Bowery.

Dealing with jail time

To those Catholics, the teachings of the church on nuclear weapons are clear: They’re morally unacceptable. The group welcomed Pope Francis’ current assertion during which he appeared to say that even possession of nuclear weapons for deterrence functions was flawed.

“Do we actually need peace?” Francis tweeted final 12 months. “Then let’s ban all weapons so we don’t must reside in worry of battle.”

So decided is the group that three of the seven activists — Kelly, McAlister and Mark Colville — declined to simply accept the circumstances of the bail supplied them (an ankle monitor and $50,000 bail) and have remained within the Glynn County Detention Heart in Brunswick, Georgia, for the reason that break-in 15 months in the past.

That’s to not say they welcome their jail sentence. They’ve requested for dismissal of the costs as a result of they are saying nuclear weapons are unlawful underneath U.S. treaty legislation in addition to worldwide legislation and, utilizing the Non secular Freedom Restoration Act, they argue the federal government should take their claims of honest spiritual train critically.

Judges have by no means imposed most sentences towards Plowshares activists, and the defendants are praying for a similar leniency this time. Excluding Trotta, who’s 56, the others are of their 60s and 70s and coping with varied medical issues.

“I’ll be relieved if I get one 12 months,” stated Trotta. “Two years is loads tougher. Three years is difficult to think about. 5 years is unimaginable. But it surely’s fairly doable.”

Nonetheless, they view any jail sentence as a type of witness to what Colville referred to as the “legal justice industrial complicated” and as a option to minister to these confined in it.

Jail, wrote Colville in a letter from jail, “gives the unbelievable each day privilege of strolling with Jesus within the particular person of the prisoner, and of seeing the world the best way He did: from the attitude of the underside.”

Prophetic witness or delight?

Plowshares actions — there have been about 100 — take planning and volunteer experience.

“You’ll be able to’t pull it off simply the seven of us,” stated O’Neill. Others helped with logistics, too, however the defendants deflected questions on particulars, cautious to not tip off the federal government to their conspirators.

They took equal care in each element of the motion.

Hennessy carried a replica of Pentagon-official-turned-peace-activist Daniel Ellsberg’s 2017 e book, “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear Conflict Planner,” in her raincoat pocket. As deliberate, she left it within the base’s administrative constructing.

O’Neill secured hammers from Christian social activist Shane Claiborne that have been made from metal melted down from weapons returned by way of law-enforcement alternate applications. O’Neill used one on the nuclear monument show on the base, which he refers to as a shrine to an idol.

Even the phrases the activists spoke as safety forces arrived to arrest them have been fastidiously chosen and memorized: “We are available in peace. We imply you no hurt. We’re Americans. We’re unarmed.”

All seven served two months in jail after their arrests on April 5, 2018, earlier than the federal courts allowed them the choice of bail.

Now they flip their sights to the upcoming trial.

Justice of the Peace Benjamin Cheesbro of the Southern District Courtroom of Georgia has really useful that the motions to dismiss the costs, together with the Non secular Freedom Restoration Act argument, be denied. The seven are interesting.

O’Neill, who’s representing himself, stated he doesn’t need an adversarial relationship with Cheesbro. And when he meets U.S. District Courtroom Decide Lisa Godbey Wooden previous to their trial, he’ll inform her what he instructed Cheesbro:

“The best way I really feel is, there’s a advantageous line between prophetic witness and delight. If what we’ve got executed is prophetic witness, then it’s of God. But when it’s a matter of delight, then this complete act was fraudulent,” he stated. “I spent a 12 months and a half with these individuals prayerfully making ready for this motion, and I consider our intention was to serve God.”

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