REPORT BACK ON KINGS BAY SEVEN
On the night of April 4th 2018, 7 activists broke into the Kings Bay Trident Submarine base located in Kings Bay, Georgia. Their tactics were bold: cut the fence to the base, hang up banners, and throw their blood on the walls to call attention to the need for nuclear disarmament in the age of Trump and endless war. They succeeded in their plan to infiltrate and shame the base. However, the next year and a half would require not just courage but also perseverance and people power.
After 16 months these activists, known as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, are still facing federal charges of conspiracy, destruction of property on a Naval Station, depredation of government property, and trespassing related to their protest on the night in question. The Kings Bay activists, however, are not afraid of criminal charges and seem committed to ridding the world of nuclear weapons come hell or high water.
Last month another Pittsburgh activist and myself had the privilege of attending a week of actions in support of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 in southeast Georgia that was organized by the larger Plowshares movement. On Tuesday August 6th, about 50 supporters from all over the country gathered in front of the Kings Bay Trident Base to hold a vigil in support of the defendants and their cause. On Wednesday August 7th the defendants had a hearing, packed with on-lookers, on their motion to introduce evidence supporting their claim that their actions are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). And on Friday August 8th, the support group reconvened again in front of the Trident base for a rally in commemoration of the bombing of Hiroshima, remembering the U.S. nuclear strike on Hiroshima, Japan.
The legal argument of the Kings Bay Plowshares is that their actions are protected under RFRA because they hold a “sincere belief” in what they consider a religious practice of resistance against nuclear weapons. They argue the practice of this belief was infringed on by the government’s arrest and prosecution of the Plowshares’ symbolic direct action.
In response, the government has argued it has a compelling interest in keeping the activists off the base and that their arrest was the least restrictive means to accomplish that objective. While the August 7th hearing ended without a ruling as to whether evidence regarding RFRA can be admitted at the actual trial, or whether the charges will be dismissed, supporters left with raised spirits because the issue of nuclear disarmament was once again being debated in federal court as a threat to humanity.
What the trial and protests show is that the Plowshares movement is a strong one. Since their arrests the Kings Bay 7 have been supported by a tight knit community of supporters who have at one time or another also faced similar situations.
Since the first Plowshares action on September 9th 1981, there have been over 100 Plowshares actions around the globe aimed at getting the world’s most powerful nations to disarm. This movement, which is decentralized and autonomous, is an example of what inspired individuals can do when they stick together and confront the military machine head- on, regardless of the threat of prosecution, economic ruin, or risk of physical harm.
For more information on how to support the Kings Bay Plowshares and to stay updated on their legal battle, please visit https://kingsbayplowshares7.org
Jack Collins is a member of Unity Division, a Pittsburgh based anarchist collective dedicated to street theater and direct action to promote systemic change.
Originally published VOL 49 No.7, September 2019