Thursday, February 20, 2014

Long Sentences and Heavy Fines for Plowshares Activists

Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams staff writer
February 18, 2014
Common Dreams
Injustice in Knoxville - Anti-war trio took part in plowshares 
action in 2012 at the Y-12 Highly-Enriched Uranium 
Manufacturing nuclear weapons production facility. 
An 84-year old nun and two others were just sentenced 
to up to five years in jail.
Transform Now Plowshares is an effort by people of faith to transform weapons into real, life-giving alternatives, to build true peace. , Photo via Transform Now Ploughshares,
A 84-year-old nun and two peace activists who engaged 
in a non-violent demonstration at nuclear weapons 
production facility in Tennessee because "our very humanity 
rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war" were
sentenced Tuesday to several years behind bars while critics 
of the verdict say the true crime of nuclear weapons proliferation 
remains unpunished.
U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar sentenced 84-year-old
Sister Megan Rice, a Catholic nun, to 35 months in prison
and three years probation. Thapar sentenced 58-year-old
Greg Boertje-Obed, an Army veteran who lives at a Catholic
Worker House in Minnesota, and Michael Walli, a 64-year-old
 Vietnam veteran who lives at the Dorothy Day Catholic
Worker house in Washington DC, to five years in prison
and three years probation as well.
The trio's crime: a ploughshares action at the Y-12 National
Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The New York 
Times has reported that the "plant holds the nation's main
supply of highly enriched uranium, enough for thousands of
 nuclear weapons."
While officials called the Oak Ridge, Tenn. facility the "Fort
Knox of uranium" in July 2012 peace activists Rice, Boertje-
Obed and Walli were able to hike two hours in to the Y-12 grounds,
cut through multiple fences, hang peace banners and spray-
paint peace slogans, pour blood, pray, sing and pound the
ground. It took two hours for the three to be arrested.
The trio call themselves the Transform Now Plowshares,
a reference to the Bible's Isaiah 2:4- "They shall beat their
swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they
 learn war any more."
At the Oak Ridge facility, they left messages including "Woe
to the empire of blood; The fruit of justice is peace; Work for
peace not for war."
Previously explaining why they did the action, Rice said that
"we had to [do it]- we were doing it because we had to reveal
the truth of the criminality which is there, that's our obligation."
"The truth will heal us and heal our planet, heal our diseases,
which result from the disharmony of our planet caused by the
worst weapons in the history of mankind, which should not
exist. For this we give our lives - for the truth about the terrible
existence of these weapons," she added.
Initially accused of a misdemeanor, their charges were upped 
to a felony.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore said Tuesday that the
activists have a history of such actions, saying, "They just
keep doing it ... They are incorrigible," adding, "There has to
be a heavy toll."
The three were convicted of sabotage last May, and in January
when their sentencing hearing began, they were ordered to
pay $53,000 in restitution, but snow forced that hearing to be
suspended until today.
The three have already served over 9 months.
Supporters of the anti-nuclear activists who were inside
the courtroom toldCommon Dreams that while there was some
relief that the sentences weren't as long as federal limits could
have made them, the true crime was left unpunished.
John LaForge of the Wisconsin-based environmental and peace groupNukeWatch told Common Dreams that Judge Thapar gets
to "give the impression that he's being lenient when in fact the
sentences are harsh for what actually happened."
Further, he said the Thapar "erroneously said multiple times
that the defendants didn't show respect for the law." But the
law forbids the production of weapons of mass destruction,
Forge said, so with his ruling the judge "is protecting outlawed
This is a point echoed by Paul Magno, a spokesperson for
Transform Now Ploughshares, who told Common Dreams
 that while the group was "a little bit gratified" to see that the '
sentences that came down were not as long as they could
have been, "the wrong people got prosecuted, convicted
and sent to jail."
What wasn't addressed, he continued, was the "grotesque"
violation of nuclear weapons which threaten all of humanity.
Ellen Barfield, another spokesperson from Transform Now
Ploughshares, stressed this point as well, telling Common 
Dreams that "the U.S., as well as other nations, agreed to
as of the 1970s to disarm." And not only are they not taking
weapons apart, they "are now turning around and creating new,
more efficient ones," Barfield said.
"The crime of Y 12 continues," Magno added, and said that his
group's resistance will continue as well.
While these types of actions are months or years in the making,
Barfield said, "I can just about guarantee....there will be other
ploughshares actions."

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