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tnplowshares has written 78 posts for Transform Now Plowshares

Sixth circuit orders immediate release of Michael, Megan and Greg

In an amazing turn of events, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals this evening ordered the immediate release of Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, the Transform Now Plowshares activists who were serving time in federal prison for their action at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN to protest plans for a new multibillion dollar nuclear bomb plant there.

Things unfolded rapidly this afternoon.

At 4:00pm word came from Bill Quigley, attorney for MGM, that the government had filed a notice that it would not oppose the release of Greg, Michael and Megan pending resentencing. The government’s notice was interesting—it included notice to the court that, when resentencing did happen, the government would not be seeking terms of imprisonment greater than the time already served. But, the prosecutor said, the court could not release the defendants unless it determined their were “extraordinary circumstances.” The government’s brief went on to note the issues cited by the defendants did not constitute ordinary circumstances. There was a way, though, the government pointed out, under a different statute, and then noted that another court had ruled keeping a defendant unjustly incarcerated beyond the time they would be expected to serve would be an extraordinary circumstance. “We defer to the Sixth Circuit” said the government.

Then, just after 7:00pm this evening, the Sixth Circuit ordered the immediate release of Megan, Greg and Michael on their own recognizance. The order is not available at this time, but the word from Quigley is reliable. In a delightful serendipity, Monday is Greg Boertje-Obed’s birthday—with any luck, he will be home to celebrate it with his family!

TNP attorneys file motion for immediate release

Everyone seemed to have the same question following the news that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had thrown out the sabotage charge against Michael Walli, Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed and vacated the sentences on both the sabotage and the depredation charges. The court noted if the three had been sentenced only on the depredation charge, according to the sentencing guidelines, they would likely have received shorter sentences and would have already served their full time. So the question of the day: When are they getting out?

A fair question—they now are being held in federal prison with no sentence at all.

Within days of the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, Judge Amul Thapar, who handled the original case, convened a conference call with the lawyers from both sides. He apparently told them he had not yet been assigned the case, but he wanted to set a schedule in case he was. The result was a July 8 date set for resentencing. (The Court’s decision to throw out the sabotage charge and vacate the sentences could be appealed by the prosecutor, a decision we are told would be made not in Knoxville, but in Washington; the feds have two weeks to file a notice of appeal, then as much as 90 days to actually file the appeal, after which the defense gets time to respond, and the feds get more time for a final response—you can see how this would drag out with Greg, Megan and Michael still in prison.

But the case resides still in the Sixth Circuit (Thapar, who is a federal judge in Lexington, KY, originally drew the case because the Knoxville court had a vacancy on the bench; the judge who had been assigned the case had retired; Thapar drew the reassignment. That empty seat in Knoxville has since been filled, so it is not absolutely certain that the case would be remanded to Thapar for re-sentencing.) So, long story short, attorneys for MGM filed a motion with the Sixth Circuit on Thursday, May 15, asking for immediate release.

The Sixth Circuit wasted no time. Within hours, it issued an order requiring the government to respond to the motion for immediate release by noon on Monday, May 18.

That is where things stand at this moment.

 

Here is a copy of the Defense Motion for Immediate Release:Def Motion for Immediate Release 5-14-15

Appeals court overturns Sabotage conviction, vacates sentences, remands Megan, Michael and Greg for resentencing

Appeals court overturns sabotage convictions of Transform Now Plowshares activists, vacates sentences of Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed on all charges and remands for resentencing.

Court suggests decision may lead to release of Rice, Boertje-Obed and Walli

8 May 2015
for immediate release

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision in favor of the Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed who were convicted in 2013 of sabotage for their July 28, 2012 Transform Now Plowshares protest of nuclear weapons production at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

“The purpose of the action of Michael, Megan and Greg was to call attention to the ongoing production of thermonuclear weapons components at the bomb plant in Oak Ridge and, more specifically, to oppose plans to build a new, multi-billion dollar bomb plant—the Uranium Processing Facility—at Y12,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. “They were nonviolent protestors in the tradition of Gandhi, not saboteurs. We are pleased the Sixth Circuit appreciated the difference.”

The court ruled 2-1 in a decision handed down on May 8, 2015, that the government failed to prove the Transform Now Plowshares activists intended to “injure the national defense,” a requirement for conviction under the sabotage act. Disposing of the government’ arguments one by one, the court finally states simply: “The defendants’ convictions under §2155(a) must be reversed.”

The circuit court had the option of merely reversing the sabotage conviction but letting the defendants’ sentences stand on the other charge for which they were convicted—depredation of government property. Noting the lesser charge would have resulted in lesser sentences—the men received 62 month sentences and Megan Rice a sentence of 35 months—under federal sentencing guidelines (“it appears that the guidelines ranges for their § 1361 convictions on remand will be substantially less than their time already served in federal custody.“), the court chose to vacate all sentences and remand the their cases for resentencing on the remaining depredation count.
Michael Walli is currently serving his sentence at McKean federal prison in Bradford, PA; Greg Boertje-Obed is in Leavenworth, KS; Megan Rice is in federal prison in Brooklyn, NY. Her release date is currently in mid-November, 2015.
At this time, it is not clear when resentencing will take place.

for more information
Ralph Hutchison 865 776 5050
Paul Magno 202 321 6650

CA6 – Opinion 5-8-15 Reverse and Remand!

Transform Now Plowshares Appeal Heard in Cincinnati

March 12, 1930, Ahmedabad, India. Mahatma Gandhi and a company of nonviolent satyagrahi set out from the Sabarmati ashram and began his march to Dandi where, twenty-four days later, he would make hold in his hands salt made from the ocean water and declare, “Here I ruin the British empire.”

It was an audacious faith in the power of nonviolence that carried Gandhi on that walk, and that powered him for another seventeen years before the miracle was realized and India was freed from British colonial rule.

Eighty-four years later, to the day, the power of nonviolence entered into the Potter Stewart federal courthouse in Cincinnati, Ohio, where three men sat in black robes to hear arguments challenging the sabotage convictions of Gregory Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice and Michael Walli in the Transform Now Plowshares action. Appellate arguments usually echo in a courtroom empty but for judges, a clerk and the lawyers. But on March 12, 2015, the pews began to fill at 8:30. By 9:00 there were more than forty people in the courtroom—three dozen Plowshares supporters and another dozen high school students on a field trip who were about to be educated about the legal process, and maybe be prompted to think about nuclear weapons and the power of nonviolent direct action in the process.

We had made our way to the courthouse in the early morning darkness after skimming a thin sheet of frozen dew off the windshields of our car. Fortified by oatmeal, some amazing english muffins, homemade granola and a selection of teas and coffee—thanks, John Blickenstaff!—we began to pass out flyers to passers-by. The courthouse was located alongside the downtown bus terminal, providing a convenient distribution point.

Within minutes, others arrived—Ardeth, Carol and Liz from Jonah House; Kathy Boylan from Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington, DC and Paul Magno; four Sisters of Charity from Mt. Saint Joseph just outside Cincinnati; members of footprints for peace; half a dozen OREPA members from Knoxville; Brian Garry from Cincinnati; Shannon from Xavier. We greeted the Quigleys who traveled up from New Orleans for the hearing. It was a nice mini-reunion of folks who enjoyed the grand spirit of community of the trial and sentencing. Those of you who weren’t able to join us were missed. Some brought kinfolk with them.

The Veterans for Peace banner was unfurled; Ellen Barfield and Eve Tetaz held it on the corner in the chilly morning air. When we ran out of flyers, we went inside.

At 10:10 our case was called. Placards on the bench identified Judge Kethledge on our left; Judge Boggs in the middle; Judge Helmick on our right. Flanking the three living judges were two other elderly white judges, portraited in their robes. On the side wall, another judge l’oeil, and behind us, on the back wall, two much-larger-than-life judges watched over the proceedings from inside their frames. The courtroom was all dark paneling reaching to within four feet of the ceiling. The paneling was rectangles; the recessed lights were squares, the benches were mitered corners; there were precious few curves in a room dedicated to the sharp angles of the law.

Each side had fifteen minutes to argue. Mark Shapiro delivered oral arguments for our side and he was brilliant. Assistant District Attorney Jeff Theodore traveled from Knoxville to make the government’s case.

The purpose of our appeal was primarily to challenge the use of the sabotage statute to convict Megan, Greg and Michael—it is the reason they got such long sentences. Piece by piece, Marc peeled back the government’s rationale, applying case law and referring repeatedly to the intent of Congress in passing a statute meant to convict people who interfered with US war-making capability in war time. We argued the government has misapplied the statute, that interfering with Y12 (the Oak Ridge bomb plant) was not the same as interfering with the “national defense,” that the defendants general aspiration to bring about global nuclear disarmament did not equate to an intent to injure the national defense, and more.

Marc began by providing a clear accurate description of three senior citizens who trespassed at Y12 and damaged property. If that were the only charges they faced, he said to the judges, we probably wouldn’t be here. “But the government went further. They said that acts of nonviolent civil disobedience are equal to sabotage. They said these people, who sang, prayed and broke bread…that was not what Congress had in mind when they passed 2155 in 1918. They were concerned with damage to the instrumentalities of the national defense in a time of war.”

Judge Boggs interrupted (appellate hearings are not exercises in good manners…) to ask how Shapiro distinguished between slight harms, which Congress did not intend to include, and larger harms. He referenced the missile silo actions of Carl Kabat and Ardeth Platte. Marc said one could consider the instruments brought in; one could also consider the immediacy of the effect of the action. A missile silo had to be able to respond within minutes to an order—a bomb plant that manufactures one component of a nuclear weapon is several steps away from a sense of immediacy.

There was a back and forth between Shapiro and Boggs in which Marc deftly steered the conversation toward the issue of intent.

Judge Kethledge picked up: Well, there are two ways of defining intent…

Marc: Yes, objective intent and actual intent.

Kethledge: In this case, I understand they brought in little hammers.

Boggs: And they didn’t know about the shipment of material that was diverted.

Shapiro: There is no dispute about that. They could not have foreseen that they would get all the way in, not past one fence or two or even three, but through four. It was a surprise to everyone that security was extremely flawed. What they could expect was they could expect to be stopped. They did expect that. They hoped they would have a chance to educate the employees there about weapons of mass destruction. This gets to intent. Beyond that, no one expected this action would bring an end to nuclear weapons or stop production.

Kethredge: When they unfurled the banners, did they intend to eliminate nuclear weapons? Proximately?

Shapiro: No one could intend that.

Boggs: But they don’t have to eliminate all nuclear weapons to injure the national defense.

Shapiro: But Congress is clear. Slight injuries are not included in this statute.

Boggs: They took a chunk out of the wall.

Shapiro: Which everyone would see is a symbolic act.

Time was called, Marc having reserved four minutes for rebuttal.

It was Theodore’s turn. He tried to take the offensive. “There was sufficient evidence to sustain the sabotage charge; there are two elements, and they are only disputing one. To interfere with, injure or obstruct the national defense is enough. They surreptitiously entered, cut the fence, crossed the PIDAS security zone, and targeted the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility. They brought a banner. They read an indictment for war crimes,” he said, his voice rising with a little emotion at the end.

Kethredge cut in. “Sounds more like a protest than sabotage.”

Theodore: It was more than that. They had the desire, and then they took action.

Kethredge: Do you not recognize a distinction between motive and intent? If a man shoots his wife to get her money, his intent is to kill his wife, but his motive is to enrich himself.

Theodore: There is a difference to the extent. I don’t agree with their interpretation of the case they rely on.

Kethredge: Let’s look at the particulars. How big were the hammers?

Theodore: About a foot.

Kethredge: And they hammered on the building. Does that show an intent to injure the national defense? Banners?

Theodore: They intended to disrupt the national defense.

Judge Helmick spoke for the first time: “How is that accomplished, at that time of day (4:00am), when the damage they did was $8,500, at a time when no one was working…”

Theodore: They could have reasonable foreseen…

Kethredge: But reasonably foreseen has been defined as practically certain. Could they be practically certain that they would stop shipments from coming in, or that the bomb plant would be shut down for two weeks?

Theodore: They could be sure of a strong response.

Kethredge: They would more likely be certain they would be shot.

Theodore: Which did not happen, thank God. But the intent was to overall disarm, to enter.

Judge Kethredge then proposed a scenario where 20 ardent disarmament proponents undertook to lay down on the public road leading into the bomb plant to block a shipment of nuclear materials. “Suppose it takes a long time to remove them, and you can’t have bomb material waiting by the side of the road for a couple of hours, so they have to turn around and go back, three or four states away. Would those people be guilty of sabotage?”

Theodore: They would meet the second element, intent to injure.

Boggs: Intending to keep nuclear materials from getting in.

Theodore: They have to willfully intend to injure the national defense. If they indicated their intent…these people said at trial and in the media…

Boggs: But there was a time, a long time ago, when people would lie down in front of trains. Was that obstructing and interfering?

Theodore: They have all the right in the world to be against nuclear weapon and to protest. But when they take action and they try to interfere…

Kethredge: Well, standing on top of the missile silo door is different. What is missing is the proximate effect and substantiality. It’s de minimis, in terms of expectations. It is less proximate than Platte, right?

“It is,” Theodore admitted, then argued on a parsing of the statute to defend his position that Y12 is a national defense facility. “The bottom part refers to the military and armed forces. Everything above that is broader.”

Kethredge cited a recent case, Bond, and noted an uncanny parallel. In Bond, the defendant attempted to poison a person by applying chemicals to a doorknob, a little at a time. The government charged the defendant with using chemical weapons. Kethredge said, “The court said, ‘We’re not going to read chemical weapons that closely,’ even though there were chemicals that were used. Is it fair to say, banners, hammer, spray paint and blood—those are instruments to harm the national defense?”

Theodore could not back down now. “They could be—“

“Could be?” Kethredge cut him off. “These people are in prison right now.”

In that instant, humanity entered the courtroom that usually dealt only in verbal interpretations of legal language, hypothetical cases and the intentions of legislatures long since past.

Kethredge continued, “I’m inclined to the view of Chief Justice Roberts that we have to take a step back from a definition of national defense so eggshell that banners…

Theodore tried to argue for a broad reading.

Kethredge pushed back. “Banners? Bread? To injure the national defense?

Theodore: Or obstruct.

Theodore tried to present an interpretation of another case to suggest a broad application of the law. “We would not have these weapons or the national defense without Y12,” he said. “The statute should be interpreted to fulfill its purpose.”

Boggs noted one of the cases being used, Ortiz, ended up with the court requiring the government to go back to “get better intent.” Theodore’s time was running out. “We have to make sure the military establishment is prepared,” he said. Boggs took the last word: “It takes a long time to get from Y12 to a bomb.”

Now Marc Shapiro rose for his last few minutes. Boggs asked him to address the de minimis argument by creating a hypothetical poisoning of 20 soldiers at Fort Leavenworth. Is that interference?

Marc parried deftly and returned to the question of instrumentality—it could not be lost on the court that banners and bread were not poison and guns.

Marc noted: The government says they did this surreptitiously, but the whole point was exposure. They may have gotten in at night, but they were not trying to dilute the Uranium and hide out to see what happens. The point is, in this case, they intended to be exposed.

There was a pause and he closed, plain and strong: “We ask the court to reverse the sabotage conviction.”

We rose to file out while the lawyers for the next case stepped to the lecturn. I turned at the door to look back—the courtroom empty except for three people in suits, waiting their turn to address the judges.

There are other parts to the appeal, and they were all masterfully argued in the written briefs, but the oral arguments focused on the parts the judges felt were at issue. It is impossible to know from what we saw in court how the judges will rule. It did seem clear that no weaknesses in our arguments were exposed, and the judges seemed skeptical of Theodore’s arguments.

There is also no way of knowing when we will get a ruling from the court. We can hope, since at least one judge recognized the decision has implications for people who are incarcerated, they may have incentive to rule sooner rather than later.

If the TNP three are successful on appeal, the most likely result would be a resentencing, with the sabotage charge taken out of the picture. That would cause an adjustment in the calculations used to determine maximum and minimum sentences and could very likely result in reductions for Megan, Michael and Greg.

In the aftermath of the hearing, as we gathered at Panera Bread to speculate, we were reminded of the generosity of the lawyers for Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe—Shapiro, Thomas McConville, and Judy Kwan, who briefed the appeal, and Bill Quigley, always faithful and almost always hopeful. It was a great team, and a very good day for truth in the courtroom, at least a slice of the truth in the courtroom in Cincinnati.

Transform Now Plowshares Appeal to be heard March 12, 2015

Lawyers for the Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli will have 15 minutes to present oral arguments before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 9:00am. Counsel is expected to ask the court to vacate the convictions of Megan, Michael and Greg on the charge of sabotage, arguing the statute was wrongly applied in this case.

Those who attended the trial and sentencing in Knoxville may recall the judge himself expressed concerns about the charge, but in the end he let it stand.

The court has scheduled 30 minutes for oral arguments, which is standard procedure. The judges are not expected to issue a decision for some months.

It is not clear whether a decision in favor of the TNP three would result in a new sentencing hearing and/or reductions of sentences for the three. In any case, the process might not be concluded in time to affect Megan’s term since she is due to be released in November of this year.

If you are interested in attending the hearing, the courthouse is at 100 East Fifth Street in downtown Cincinnati. You should arrive no later than 8:30am in order to clear security. Be sure to bring a photo ID.

Appeal filed for Transform Now Plowshares seeks reversal of convictions

Two years after Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli entered the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN to issue an indictment against the continuing production of nuclear weapons components there and to oppose plans for a multi-billion dollar Uranium Processing Facility which would produce thermonuclear cores for US weapons, and fifteen months after their conviction in federal court in Knoxville, TN on charges of sabotage (at which point they were held in jail), and six months after they were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to five years, lawyers for the Transform Now Plowshares resisters have filed an appeal in the Sixth Circuit court of appeals in Cincinnati, OH challenging the government’s use of the Sabotage Act, and the prosecutions efforts to prejudice the jury by inappropriately presenting testimony of prior offenses and invoking a comparison of the nonviolent demonstrators to 9/11 terrorists.

The appeal (you can access it below or under the Legal Arguments button above) asks the Sixth Circuit to reverse the defendants’ convictions. The arguments articulate what many of us who witnessed the proceedings firsthand felt during the trial—the prosecution sought to twist the law in a way that would achieve a conviction and, in so doing, subverted justice. “How can this be?” we wondered.

It turns out it can’t be, at least not legally. The appeal cites Berger v. United States in pointing out that “a prosecutor’s interest is not simply to ‘win a case, but that justice may be done.’ While he (sic) may strike hard blows, he may not strike foul ones.”

The appeal asserts that the prosecutor knowingly and wrongly conflated harm with the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex with harm to the national defense, and the court failed to distinguish between the symbolic action of the Transform Now Plowshares resisters and previous Plowshares actions that damaged actual apparatus of nuclear attack. The appeal also notes that motive—wishing to advance the cause of global nuclear disarmament—is not the same as an intent to disrupt Y12 operations.

The appeals team asks the sixth circuit to hear oral arguments. The appeal was prepared by the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP with assistance from Bill Quigley and Anna Lise Lellilid-Douffet from the original defense team.

Defs Opening Brief 6th Cir 8-4-14

Two Years On, the Crime Remains the Same

 

TWO YEARS ON, THE CRIME REMAINS THE SAME:
TO HONOR TNP’s MGM, WE MUST CONTINUE THE WORK OF DISARMAMENT
by Ellen Barfield

With the two year anniversary of the Transform Now Plowshares action today, 28 July, and with
Megan, Greg, and Michael (MGM!) seeming to be stable at their prison assignments for now, it is
a good time to review the action, the trial and sentencing, and the subsequent responsibility of all
of us to support and move forward their work resisting nuclear weapons.

These hot, humid days of deep summer certainly bring back memories of being in hot, humid
eastern Tennessee two years ago and beginning to travel Oak Ridge and Knoxville area roads 
which later became very familiar after so many visits for hearings, trial, and sentencing. When 
I took Megan’s first call from jail and heard her elation that they had gotten to exactly where they 
wanted and done all they had planned, it was clear the blessings of God or the universe had again 
supported the work of disarmament, as so often has happened with plowshares actions.

This was evident too in the fact that they were found by a long-employed guard with prior
experience with peace activists at Rocky Flats, so he knew that he faced no physical threat
and did not use violence. The video of that meeting we later saw in court was touching; MGM
bowing and holding out their hands in friendship, offering bread and flowers, and the guard’s
calm demeanor in response. What a shame that plant management fired him for doing his job
so well. His union continues to support his claim of wrongful dismissal, as well they should.

So then the media frenzy began. I did my best to convey to cameras and scribbling pencils
that Plowshares is a movement, not an organization, and that the whole point of 3 less-than-
youthful people hiking steep ridges in the dark and cutting and crawling through four fences to
risk their bodies to tag and dent the storehouse of tons of highly enriched uranium which has
only one genocidal use, was to try again, as have over 100 prior plowshares actions since 1980,
to wake humanity up to the horrendous maintenance and further development of mass killing
machines, and the knowledge that officials cannot end the arms race, so citizens must.

Long months of legal maneuvering ensued. The prosecutor sought approval from above for the 
harsh sabotage charge only ever used for Plowshares actions. Defense tried and failed to get 
first-hand testimony admitted as evidence from former Attorney General Ramsey Clark about 
personally helping write the nuclear weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty, and therefore knowing 
exactly what they meant when they said the nuclear nations must totally disarm at an early date.

A terrific legal team of national and local attorneys formed and wrangled about the best courtroom 
strategies. Out awaiting trial, MGM spoke and wrote and attended Congressional hearings where
the meaning of their action was distorted with the government’s focus on the shocking security
breach that MGM were able to penetrate the “Ft Knox” of highly enriched uranium, instead of the 
total breach of all human security which weapons of mass destruction are at every step of their 
existence, from the mine to the missile silo or submarine to the cooling pools in lieu of permanent
“disposal”, sucking up so much money so critical to meeting human needs.

Media attention continued, and as a military veteran myself and ambivalent about the inordinate
notice peace veterans can gather as compared to other run of the mill peaceniks, I was interested
to find out how strongly an old nun trumps 2 veterans! To listen to many outlets you would almost
think Sister Megan acted alone. Excellent and very accurate work also came when reporters could
spend the time to get to know and understand, especially the long article run in the Washington 
Post by Dan Zak with excellent photos by Linda Davidson, drawings by Jeffrey Smith. Exciting
news has come that Mr. Zak has a publisher for the book-length examination of the plowshares
movement he is on sabbatical to write.

Gratifying support from activists and concerned people all over the world generated speaking
opportunities for MGM, donations for legal and travel expenses, and hundreds of signatures on a 
petition to the Attorney General seeking to prevent the sabotage charge, and later thousands of
postcards to Judge Thapar urging that he recognize that MGM are not terrorists but responsible 
citizens pointing out their government’s crime, and to depart downward from the 30-year possible 
sabotage sentences.

However, since sentencing, much generous concern has centered on the relatively mild and
expected 3 and 5 year terms, instead of the ongoing government crime of not only NOT
disarming, but modernizing and reconfiguring nuclear weapons for future missions. It has been
cringe-inducing to see much activist time devoted to calling for reduced sentences or pardons for
MGM, instead of pushing for abolition of all nukes now.

To quote one supporter who does get it:

Misterbadexample

Beyond what you think about civil disobedience and symbolic disarmament, the US has some 1,950
strategic weapons ready to fire at a moment’s notice; the Russians have 1,800. It wouldn’t take much
in the way of misunderstandings for those missiles to fly and start splitting atoms. But instead of
whittling down those numbers, the US is embarking on a modernization program that will
 cost us over $1 trillion over the next few decades. This despite the fact that in 1996 the
Meanwhile, there are petition drives to get Sister Megan (and now Father Carl) out of prison. I agree they
should be released, but I don’t think that serves them. What they want is for the rest of us to get off our
couches and do something about the weapons. We owe it to them to take a stand.

PLEASE dear friends, keep pushing to abolish weapons. Sign the petition at nuclearzero.org
supporting the brave Marshall Islanders in their lawsuits against the 9 nuke nations for not disarming, 
and learn more and find activist ideas at wagingpeace.org/nuclearzero, help organize and speak out 
on the upcoming Hiroshima and Nagasaki days, support strengthening the recent bills in the US
Congress to reduce weapons budgets. Write MGM to tell them what you are doing. That is what
they want us to do.

 

SECOND ANNIVERSARY STATEMENT FROM MEGAN, MICHAEL & GREG

OPEN LETTER FROM THE BROOKLYN METROPOLITAN DETENTION CENTER

from Sr. Megan Rice, on behalf of the Transform Now Plowshares

July 28, 2014

Our Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We send warm greetings and many thanks to all who actively engage in the transformation of weapons of mass destruction to sustainable life-giving alternatives. Gregory Boertje-Obed (U.S. Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Kansas) Michael Walli (Federal Correctional Institution McKean, Bradford, Pennsylvania) and I are sending you some of our observations and concerns on the 2nd anniversary of our Transform Now Plowshares action.

On July 28, 2012, after thorough study of nuclear issues, and because of our deepening commitment to nonviolence, we engaged in direct action by cutting through four fences at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the U.S. continues to overhaul and upgrade thermonuclear warheads.

On that day, two years ago, when we reached the building where all U.S. highly-enriched (bomb-grade) uranium is stored, we prayed and also wrote messages on the wall, such as “The Fruit of Justice is Peace”. (Realistically, the higher and stronger fences built as a result of our nonviolent incursion can never keep humans safe from inherently dangerous materials and weapons.) We acted humbly as “creative extremists for love”, to cite one of our most important and revered leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are a number of reasons for what we did. We three were acutely mindful of the widespread loss to humanity that nuclear systems have already caused, and we realize that all life on Earth could be exterminated through intentional, accidental, or technical error.

Our action at the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge exposed the storage of weapons-making materials deliberately hidden from the general public. The production, refurbishment, threat, or use of these weapons of mass destruction violate the fundamental rules and principles by which we all try to live amicably as human beings. The United States Constitution and the Laws of War are intended to ensure the survival of humanity with dignity. However, it is abundantly clear that harmony and cooperation among nations can never be achieved with nuclear weapons. (These arguments, we assume, will be made on our behalf during the eventual appeal of our convictions that accused us of sabotage, though it was never our intention to harm our country.)

Our “crime” was to draw attention to the criminality of the 70-year-old nuclear industry itself and to the unconscionable fact that the United States spends more on nuclear weapons than on education, health, transportation, and disaster relief combined.

We three Transform Now Plowshares consider it our duty, right, and privilege to heighten tension in the ongoing debate of Disarmament vs. Deterrence because history has repeatedly taught us that the policy of deterrence doesn’t lead to security, but rather to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. During our trial, the U.S. prosecutors and the U.S. courts accused the wrong people when they claimed that we violated the law, because what we did was to make America’s citizens aware of egregious preparations for mass murder.

We took action because we were acutely aware that our government has failed to keep its long-standing promise to pursue nuclear disarmament. (As Ramsey Clark testified during one of our pre-trial hearings, the U.S. entered into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the 1960’s because our country was finally facing up to the severe human and environmental consequences of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as to the hideous results of countless nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. government within and beyond our own borders.)

One of our pressing concerns is that U.S. prosecutors and the courts adhere to an obsolete view of security with no cognizance – or consciousness – of the horrific effects caused by nuclear weapons. Greg, Mike, and I believe that, undeniably, the U.S. is in a state of denial. It’s what Hannah Arendt called not evil, but the banality of evil. “There’s nothing deep about it. It’s nothing demonic! There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing, right?” (Hannah Arendt, “Eichmann was Outrageously Stupid” in The Last Interview and Other Conversations, Melville House, Brooklyn 2013, p. 48).

We citizens cannot permit ourselves to be rendered passive and mute by the banality of evil! Only complete nuclear disarmament can save humanity. At stake is the honor and dignity of the Hibakusha, along with the physical, environmental, emotional, and psychological trauma long suffered by victims of the nuclear system, from uranium miners to down-winders. (From 1946 to 1958, Marshall Islanders were bombarded with 67 atomic and thermonuclear tests that were carried out by the United States.)

Michael Walli, Greg Boertje-Obed and I are in U.S. prisons because, ironically, our action at Oak Ridge was based on the common sense reality that we human beings have endured more than enough destruction and exploitation. We believe that we citizens can exercise our collective power to consciously transform our nation’s priorities. We all need to actively insist on more humane uses for the billions of dollars now budgeted for the nuclear weapons/industrial complex.

Two years ago, as we neared the building in Oak Ridge, we were extremely surprised by the ineffectiveness of the system that supposedly guarded our nation’s most important National Security Complex. We believed that we were about to expose the source of unfettered violence that has led to the chronic spiritual and economic decline in the U.S. As it turned out, it was the laxity of the security system at Y-12 that caught the attention of the courts and the mainstream media. Security weakness became the big story. There was no mainstream acknowledgement that the national security complex is rotting from its own irrelevance.

Most surprisingly, our July 2012 action and our court cases have revealed that it is not the U.S. government that is in control of the nuclear weapons complex, but in reality it is the corporations that are in control through their solicitation and manipulation of endless funding for the refurbishment of unlawful thermonuclear warheads. We three are incarcerated because we stood up to a nuclear weapons industry that is kept thriving by the interlocking and obsolete institutions that subscribe to the long-discredited notion that law and security can be enforced by ever-greater force.

Regarding the 22.8 billion dollar contract recently awarded for the operation of the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge and the Pantex site in Texas for the refurbishment of thermonuclear warheads and a new Uranium Processing Facility (UPF), the relevant corporations don’t actually operate under the long-discredited myth of “nuclear deterrence”. Rather, corporations such as Babcock and Wilcox, Lockheed, and Bechtel operate under limited liability subsidiaries, joint ventures, consortiums, and partnerships for the main purpose of making profits by engaging in huge nuclear weapons production/refurbishment contracts. By this time, Congress certainly is aware that valid contracts can be issued only for the dismantlement of all nuclear weapons and for the environmentally-sound treatment and disposition of all nuclear materials.

In order for the U.S. to negotiate for nuclear disarmament in good faith, we say it is essential to peaceably transform these very corporations so that they are no longer able to violate the most basic moral and legal principles of civilized society by deliberately precipitating planetary self-destruction.

We thank you for your letters and your concerns. We ask you to support the Republic of the Marshall Islands in their current legal actions against the United States in U.S. federal court and against the U.S. and all the other nuclear weapons states in the International Court of Justice, for failure to eliminate their respective nuclear arsenals. You can learn more and add your support by signing the petition at http://www.nuclearzero.org.

Blessings,

Greg, Michael and Megan

Plowshares Please

Several people requested we post this song, performed at the most recent Festival of Hope. Lyrics are by Ralph Hutchison; the performed version lifted the tune from Joel Rafael’s excellent piece, China Basin Digs.

Plowshares Please

They cut the fence and they started in about a half past two
They had no doubt when they thought about what they were called to do
The prophet said that hammers would make plowshares out of swords
And people turn their hearts to study peace instead of wars

They scaled the ridge in darkest night, couldn’t see what lay below
But they knew the bomb plant was out there, they headed toward the glow
One building gleaming white stood out ‘gainst the darkened July sky
Three fences blocked the way ahead, but they knew they had to try

The second fence had a low wall, and bright light shone beyond
They sprayed a message “Disarm Now” before the chance was gone
In a moment they’d be surely caught, and so they poured their blood
A symbol of the justice that will flow down like a flood

Before them stood the Y12 plant, where nuclear bombs are made
Where Hiroshima’s death was formed, and where the devil’s paid
Their cutters snipped the second fence and they headed for the third
Compelled to act by lessons they had learned from Nuremberg

When people see the government is bent on doing wrong
They have no choice, they have to act, they can not go along
Whispering prayers they forged ahead, the nun was first in line
They reached the third fence and they read the lethal warning sign

But the cameras failed to capture them, the alarms were all ignored
They crept ahead and came to where the nuclear swords were stored
But no guards came—they later said it was a miracle
They were kept at bay, heads turned away, the angels in control

They unrolled crime scene tape to say, “What happens here is wrong”
Poured blood and painted “Plowshares please;” they wouldn’t have too long
They painted on, each letter seemed a dove that was released
The words were like the voice of God; the fruit of justice, peace

And when the guard finally arrived, they met him with a bow
No gun was drawn, the guard could see there was no danger now
They offered him some bread to eat; the offered him their prayers
He radioed his bosses he had peace protesters there

They locked the Transform Plowshares up, for how long no one knows
But the seed of peace they planted there has sprouted and it grows
Who knows what act will turn the tide and lead the way to light
It’s the reason we’re required to do what we see is right

You don’t need all the answers, may not know precisely how
But ignorance is no excuse; the time to start is now
It’s enough to know we can not stand in silence anymore
Every dollar spent on bombs and guns is stolen from the poor

What started at Y12 that night in Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Is somehow still a living thing, it lives in you and me
A dream, a vision, a prayer, a call for all those who have ears
Transform swords to plowshares, please, make pruninghooks from spears

Michael Walli reflects in verse from prison

“STOPPING BY THE U. S. CONSTITUTION ON A SNOWY EVENING”

 

Poem by MICHAEL WALLI , with thanks to Robert Frost

 

Whose world this is

I know altho

The CIA thinks it

Is the Federals’ so

Surely they see us

Stopping here

To fill the jails

With empty show

 

The Founding Fathers

Must think it queer

To adjudicate without

A Constitution near

Between the paychecks

And frozen chosen

The biggest hypocrisy

Of the year

 

They give their burial

Shrouds a shake

To ask if there

Is some mistake

The only other

Sounds you hear

Is contractor money

And greedy take

 

The Constitution is lovely

Dark and deep

So many promises

You do not keep

Winter’s coming

When no one can sleep

Arise! Awake!

Forsake your sleep!

 

          — February, 2014

 

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