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If Today We Hear God’s Voice

Dear friends,

P1010180“Our prayer is that this trial can truly be an occasion to continue the transformation process that began at Y-12 on July 28th.  We pray for open hearts and minds and for the ongoing conversion of everyone involved in the trial, to the way of love, nonviolence, and justice.

Let us be clear.  Sister Megan, Greg, and Michael have committed no crime.  Rather it was their intent to prevent a crime, and uphold God’s law and international law.”

— Art Laffin, leading the Transform Now Plowshares supporters in prayer outside the courtroom this morning.

After hours of courtroom tedium yesterday, today our hearts were ready to welcome the voices of our friends.

The government presented its case first, insinuating all sorts of fear, disorder, and extremism, and then the defense reframed the issue.  Chris Irwin, like Francis Lloyd after him, emphasized the nonviolence of the defendants — they brought roses not dynamite, bibles not grenades — and he also brought attention to the slow response of security officers.  Greg gave his opening statement next.  He stood at the podium wearing his Viva House Catholic Worker 40th Anniversary T-shirt, with its inscription, “Love One Another,” as he described his life of service, Megan’s, and Mike’s, and described the convictions that led them to their action.  What is real security?  What is false security?  Nuclear weapons provide only an illusion of safety; true security is a life of service to those in need.  Greg ended by quoting a favorite bible passage of Michael’s, exhorting the jury to take seriously their role as the conscience of the community: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”

The government ran through its case today from start to finish, calling four witnesses and bringing forward banners, bolt cutters, surveillance videos, recorded jail phone calls and media interviews as evidence.

A few highlights from the government witness testimony:

Bill Quigley cross-examines government witness Steven Erhart

Bill Quigley cross-examines government witness Steven Erhart

Steven Erhart, NNSA manager at Y-12

  • Erhart tried to differentiate nuclear deterrent (good) from nuclear use (bad).  As he explained the U.S. policy of deterrence, his face wore a look of slightly apologetic concern, as if to say he hoped the jury would understand the critical, if unfortunate, nature of Y-12’s mission.
  • Bill Quigley read passage after passage from the DOE report concluding that security at Y-12 was “deeply flawed.”  Is it true, he asked, that there was a culture of complacency regarding Y-12 security? Erhart equivocated. “It may be better to say, ‘normalization of deviation from the optimum.’
  • Erhart stated outright, “We [at Y-12] deploy nuclear weapons.”  He mentioned both Hiroshima and Nagasaki even before the defense cross-examined him, and Bill Quigley’s cross-examination brought forth damning facts regarding U.S. nuclear war crimes in Japan.  Erhart admitted, “The use of a nuclear weapon would be a devastating event.”
  • Erhart asserted that nuclear weapons brought about the end of WWII.  The government prosecutor asked him to estimate how many lives were saved by the nuclear weapons, but the judge sustained the defense’s objection to that question.
  • Francis Lloyd built on Bill Quigley’s exposition of the consequences of nuclear weapons, in order to enlarge the scope of what was being discussed as “security” and make it clear that nuclear weapons are fundamentally insecure.  Under Lloyd’s questioning, Erhart admitted that the U.S. has made several mistakes in handling nuclear weapons, and also admitted that such mistakes could cause extensive harm, though that would be “extremely improbable.”  However, he was forced to admit that he had also considered a senior citizen break-in at Y-12 “highly improbable” before July 28, 2012.

Sgt. Chad Riggs, second security responder to the Transform Now Plowshares

  • Told the jury, “I felt endangered.”  To be specific, he felt Michael was the most dangerous of the bunch.  From his training, he knew that such individuals as these were likely to have a sniper with them somewhere.
  • The government presented surveillance camera footage for Sgt. Riggs to comment on.  In this footage, Michael, Megan, and Greg are seen coming through the hole they cut in the inmost fence, and they are then seen standing in front of the HEUMF as Kirk Garland, the first security responder, drives up.  Megan bows to him deeply at the waist, her arms outstretched in greeting.  The three light candles.  They stand facing Garland at a distance of ten feet.  We learn later that they are singing and offering him bread.

Officer Kirk Garland, first security responder to the Transform Now Plowshares

  • Lost his job in August 2012 because his employers were not satisfied with how he handled the situation on July 28th.
  • He said of Michael, Megan, and Greg, “They told me they were sent from God and they wanted to read me a statement.  They also read from the Bible, in Isaiah.”
  • He was quite confident in identifying the three as peace activists.  “I’ve arrested… quite a few of them.  I recognize a peace activist when I see one.  Not that they have a particular way they dress or anything.”  His experience with peace activists included nuns, banners, and blood at Rocky Flats.

Gen. Rodney Johnson, in charge of security operations at Y-12

  • Offered numbers mostly, of the cost of repairing the damage to fences and buildings.
  • Greg’s cross-examination of Gen. Johnson came out of his expertise as a house painter.  There were 100 gallons of paint purchased?!  Greg suggested that, given it only takes about a gallon of paint to paint a standard room in a house, 100 gallons was a gross over-purchase.

The government called one more witness, Ryan Baker, special agent with the DOE Office of the Inspector General, and then rested its case.

The stage was set for Sister Megan Rice.  Sister Megan took the stand after 5:00pm and spoke for almost an hour, and yet she commanded the attention of every last juror.  The whole room listened in rapt attention as she responded to Francis Lloyd’s questions, describing her early childhood realization of the horrors of nuclear weapons, her education in radiation biology in her master’s program at Boston College, and her missionary work in Africa, teaching science and building schools.  She spoke of the sacredness of the Nevada desert, taken from the Shoshone people (“illegally, breaking a treaty”) and desecrated by the effects of nuclear testing; she spoke of the suffering of downwinders, the cancer caused in people and animals, and the $6 million apiece spent on each test.  She spoke of the transformative power of her participation in the Nevada Desert Experience.  Besides the” harmonious vibrations” emitted by the mountains and all the earth, Sister Megan also felt in Nevada “the culture of silence, the culture of secrecy” surrounding weapons testing and its consequences.  “It was extremely clarifying about the reality of the military industrial complex of this country.”

Fast-forward to July 28, 2012.  As Megan, Greg, and Michael approached Y-12, Megan says they “prayed together, we were filled with love and compassion” for the people who had to work in such a dangerous facility.  “We wanted to bring love and healing.”

She felt led by the Holy Spirit, and was more and more surprised to find herself reaching the heart of Y-12.  When Francis asked her about the surveillance tape footage and the way she bowed to Mr. Garland, Megan explained the Buddhist tradition of deeply reverencing each living being.  In response to questions about the extent of the damage she did, she said lightly, “I could have repaired it!”

As 6:00 approached, Sister Megan was still not quite finished answering Francis’s questions.  The judge dismissed the jury anyhow, and when he did, Megan stood, folded her hands in front of her, and bowed to the jurors as they filed past the witness box.

After the jury left, the next half hour was spent presenting arguments for and against acquitting the defendants of the sabotage charge, based on lack of evidence.  The decision will hinge on what evidence there is of “specific intent” on the part of the defendants, and whether or not there is enough evidence of specific intent for a reasonable jury to convict the three.  Prior Plowshares appeals cases are being taken into consideration.  Arguments were also presented as to whether or not Jim Sessions and Ann Wright should be allowed as expert witnesses for the defense.  The judge will give his rulings tomorrow.



6 thoughts on “If Today We Hear God’s Voice

  1. Reblogged this on Move for Change and the Brooklyn Culture Jam and commented:
    trial begins for the Transform Now Plowshares.

    Posted by moveforchangebkculturejam | May 8, 2013, 7:10 am
  2. fr Dave Eberhardt in baltimore, all of us involved with the premier of the anti draft actions movie “Hit and Stay” (on thursday in baltimore) are following the trial closely- Brendan Walsh of VIVA House spoke of you on our Marc Steiner show yesterday (tues) Max and I appreciated the Knoxville hospitality, the food, the meetings- all so impressive- naturally we’re rooting for jury nullification- that these 12 can connect the dots.

    Posted by mozela9@comcast.net | May 8, 2013, 7:32 am
  3. Thank you Sister Megan. The unmistakable glare of Providence renews the faith. -Isa 51:7 “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.”
    –Ron Greene

    Posted by Ron Greene | May 8, 2013, 12:30 pm
  4. Dearest Ones,

    As Dan Berrigan would say, you are all capex veritatis. I read the posts with confidence (faith) and spread the word.
    My similar message to Bill Q went to Loyola, so Bill, you are capex veritatis too!

    Posted by Ellen Murphy | May 8, 2013, 1:35 pm
  5. Just home from the trial, waiting for the verdict, amazing experience! Love for all.

    Posted by Ellen Thomas | May 8, 2013, 7:55 pm
  6. *A Review if the Movie “Hit and Stay” (preliminary and to be expanded)*


    The documentary,“Hit and Stay”, directed by Joe Tropea with photographer, Skizz Cyzyk, has played the Maryland Film Festival with two showings, 5/9 at the Charles Thjeatre and 5/11 at the Brown Auditorium at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

    Six years in the making, the 100 minute documentary is about anti draft board actions to protest the Vietnam War- spanning roughly a period between 1967 and 197? . Beginning with the Baltimore Four , the movie progresses through the Catonsville Nine, Milwaukee 14 actions to many other actions- there were 120 or so in all-including such major actions as the Harrisburg 8 and Camden 28- but also including such lesser known actions as the Flower City Conspiracy, Hoover Vacuum Conspiracy, Women Against Daddy Warbucks, RIPOFF, and so forth.

    The movie describes how these actions progressedfrom the first- where four people poured blood on draft files in Baltimore and waited to be arrested (hence “Hit and Stay”) to the perhaps best known action- the Catonsville Nine- where draft files were burned with napalm- to actions like the Women Against Daddy Warbucks where files were cut into confetti or actions where persons would not wait to be arrested (“Stay”) but disappear to surface at a later time or actions where people hit and then ran, avoiding capture altogether, or actions where people acted and then 300 persons claimed responsibility, making it impossible for the FBI to arrest any one.

    Participants appear speaking frankly and often humorously about their roles and plots and scemes (sp) to break into and pile up a myriad of draft files. The actions are always creative but, in some instances are ruined by informants and the FBI. Humor abounds, for example, Ms Dougherty spends the night watching the progression of lights on and off in the wrong building.

    The film creates a gripping narrative arc, thanks to Joe and Skyzz even though it consists largely of talking heads and interviews. Interspersed is commentary by such luminaries as Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, andHoward Zinn. Some of the participants seem to provide glue to hold the the narrative together more than others, such as Jim Forest, George Mische, Dan Berrigan and Dean Pappas, providing commentary and key segues.

    “Hit and Stay” played to sell out crowds of approximately 400 in both venues, and at both showings the movie was followed by a question and answer period featuring not just the two film makers- but persons who were in the movies as well.

    Music and animation in the film is effective, and shots of nature and Baltimore provide welcome breaks to the intensity. Fine, moving, tear inducing drama is achieved!

    The “other side” of the picture- that is those opposed to these actions, is well represented by a Judge, retired FBI members, draft clerks and church goers.

    Dan Berrigan spent considerable time in the “underground” deciding not to turn himself in for prison as ordered along with George Mische, Mary Moylan, David Eberhardt and Phil Berrigan Dan gave the FBI fits as he popped up here and there to give interviews or sermons. As he leaves after giving the morning sermon at one church, a member of the congregation comments- “Oh that’s what it’s about? He’s supposed to be in Jail with his bother?” And another says- “Well, he’s entitled to his beliefs but I don’t share them”; another states- “I think destroying draft cards is un-American”.

    I fully expected an amateurish work and was pleasantly (sp) surprised by the over all professionalism- thus leading to hopes of some wide distribution or play on PBS or another more established venues (the hard part).

    With all the work Joe and Skizz did- all of us participants learned a great deal about the other actions previously known only in fragmentary fashion. To have big appreciative audiences as well as friends present to watch the movie was very moving.

    Sadly, a number of crucial actors, such as John Grady and of course, Phil Berrigan have passed on.

    To me, Jim Harney and the “weather person, Laura Whithorn,give moving summaries and analysis of what we were doing, trying to accomplish, what we meant and “were about” and what needs to be done. Because of such statements as theirs , the message is a plain and clear one, making the movie as relevant now as it will be in the future of war making Ameerica.

    Joan Nicholson stands by the side of the road near Kennett Square in Pennsylvania, singing poignantly, “How many kids have you killed today, Empire USA”, a lone pillar of resistance as cars rush by.

    Bob, or is it Jim Good? describes a crucial moment in the trial of the Camden 28, where his mother sternly, heartbreakingly, admonishes the jury- “It is us- we have sent our boys away to this Vietnam enterprise.” He states that she came to realize thatone of her sons had died for oil tin and rubber!

    The 28 were acquitted in the only instance of jury nullification in the span of the draft action trials (wherein a jury ignores the Judge’s admonition to follow HIS, (i.e. the government’s) interpretation of the law. Harrisburg 8 defendants were alwo acquitted although most of the trials were, and continue to be, railroad jobs!

    During, the same week of the showing, three members of the “Transform Now” Plowshares were found guilty of sabatoge (sp) and trespass at the Oak Ridge nuclear facility at a trial in Knoxville Tennessee. They had actually poured blood of Tom Lewis, preserved since his death, (a member of the Baltimore Four and several Plowshares actions) on the walls of a building containing enough enriched uranium to end life on the planet. They had hiked a mile to get there, going through four fences, the last three in “Kill Zones” where they could well have been shot!

    The plowshares actions, starting with the first (Plowshares 8)in 1980- plainly continued the draft action tactics, with obvious links being Phil and Dan Berrigan and Tom Lewis.

    The Transform Now courtroom, their jury, their Judge were as leaden and dead as the trials portrayed in “Hit and Stay”; but hopefully this movie will reach out to “middle America” and not just those of us who are a minority of exiles in our own country.

    Message from dave (mozela9@comcast.net)- feel free to quote, use, AND CORRECT- just let me know

    Posted by mozela9@comcast.net | May 12, 2013, 4:44 am

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Contributions for jail support for the Transform Now Plowshares activists are welcome and needed! You can mail checks to:

Catholic Worker
PO Box 29179
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please mark your check for "Transform Now Plowshares" in the memo line.

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