by Christopher Spicer
A year ago several of us gathered for our clarification of thought regarding the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our median age was 24 that day at the White Rose Catholic Worker (Chicago) and I recall Jerica mentioning the tradition of plowshare activism. It was vague then, but no longer. This week I have been in Knoxville, TN, expressing my solidarity with plowshare activists.
I wanted to be here to honor friendships formed in Catholic Worker gatherings. They had inspired me to play a part, albeit a hesitant one, in organizing for an Occupy Nukes day Aug. 6. Being here now I cannot not clamor for a day of wakefulness, in the wake of the action in Oak Ridge, Tennessee performed by Michael Walli (63), Megan Rice shcj (82), and Greg Boertje-Obed (57) on July 28.
“Today, through our nonviolent action, we—Transform Now Plowshares—indict the U.S. government nuclear modernization program, including the new Uranium Processing Facility planned at Oak Ridge and the dedication of billions of public dollars to the continuation of the Y-12 facility.”
The hand delivery of this indictment has utterly gripped my imagination. These three embarked from the security of their homes into the deadly force zone of the Y-12 facility, risking it all as they entered the grounds sometime hours before dawn and passing not one, or two, but four fences. They passed through—cut through, is more like it—and searched the Y-12 premises for several hours with this stated intention: “We come to…disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based upon war-making and empire-building.” When speaking of “any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity”, the text of the indictment suggests their intended target:
“Oak Ridge Y-12 is slated to receive more than $6.5 billion in federal funding over the next decade for continuing nuclear weapons production. The new Uranium Processing Facility [UPF] is expected to sustain a nuclear arsenal of 3000-3500 weapons beyond the middle of the century.” They did in fact reach the construction site of the new Uranium Processing Facility.
“As has so often been the case in these kinds of actions,” said Ellen Barfield, member of Veterans for Peace and supporter for Transform Now, “and as many plowshare activists will say, there is the sense that the Holy Spirit has guided them. I believe it too and I don’t even believe in God.”
“We feel it was a miracle; we were led directly to where we wanted to go”, said Boertje-Obed on Saturday in a call from Blount County Detention Center. He explained that after navigating through the complex they came to a long, white, windowless building marked HEUMF. “It was built like a fortress”, he said, describing the four guard towers of the newly built Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility (HEUMF). The building is adjacent to the site of the proposed UPF.
“Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary” they wrote in a statement prior to the action. What astonishes me is that the intended “here” was not general to the Y-12 complex, but precisely the construction site of the UPF, and of course that they reached it.
Once they reached the site I suspect the actors already had a felt-sense of God’s guidance, a confirmation of their belief “that our activity here is necessary”. Of the activity that followed they presented a miniature necessity defense in their indictment: “Against these continuing violations of treaty law, we assert our human right to civil resistance. Furthermore we affirm as crucial the human right to be free from these crimes. The Nuremberg Principles not only prohibit such crimes but oblige those of us aware of the crime to act against it. ‘Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity…is a crime under International Law’.”
This August I will be joining Occupy Nukes to renounce my complicity in U.S. war crimes. It has taken Greg Boertje-Obed a sixth plowshare action to get my attention. And now I understand better the urgency of Megan Rice who was a catalyst for Occupy Nukes. Like Michael Walli I want to say, “We are still rejecting the filthy rotten system. Jesus doesn’t want nukes!”
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The saintly we meet have a profound effect on our outlook and on the urgency with which we bring our convictions to bear. Before I met Greg, Megan and Michael, the extent of nuclearism was unknown to me. I have come to care about the extent of nuclearism through Security Without Nuclear Deterrence by Commander Robert Green, Royal Navy (Ret.) and studies from Andrew Lichterman of Western States Legal Foundation. Greg once mentioned to me that 10,000,000 have died from nuclearism. To believe it, read Kristen Iverson’s Full Body Burden.