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December 2010, Week 2

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Fri, 10 Dec 2010 22:33:53 -0500
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Jury for Tacoma Trident Peace Activists Still Out

By Bill Quigley
Published by Portside
December 10, 2010

---

Bill is Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional
Rights and a professor of law at Loyola University New
Orleans. Bill is part of the legal team assisting the
peace activists in their trial. Contact is
[log in to unmask]

---

The federal criminal trial of five veteran peace
activists facing several charges was recessed until
Monday after their jury announced late Friday they were
unable to reach a unanimous verdict on one of the
counts. The Tacoma Washington trial has been going on
since Tuesday. The five defendants, called the Disarm
Now Plowshares, challenged the legality and morality of
the US storage and use of thermonuclear missiles by
Trident nuclear submarines at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval
Base outside Bremerton Washington.

The peace activists argued three points: the missiles
are weapons of mass destruction; the weapons are both
illegal and immoral; and that all citizens have the
right to try to stop international war crimes being
committed by these weapons of mass destruction. "It is
not a crime to reveal a crime," they argued.
Supporters from around the world packed the main
courtroom every day of the trial. Numerous others
followed the trial in an overflow court room.

The five were charged with trespass, felony damage to
federal property, felony injury to property and felony
conspiracy to damage property. Each faces possible
sentences of up to ten years in prison.

On trial are: Sr. Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart
sister from New York; Fr. Bill Bischel, 81, a Jesuit
priest from Tacoma Washington; Susan Crane, 67, a
member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore,
Maryland; Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from Bremerton
Washington; and Fr. Steve Kelly, 60, a Jesuit priest
from Oakland California. Bill Bischel and Lynne
Greenwald are active members of the Ground Zero Center
for Nonviolent Action, a community resisting Trident
nuclear weapons since 1977.

The five admitted from the start that they cut through
the chain link fence surrounding the Navy base during
the night of All Souls, November 2, 2009. They then
walked undetected for hours nearly four miles inside
the base to their target, the Strategic Weapons
Facility-Pacific. This top security area is where
activists say hundreds of nuclear missiles are stored
in bunkers. There they cut through two more barbed
wire fences and went inside. They put up two big
banners which said "Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident
Illegal and Immoral," scattered sunflower seeds, and
prayed until they were arrested at dawn. Once
arrested, the five were cuffed and hooded with sand
bags because the marine in charge testified "when we
secure prisoners anywhere in Iraq or Afghanistan we
hood them.so we did it to them."

Eight Trident nuclear submarines have their home port
at the Kitsap-Bangor base. Each Trident submarine has
24 nuclear missiles on it. Each one of the missiles
has multiple warheads in it and each warhead has many
times the destructive power of the weapon used on
Hiroshima. One fully loaded Trident submarine carries
192 warheads, each designed to explode with the power
of 475 kilotons of TNT force. If detonated at ground
level each would blow out a crater nearly half a mile
wide and several hundred feet deep. In addition to the
missiles on the submarines, the base has an extensive
bunker area where more missiles are stored. That
storage area is the Strategic Weapons Facility-Pacific.
That is where the activists made their stand for
disarmament.

The trial brought peace activists from around the world
to challenge the US use of the Trident nuclear weapons.
Angie Zelter, internationally known author and activist
from the UK, testified about the resistance to Trident
weapons in Europe. Stephen Leeper, Chair of the Peace
Culture Foundation in Hiroshima, told the jury "the
world is facing a critical moment" because of the
existence and proliferation of nuclear weapons. Though
prohibited from testifying about the details of the
death, destruction, and genetic damage to civilians
from the US nuclear attack on Hiroshima, he testified
defendants "have a tremendous amount of support in
Hiroshima." Retired US Navy Captain Thomas Rogers, 31
years in the Navy, including several years as Commander
of a nuclear submarine, told the court he thought the
US possession of nuclear weapons after the Cold War was
illegal and immoral. When asked how these weapons
would impact civilians, he responded "it is really hard
to detonate a 475 kiloton nuclear device without
killing civilians." Dr. David Hall of Physicians for
Social Responsibility testified about the humanitarian
core beliefs of the defendants. And Professor and
author Michael Honey told the jury about the importance
of nonviolent direct action in bringing about social
change.

Prosecutors said the government would neither admit nor
deny the existence of nuclear weapons at the base and
argued that "whether or not there are nuclear weapons
there or not is irrelevant." Prosecutors successfully
objected to and excluded most of the defense evidence
about the horrific effects of nuclear weapons, the
illegality of nuclear weapons under US treaty
agreements and humanitarian law, and the right of
citizens to try to stop war crimes by their government.

The peace activists, who represented themselves with
lawyers as stand by counsel, tried to present evidence
about nuclear weapons despite repeated objections. At
one point, Sr. Anne Montgomery challenged the
prosecutors and the court "Why are we so afraid to
discuss the fact that there are nuclear weapons?"

The government testified that it took about five hours
to patch the holes in the fences and most of the day to
replace the alarm system around the nuclear weapons
storage area.

The twelve person jury reported it was unable to reach
a unanimous verdict on all counts and the judge sent
them home for the weekend.

The extensive peace community gathered at the
courthouse supported the defendants and rejoiced that
the jury was taking the defendants and the charges
seriously. Supporters promised to continue to protest
against the Trident and its weapons of mass
destruction. They echoed the words of one of
prospective jurors who was excluded from the trial
because, when asked whether he would follow the
instructions of the judge in this case, said "I totally
respect the rule of law, but some laws are meant to be
broken, that is how things change."

Jury deliberations will resume Monday.

For more information on the trial and the peace
activists please see the site for Disarm Now Plowshares
http://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/ or Ground
Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
http://www.gzcenter.org/index.html

___________________________________________

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