By: Joyce Rothermel
It has been a little over a year since the anti-nuclear protest of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 on April 4, 2018. There, in Kings Bay, Georgia, seven activists took nonviolent symbolic disarmament action at the nuclear submarine base on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (This was the 101st Plowshares disarmament protest around the world since 1980.) The base is the home port for six submarines equipped with more than 100 Trident II D5 nuclear-armed missiles.
The seven activists are Elizabeth McAlister (widow of Phil Berrigan), Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., Mark Colville (Amistad Catholic Worker, New Haven, CT), Clare Grady (daughter of Plowshare Activist John Grady), Martha Hennessey (granddaughter of co-founder of the Catholic Worker, Dorothy Day), Carmen Trotta (New York City Catholic Worker), and Patrick O’Neill (Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker, Garner, NC).
All were arrested and are still awaiting trial. Four of the defendants are out of jail on bail, bond, and GPS monitors. Fr. Kelly, Ms. McAlister, and Mr. Colville have been in a rural county jail in Georgia since their arrest. Their action was to point to the existential threat of nuclear weapons to humanity, which has moved the nuclear doomsday clock to two minutes to midnight; the renewed and accelerating arms race driven by the recent withdrawal from the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) nuclear treaty, unstable government leaders and the threat of cyber attacks on nuclear systems. They call on all of us concerned for the future of the planet to work for divestment from and for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Last fall the seven co-defendants, all Roman Catholic, asked a federal judge to dismiss the charges against them under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Hearings in November included expert testimony on the nature of their protest as a religious act. The judges have not yet issued their decision on the motion for dismissal. The trial is due to begin sometime this spring in Georgia. Learn more by going to www.kingsbayplowshares7.org
A global petition calls for the charges against the seven to be dismissed and for a renewal of the antinuclear weapons movement. Distinguished signers of the petition to date include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and several other Nobel peace laureates. Please consider signing the petition as soon as possible (see below) and forwarding it to your friends and posting it on social media. The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 have offered us their prophetic witness. Now it is up to us!
Here is the link (case sensitive): http://bit.ly/2DwLSZD
Petition: TO: US ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 (KBP7) are facing a federal trial and a 25-year prison term for having confronted a system in which nuclear weapons that can destroy all creation are accepted as a normal, even inevitable, part of life.
This threat, and the lack of public outrage over it, compelled seven principled activists (Elizabeth McAlister, Stephen Kelly S.J., Martha Hennessy, Clare Grady, Patrick O’Neill, Mark Colville, and Carmen Trotta) to enter Naval Station Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia on the 50th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Kings Bay is home port to six U.S. nuclear ballistic missile submarines carrying hundreds of nuclear weapons, many of which have up to 30 times the explosive power of the bomb that destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945. Following the Prophet Isaiah’s Biblical command to “beat swords into plowshares”(Is. 2:4), the seven were also acting legally to uphold anti-nuclear treaties as the supreme law of the land, according to the U.S. Constitution, international law manifested in the U.N. Charter, and the Nuremberg principles. By their actions at Kings Bay, they sought to draw attention to the urgency of withdrawing consent and dismantling what Dr. King called the “triple evils” of racism, excessive materialism, and militarism. The KBP7’s action statement reads: “Nuclear weapons eviscerate the rule of law, enforce white supremacy, perpetuate endless war and environmental destruction, and ensure impunity for all manner of crimes against humanity. Dr. King said, ‘The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.’ We say, ‘The ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide.’ A just and peaceful world is possible when we join prayers with action. Swords into Plowshares!’”
We who share the moral vision of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 proclaim our support for their courage and sustained sacrifice and call for the immediate dismissal of all charges against them. The defendants invite us to act creatively. They invite us to join global coalitions working to promote governments’ adherence to, and full implementation of, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. They also invite us to participate in campaigns for divestment from nuclear weapons as complementary efforts towards the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons.
Joyce Rothermel is a member of the Stop Banking the Bomb Campaign.