Video interview with Greg, click to view.
Greg Boertje-Obed was released from Blount County Detention Center at 8:30pm on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 to await trial, currently scheduled fro February 26, 2013. Greg, along with Sr. Megan Rice and Mike Walli, formed the Transform Now Plowshares action which entered the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex on July 28, 2012, penetrated the high security “exclusion zone” with a pair of low tech bolt cutters, and hammered, prayed, painted “Swords into Plowshares” and poured blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility in Oak Ridge, TN.They were protesting ongoing nuclear weapons production at Y12 and plans for a new $7.5 billion bomb plant, the UPF, slated to begin construction this fall. Greg has been in Blount County Jail since July 28. His co-defendants, Megan and Mike, accepted release in July following their arraignment. Additional reports from court can be found on OREPA’s web site: http://www.orepa.org.
Greg’s release came as a result of his request for a detention hearing following the reset of the trial date from October to February. He had originally declined to seek release, but told the judge he was now prompted by the difficulty of trying to consult with co-defendants in preparing for trial and by family concerns.
At the detention hearing, Assistant District Attorney Melissa Kirby rehearsed her well-worn reasons why Greg should be locked up, adding that he had warned the court earlier he would not accept or comply with conditions of release. Then the judge asked her if Greg, with his lengthy record, had in any instance not shown up for court. She admitted she had no evidence of that. “He was convicted numerous times in the past, so I assume he was in court,” she said. “However, in this case he said he would not appear.” “I don’t believe he said that,” the judge said.
Greg told the judge he had a 100% record of appearance in prior cases for “anything I have been arrested for, all of which, in my opinion, were ‘good deeds.’”
The judge subjected Greg to a lengthy interrogation—an apparent payback for Greg’s earlier refusal to accept release unless the judge declared nuclear weapons to be a war crime. In the end, after Greg attempted to explain his living situation at the Catholic Worker in Duluth (“Is it a part of the Catholic Church?” “No.” Is it affiliated with any church?” “No, but many churches contribute to our work.” “How did it get the name, then?” “In 1933, the name Catholic Worker was chosen by the founders.” “Huh.”) The judge then asked Greg what he did in Duluth and Greg said he found work painting houses, landscaping, and volunteering hospitality to homeless and others in need.
Finally indicating that he might accede to Greg’s request, the judge asked about what he would do if he were released. “Do you have a place to stay locally until you can get a bus to Duluth?” Erik Johnson rose from the audience. “My wife Libby and I would be honored to provide hospitality to Greg.”
The judge took a recess. When he returned, he walked the court through all the guidance provided to judges in making detention determinations. “His record of appearance is good,” said the judge, “by his own word, one hundred percent.” Responding to the prosecution’s assertion that Greg posed a danger to the community, the judge said, “He poses little danger. In fact, it may be that some people in Duluth will benefit if he returns to his normal activities.” Finally, the judge said, “Taking in the totality of factors, Mr. Obed appears to be an appropriate case to release.”
Then the judge offered an aside, “In my experience in these kinds of cases, and I’ve had several (actually two), in the cases of these Y12 protesters, and I think we may have some in the audience, I see Sister Lentsch there…in my experience these protesters actually want to attend trial. Candidly, I don’t think I could keep them from it. Part of the express purpose of their action is to publicize the production of nuclear weapons, and they view their arrest and trial as part of the publicity. So right or wrong, he’s likely to appear.”
Turning to Greg, the judge said, “Mr. Obed, I think you’re a man of your word. Before, you told me you would not agree to conditions or agree not to break any laws if you were released, and I think you meant it. Now you say you will, and I think you mean it. If you do, you will remain out and will be able to do good while you are out.”
With that, the judge declared that Greg would be released that evening, and five hours later he walked out of Blount County Jail. He will leave for Duluth on the Megabus at 11:30am, Wednesday, September 12. His departure coincides with the opening of Congressional hearings in Washington, DC, on the Transform Now Plowshares security breach at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex.
I’ve been preparing for more than a year, discussing with other people and then specifically Megan and Michael.
Many months ago, Megan learned about the Disarm Now Plowshares, and she went to the trial on the west coast, and that moved her to want to explore doing a similar type action. Because of the experience, all the expert witnesses they had, all the reasons why nuclear weapons are illegal.
And Michael has always felt that the rule of law is a key motivating factor for him. He believes strongly that nuclear weapons are illegal, and that we have a duty and an obligation, especially according to Nuremberg Principles, to take steps to intervene in war crimes of building nuclear weapons.
Was there any physical fitness preparation, did you expect this to be a rigorous…?
I did ask Megan to practice walking. Months in advance, you know, because she does lose breath when she walks a long distance. And she had been practicing.
But not cardboard boxes.
That’s a recent problem.
We take responsibility for what we did. We say, we are the people who did it, and we want to explain why we believe it was legal and the right thing to do.
In the early morning, 2:00, 2:30, whatever it may be, on July 28th, that morning — can you say, I think we talked somewhat about this, but I’m not sure — did someone actually drop you off at a certain point?
That’s another thing that we say: the Spirit led us there. And we don’t want to implicate other people who might have not wanted to be known.
It boils down to, nuclear weapons are designed to be of mass destruction. They are going to kill civilians. The intent of killing civilians is a war crime also. And preparing, just by building you are preparing for a war that will kill civilians.
Video by Michael Patrick, News Sentinel
Court Update from Ralph Hutchison:
Judge Shirley arrived in court a few minutes late for the Transform Now Plowshares hearing on Friday, September 7, but it gave us time to visit a bit with Greg Boertje-Obed when he arrived, in stripes and shackles, from Blount County Detention Center. Greg looked and sounded healthy, inquired about his co-defendants, and then settled into a conversation with his “elbow counsel.”
When the judge arrived, he declared that he would hear motions for a continuance in the case, originally scheduled for trial on October 9.
By the time it was over, he had made several rulings and established a new calendar. The trial is now scheduled for February 26, 2013, though it is not entirely clear that date will hold.
The motions were dispensed with in a straightforward hearing. The government did not object to the granting of a continuance, though they did dispute the request from the defendants that the case be designated “complex.” In the end, the judge said he would not designate the case “complex,” but he would also not agree it was not—the defense could come back and argue another day if necessary.
The prosecution told the court it had provided initial discovery and would be releasing the second (and likely final) batch of discovery materials today or Monday. The defendants suggested it was quite possible they would seek additional materials in discovery which might lead to hearings and even litigation. The judge urged them to see what was forthcoming and attempt to resolve any outstanding issues informally with the government and the defendants agreed.
As the 50 minute hearing drew to a close, the judge set new dates:
Note: Many may have already heard that Sister Megan Rice fell and suffered two broken wrists late last week. She is recovering; new casts have been placed on her wrists that enable her to use her fingers. Megan is seeking permission to relocate to Rosemont, PA where her community can better provide for her rehabilitation. The judge this morning indicated the decision rests with the probation office. If and when Megan moves, we will try to post updated contact info on this site and on the OREPA web site: www.orepa.org.
(published in issue #167 of the Nuclear Resister newsletter)
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.
– Psalm 118.22-23
When Megan, Michael and I were preparing for the witness that became the Transform Now Plowshares, we discussed this passage and were struck by how it might apply to the action we were considering. We learned of government and corporate plans to build a new factory for making “modernized” nuclear weapons, called the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF). Peace activists called for a campaign to halt the plans for this $7.5 billion death factory whose projected costs kept increasing. We knew that many of our international treaties committed us to stop building nuclear weapons and to reduce to zero our weapons of mass destruction.
When studying the above scripture, we read that Jesus quoted it in a parable in which he was the stone rejected by the religious and political leaders of his day. He was to become the cornerstone for followers of the Holy One. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the early disciples quoted this verse, applying it to the rejection of Jesus and his rising from the dead.
A thought that came to us was that the builders of nuclear weapons have rejected the teachings and example of Jesus. Our leading was to seek to act in the tradition of plowshares actions, to bring hammers and blood, and to attempt to hammer on a cornerstone of a building used for making nuclear horror weapons. We knew that a recent structure was built that was intended to be a counterpart to the proposed UPF.
Our intention was to reject nuclear weapons as a cornerstone of our national policy by symbolically and actually hammering on a cornerstone of the new building. We also intended to explain that our action was a rejection of the U.S. role in the world. We knew that our nation functions as an empire that viciously oppresses weaker peoples around the world. Nuclear disarmament and rejection of imperial oppression are both necessary for justice and life.
We believe God clearly guided us through the fences to the uranium building where we put up banners, poured blood, spray painted, put up crime scene tape, and began to hammer on a lower corner of the wall beneath an imposing guard tower. After a few blows, the wall began to crumble. After a few more strikes, the hole widened. A short while later, Megan came with her tiny hammer and swung a few times. The wall continued to crumble.
We give thanks for the miraculous leading of the Spirit, which is how we understand the action occurred. If God can raise people from the dead, then God can lead people past forces of death to continue the process of transforming structures of death to become structures for life-enhancing purposes.
We continue to pray for more transforming and are encouraged by the Spirit that sings:
This is the day that the Lord has made,
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
– Psalm 118:24
(slideshow of pictures from all four days of the walk)
Today the four-day Walk for Nuclear Disarmament ended as Susan Crane returned to prison in Dublin, California. Susan’s incarceration is a witness to peace and noncooperation with evil, and her physical confinement is a visible symbol of the very real imprisonment we all experience, living with the existence of nuclear weapons.
Mike Walli, Sr. Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed (himself in jail awaiting trial) sent Susan this note of solidarity:
Know that we walk with you, Susan, each day as you carry the Light of Hope, Love, faith and compassion, which is hourly bringing transformation of minds and hearts, beginning with each one of us, of course.
– Transform Now Plowshares, Megan and Mike and Greg
Below are some of the thoughts shared by the participants on day three of this four-day, 40 mile walk.
We walked though Niles Canyon today, it was a walk made possible by working support vehicles driven by Margo Shafer and Bill Joyce, and by George Cammerada, who had an orange vest and orange flag; George was able to slow the traffic down and let them know there was something happening ahead. At one point I counted the drivers who waved to us….out of the next 10 cars that came by, 7 gave us a wave or a peace sign! That is a lot to think about. 70% of the people in the US just knee-jerk want peace? Seems so. We believe it.
Our shoes are dusty, and our feet are tired. I guess that’s the nature of walks. We feel good together, and this walk for nuclear disarmament is too short.
Tonight we are staying at the Trinity Lutheran church in Pleasanton. Folks here are very friendly.
Sr. Fran Tobin, from Anne Montgomery’s community, walked with us today. Anne is getting weaker each day, so Fran walked with us in her stead.
I love the community, the opportunity to meet with people along the way, the hospitality…
I think that starting with the circle we had at Sunnyvale, it’s easy to look around such a small circle —it seems one could get the feeling that the circle is so small, but the whole walk makes me think of the spirit —we don’t know the effect of the prayer of our walking, and I gathered a lot of strength. We aren’t here to judge or measure, but just carry on.
– Bob Russell
The main perk of driving the sag was the opportunity to repeatedly catch glimpses of the beautiful banner-bearing procession — led by george, so proficient at flagging cars down to slower speeds along the tight canyon curves. At each point, and especially when joined by the mother pushing her child in the baby carriage, inspiring enough to break your heart.
For me, this walk shows how widely people from diverse cultures, religions, and ages agree fully with the stand Susan has taken. Those we asked to host us HAD to agree because in their hearts they knew this is what they believe too about eliminating nuclear weapons. If we had asked them to come to a vigil or write a letter they may not have been so committed. It had to be a walk, close and personal, and, unfortunately for Susan, it had to involve a level of commitment that risks her own freedom, at least for a time. I’m grateful to be a part of this.
–Mary Jane Parrine
I had the ultimate experience walking with Susan in support of her dedication to free the world of weapons of destruction. Susan is the most dedicated person who I know and her example give me strength to give my life to the Lord and serve the men in our county jail. I look forward to spending time with her in the coming months.
Very cool experience today as a part-time anti-trident activist! One day in 1000 qualifies me. Humbling as cars/trucks buzzed by us flipping us off but more commonly smiling and signaling the peace sign. I felt privileged to walk with Susan; that’s why I came after all. She and God call me to witness against the horrors of the world and wear this cloak for a short time…wishing I could do it more full-time. Susan is a surrogate for so many of us; a hero; a courageous soul that stands tall to shout out love and resistance for the perpetuation of the species.
The walk has been a journey in many ways. It seems like we have been walking so much longer than three days with all the people who have greeted us along the way and people of peace who joined us for any amount of time that they could spare to help us say ” No to nuclear weapons, no to nuclear war, and no to nuclear proliferation.” Tonight we are tired but it is a good tired and we have definitely formed a community and I can feel it to the core. I am grateful to have witnessed this message. Tomorrow will end our time together when we take Susan to the prison but in many ways it will be new beginnings with future walks along the way.
I’m writing this as a driver of one of the two sag support vehicles. The walk really was a complete success – very colorful – and the walkers’ energy was so impressive. I was continually amazed at the speed with which they walked and their consistent energy. However the Nile’s Canyon section of the walk was on the nerve-wracking side for us drivers. The road had lots of turns, the cars were moving fast, especially in our direction, (which was the opposite side of the road from the walkers), and there were many sections of the road that had no shoulder. We would pull into a turnout (all of which strangely had “no stopping any time” signs – why make a turn out if you can’t stop?), then we’d wait for the walkers to pass, and when they got out of view we would drive to the next turnout and wait. This stop and start pattern went on all day, but the morning was the more stressful Niles Canyon part. At one turnout Bill’s battery went dead, and I drove on by myself until AAA got him going again. We’re very tired tonight, but relieved that the walk went so well. We’ll all be there in the morning to give Susan our love and to see her off to prison.
– Margo Shafer
Reflection on the day by Jim Haber
Here is a photo from today’s walk. It seemed like our visit to that Methodist/Episcopalian community was something that the different congregations there came together to support. Our faith and action was a little different than theirs, but several people clearly were intrigued and grateful for the reflections our activism and anti-nuclear cause stirred in them.
The pastor Ernie walked with us for the first leg in the morning too. Angie’s chicken adobo and their homemade Egg McMuffin-type things kicked our morning off right. The presence of Margo’s granddaughters brightened everyone’s day, even after they left. Couldn’t resist the photo by the valley of peace.
During the march today, we were on well-traveled streets almost the whole way. A few residential neighborhoods were mostly devoid of pedestrians, but other, busier areas had plenty of traffic (though still not a lot of walkers). We received many peace honks even though we didn’t bring a “Honk For Peace” sign; people just knew!
We spoke with Steve Kelly and Megan Rice. At all junctures, while the occasion of these people’s trials and general legal issues is the context for raising anti-nuclear issues, the real point we are making isn’t that nuclear weapons are unsafe, it is because the very existence of nuclear weapons makes the world unsafe.
Reflection on the day by Susan Crane
It was a beautiful, sunny day as approximately 40 of us gathered for an outdoor mass near the Lockheed-Martin plant in Sunnyvale where they manufacture the Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Invoking the God of Peace while standing in the shadow of the merchants of death was not new to Fr. Louie Vitale who conducted today’s mass.
The City of Sunnyvale was kind enough to send five or six police cars to ensure a peaceful gathering. They must have misinterpreted Fr. Louie’s rap sheet in deciding how many cars to dispatch.
Eric Debode’s rousing music inspired everyone who had come to share this time together.We also remembered Sr. Anne Montgomery who, while our mass was being conducted, was being presented with the Courage of Conscience Award. Anne is quite weak, although she continues to want to hear about our activities.
After mass we walked one block to the Main Gate area of Lockheed Martin, arguably the world’s largest exporter of weapons. We vigiled there with most of the forty of us standing over the blue line.
Over trails, side roads, bike paths, and highways, we walked 11 miles to the St. Joseph the Worker Episcopal Church/Holy Child Episcopal Church/Sunnyhills United Methodist Church. We were invited to share a bountiful and delicious meal with the Filipino community there, who gave not only food but also encouragement for our work abolishing nuclear weapons. It was a wonderful coming together in community.
Jim Haber, of Nevada Desert Experience, kept us walking and amused throughout the walk with his bullhorn patter. Ed Ehmke reflected on the day saying, “The peace walk was a wonderful experience in bringing people together. It brings us together in a special way.”
I give thanks for all who came together today – those who prayed together, walked together, and who provided hospitality to us. We welcome everyone in the name of Peace to join us.
With Gratitude and In Peace,
For more information or to join the walk, see the Disarm Now Plowshares events page.
Plowshares activist Susan Crane will be accompanied by members of the Pacific Life Community as she walks to federal prison in Dublin, California. The walk will start on August 19th at nuclear manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
As a continuation of the plowshares action she undertook with four others in 2009, Susan has refused supervised release and will serve two months in prison, having already served her original fifteen month sentence for protesting the Trident nuclear-armed submarines.
All those participating in the walk join their committed efforts with those of Greg Boertje-Obed, Sr. Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and all who resist nuclear weapons.
From the Disarm Now Plowshares website:
Our friend Susan Crane has been ordered to return to the prison at Dublin, California on August 22nd. If you haven’t read the summary of Susan’s July 23rd probation hearing you can read it here. She was given 60 days of additional prison time.
The court continues to protect the very weapons that threaten all of humanity with destruction by incarcerating those who speak out against the illegality and immorality of these horrific weapons and our nation’s continuing pursuit of them. The prisons are the hammer that protects the bombs.
It is therefore appropriate that Susan has chosen to make the long walk to the Dublin prison from the Lockheed Martin facility in Sunnyvale. This is the facility that manufactures the Trident II D-5 ballistic missile that is deployed on the Trident submarines.
This Peace Walk for Nuclear Disarmament: From Lockheed to Lock-Up will be an opportunity to connect the oppression of a retributive justice system to the nuclear weapons that are the ultimate expression of oppression over the entire world.
There will be one or more support vehicles following the walkers, and lodging each night.
For more information, see the Disarm Now Plowshares events page.
Protesters point out ugly truth about Y-12
Op-ed, Knoxville News Sentinel
August 3, 2012
Should a native of Roane County, Tennessee — or any of us, as citizens of the United States — be proud of the nuclear warheads made possible by the uranium processing done at Y-12?
Pam Strickland has written a beautiful op-ed for the Knoxville News Sentinel answering this question. A job with the Department of Energy (called the Department of Extinction by some, for their role in producing nuclear weapons) at Y-12, Oak Ridge, was considered wholesome and respectable. It was considered life-giving work, helping to fund schools and other community institutions.
As Strickland grew older however, her views changed. What was the cost of using nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What is the cost of holding this power to be “the destroyer of worlds,” as J. Robert Oppenheimer said, quoting the Bhagavad-gita?
How do we respond?
Are we proud? ashamed? do we simply go about our business?
Strickland outlines the Plowshares movement, which takes its mandate from Isaiah 2:4: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Finally, Strickland asks the most important question: in the wake of Greg, Megan, and Michael’s action, will more of us stand up for what we know to be right?
Strickland ends with a rousing call, sending the ripples from this action out across the world and asking us to do the same: Let us all stand for life and against nuclear weapons, each of us in our own way. Let us band together.