Father Carl Kabat and Georgia Walker getting arrested last July. Photo by Chris Zebuyak
This happened earlier this week, and in a glum year for protest, it’s relatively good news. Some people I’ve written about out in Kansas City were arrested and facing serious charges for trespass and other alleged crimes after they protested in front of a nuclear weapons facility being built in town. The protest occurred last July. Beyond the normal, birkenstock-wearing, tofu munching reasons for opposing the plant, there was the fact that the government had thrown in some ‘sweeteners’ for the facility. Sweeteners is political speak for ‘taking the money away from rubes and handing it to corporate interests. And there’s also that whole “I thought the Cold War was over” meme. But the government is going to open a nuclear weapons facility, people got arrested, and This was their trial.
Then the Dangdest thing happened. I’m still not over it. I’d try to explain it here, but Jane Stoever did a much better job than I could. This is on the Peacework KC site:
No probation, no fine, no community service, no jail time–just essays. Amazing! Municipal Court Judge Ardie Bland sentenced nine of us Dec. 13 (the lucky 13th) to writing one-page essays. That’s a far cry from his sentencing two years ago–fine or community service or jail–for folks who pleaded “not guilty” to trespassing at the new site for the KC Plant, which makes/procures non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons. When Eric Garbison (of Cherith Brook House in KC, Mo.) and Greg Boertje-Obed (in prison awaiting sentencing for a Plowshares action at the Y-12 uranium facility in Knoxville, TN) came before Bland two years ago and said that since they were full-time Catholic Workers, they already did community service 24/7, and they refused to do added community service or pay a fine, Bland ordered them to jail, where they remained three days and two nights. Maybe Bland has doubted the wisdom of that sentence. At any rate, he made some notes during our Dec. 13 trial and shocked us with his sentence. This morning, lawyer Henry Stoever woke up saying, “no probation.” Amazing.
Our trial was multifaceted, and a story will come from Megan Fincher of National Catholic Reporter. Quick notes here:
Charge: infraction of municipal code by trespassing on private property (Henry disputed the “private property” element) July 13, 2013, at KC’s new nuclear weapons parts plant.
Court costs: $41.50. Bland ordered payment of the costs.
Sentence: write one-page answers, in easy-to-understand language, to 6 questions, which Henry will obtain from the judge’s office in a few days. Our notes indicate questions (read quickly by Bland) might include, for example, “If Korea, China, or another Mideast country drops a nuclear bomb, what do you do?” and “How do you respond (about nuclear weapons) to someone who doesn’t believe in God?” Bland noted we mentioned being Christian or Buddhist. (Thanks to our Buddhist Lauren!) Bland said “Mr. Kabat made that argument” about Rosa Parks and others doing civil resistance, and Bland said, “The world was changed because of what they did. Now I can sit up here before you as a black man doing justice.” He added that he took the case “because I’ve done this before with Mr. Stoever. I think you’re educating, because every time I learn something.”
Defendants: Carl Kabat, OMI; Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP; Jerry Zawada, OFM; Bill “Bix” Bichsel, in absentia (represented by Henry); Betsy Terrell; Lauren Logan; Georgia Walker; Cele Breen, SCL; and me. Wonderful co-defendant Jessica Reznicek, with her heart set on Palestine-Israel peace work, decided not to attend the trial.
Background: At our July 13 action, about 80 folks gathered, and 24 of us remained across the property line after being ordered to leave. We spent a few hours or a day in the holding cell. On July 12, we had thanked Carl mightily for a life of nuke resistance! Details at www.PeaceWorksKC.org.
Prelude to trial: About 30 of us held a rally, marching about 2 blocks to the court. We each made a statement for peace on the court sidewalk before stepping ceremoniously through our door marked, “Open the door to a nuclear-weapons-free world!”
Video: The crowd in the courtroom–about 40 of us–and the guards got to see the entire 10-minute July 12-13 video (at http://youtu.be/RD-mkPFEUgg), by Marc Saviano, complete with Louis Armstrong’s “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More!” and resister Nehemiah Rosell’s “Open the Door.”
Lauren Logan: In Buddhist belief, we don’t believe in causing suffering to others.” Re whether she’s educated others: “I’m in this courtroom now, I’ve been on radio (KKFI 90.1 FM), I’ve written articles.”
Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a womanpriest : Re the video images of sharing bread and praying: “We celebrated eucharist, and I believe that by crossing onto the plant area, we also celebrated eucharist, being a witness for the people of God.”
Carl Kabat, longtime nuclear weapons resister, former missionary in the Philippines and Brazil: “When I talked about Brazil after I came home (to the U.S.), I cried, because I’m sure some of the kids died after I left. … I went to school in Mississippi. I the laws are wrong, disobey them. … I’m 80. I’ve got a conscience.”
Cele Breen, of the extended community for Holy Family Catholic Worker: “What we are doing at this plant (the KC Plant) is creating parts for bombs that will do much more damage than the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. … I don’t know how we can NOT take a stand on this and speak out. … The only thing I would say I’m guilty of is that I’m 77 years old, and only in the last few years have I been active on this. I am guilty of being so late in putting my body and my voice on the line.”
Henry told Jerry Zawada, longtime civil resister, advocate for immigrants, “You’re not a Johnny-come-lately; in 1988, you came before federal Judge Stevens 3 times for resisting the Minuteman II missiles in Missouri.” Jerry replied, “Not correct. 5 times,” and the roomful of supporters laughed. Jerry also said, “I feel blessed to be part of this courtroom this afternoon. … My bone of contention is with people who are making money from nuclear weapons.”
Betsy Keenan of Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm: “I grieve that the nation I live in is the only nation to have used these (nuclear) weapons. Since these weapons are being made here, and their life ‘extended’ here, close to where we live, it made sense to me to come here to be part of this beloved community” to resist production of these weapons.
Georgia Walker, social worker with former prisoners: “Two of my family worked at this site (the current KC Plant, at Bannister Fed’l Complex), working for the IRS. They were not informed there were any problems (contaminants from the KC Plant there). Both died, 1 at 61, 1 at 62, of strange cancers. … Rather than punishing agencies involved in this contamination, my elected City Council conspired with them to give them a new place to devastate and ruin. … About 650 persons (workers at the complex) have applied for compensation (for illnesses) and only 75 have received compensation. … I do not feel I’m guilty. I feel I’m sane and taking a stand for justice.”
Henry’s final words (a few of them): “Honeywell (manager of the KC Plant and for whom the prosecution’s witness works as a guard) is not the owner of the property. … This (location of the line-crossing) is an open road; nobody else gets stopped or checked there. … Our country has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. … These weapons indiscriminately kill noncombatants, civilians, all life. … Everybody’s ignoring the elephant, the monster, in the room. It’s a moral imperative (to oppose nuclear weapons). I think it’s a legalimperative. … Would we convict George Washington, Sam Adams, Thomas Jefferson? They were called revolutionaries. We are agents of change.”
So there you go. Essay writing for punishment. I wonder if they’ll all get to sit in a big study hall and put these together. One is getting the feeling that the local/state entities guarding these facilities are getting tired of hauling people through court for nonviolent resistance. So at least on the anti-nuclear weapons front there is pushback to the empire from an impatient judiciary. It’s a good way to end 2013.
Here’s a short documentary of the event: