Protest Trial Tomorrow

UPDATE: Summary of defendants' pre-sentencing statements now available here.

Tomorrow is trial. I and five others are accused by the Navy of trespassing at Bangor Naval Nuclear Weapons base. We follow in the wake of the Plowshares Five http://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/. The following article is also published in the June issue of Works In Progress.

On the 15th of January this year, to honor the anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., six people including myself crossed the federal property "blue" line at the Naval Base Kitsap Bangor. We are being charged with trespassing in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. We are Patti Bass, Carolyn Dorisdotter, Norm Keegel, Gordon Sturrock, Sam Tower, and myself, Robert Whitlock "Berd".

NBK Bangor, as the name suggests, is on the Kitsap peninsula. Bangor is home to what some experts estimate to be one-quarter of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

Bangor is also the focus of dozens of years of protests organized by the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, http://gzcenter.org, (GZ, or GZ Center, for short.) GZ organizes three yearly protests, to mark the birthday of MLK in January, Mother's Day in May, and the dual WWII bombings of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August.

Each protest has its own focus. For example, the MLK Jr. Day protest tends to focus on human rights, and racial and economic justice. The three protests also have points in  common. Each includes a peace vigil, witness, and traditional civil disobedience—to "stand in the way" of the activities that take place on the base.

NBK Bangor is home to what most people believe is 8 submarines, each of which is equipped with the Trident II intercontinental ballistic missile system. Each sub is capable of carrying 24 Trident missiles, each missile can carry up to 8 warheads (that's a total count of 196.) There are two varieties of warheads. The W76 has an explosive potential of 100 kilotons: the W88, 475 kt. Either way, these bombs have incredible destructive potential. By contrast, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were about 15kt and 21kt respectively.

One concern is that submarines are basically designed as attack machines. They are designed to lurk undetected nearby targets. It seems that submarines are basically offensive, and we believe that "the best defense" IS NOT a "strong offense"—but instead for the U.S.A. to be a good national neighbor: to be a respectful international community member. Being a good neighbor is best defense against any potential aggression.

Here's a brief description of our action:

It was rainy that Saturday afternoon, on the 15th of January 2011. We were smiling and had lots of love in our hearts. Members of the Plowshares Five stood by with us. When we crossed the line, we approached and were approached by the military police. I spoke simply and respectfully, "We would like to speak with the commander." The shoulders of the soldiers on security detail seemed to drop.

The lead officer told us that meeting the commander was not an option. He informed us that we would need to leave or be arrested.

We held our ground in civil disobedience. I believe we carry a vital message about justice and peace, and that the command of the base needs to hear us. Our simple request to meet with the base commander was denied.

So we were arrested. And now we are charged with trespassing. All six of us were first time "offenders"—it was our first time crossing the federal property line during a protest. This seems to be the first time that first-time-offenders are being prosecuted for trespassing. There is speculation that it is due to the Navy ratcheting up tension in the wake of the Plowshare Five case. The Plowshare Five entered the base, and accessed a secure area, remaining on base for a period of several hours, much to the chagrin of the Department of Navy.

Our next trial date will be on Wednesday the 1st of June, 1:30pm at the U.S. District Courthouse on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma.

Berd Whitlock

Saturday 15 January 2011 Naval Base Kitsap Bangor Trigger Gate Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action Protest Against Nuclear Weapons
credit: http://subversivepeacemaking.blogspot.com

Comments

Good for you to stick to your

Good for you to stick to your convictions.

Good luck!

Hope it went well brave soul!


The Black Car Project http://autovoid.blogspot.com

Freedom

Although still under the perverse threat of nuclear annihilation, and the intimidation and violence of the state (military and court system), all six of us have been released.

We thanked the Judge for allowing us to speak in court, on the record, in regard to the motive of our action, and I think we all feel that we did a pretty good job. More information to come!

photo

Nuclear Weapons Resisters
After pleading guilty to trespassing we were fined $100, + mandatory "special assessment" fee (whatever that is,) + $25 court administrative fee for a grand total equaling $135. All six of us were allowed to address the court with personal statements, and all six of us took the opportunity to do so. I hope to publish the summary of those statements, because I think they were powerful, I think—at least I hope—the people in court with us were affected. And we hope to affect the world with the truth of our experiences and ideas.

My Statement in Court

Here's an amended and abridged form of the statement I gave in court (amended for clarity and content. Same message overall, though I dropped parts that are no longer relevant.)

 

I suffer from depression, partly based on the existence of these weapons (and the policies behind them, like global dominance.)

 

The weapons are destructive. They don't even have to be used to be destructive. Their basic existence is threatening and intimidating, and psychologically destructive, especially when coupled with a submarine platform. Submarines are designed to operate undetected and lurk nearby targets.

 

My co-defendant said that the way to build peace is through trust. And when our government goes about in a way that is intimidating, it doesn't help build trust.

 

Traditional efforts to change these policies through elections, politics and lobbying have largely been exhausted.

 

Our efforts aren't isolated. They are part of a larger need, and a larger effort: a larger movement, to change the way our government treats people and the way our government approaches the world.

 

Lastly, I want to honor the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.. MLK was the focus of our action. We were at the Bangor Naval Submarine Nuclear Weapons base on Martin Luther King Jr. day. I believe that MLK would support us today if he were still alive.

 

MLK believed in the necessity for people to participate in civil disobedience when the need is great, when the need is urgent, and when the stakes are high—as is the case regarding U.S. militarism, and its foreign policy of economic supremacy— the result of these policies and practices are the sufferings of so many people, both in the greater world, and here at home for many of us in the U.S.A., whether or not we may know it.

 

What we did was about civil rights; it was about racial justice; and it was about economic rights and justice. What we did was about justice for everyone in the world.

Berd - This is a sincere

Berd - This is a sincere question: what would have been the best possible outcome you could hope for from this action?  I mean, world peace, of course, but what specific outcome did you hope for that could be a direct cause-and-effect result of this action?

 

Specific Outcome

That at least one person in the world gains a deeper understand of nuclear weapons and how much harm they do—that the basic existence of these weapons in the hands of a government that promotes global economic supremacy constitutes significant harm.

Awareness

Part of the purpose of this action was to promote greater amounts and greater levels of awareness—awareness about the basic harmfulness of these weapons. For example, the basic existence of the weapons is harmful. They don't ever have to be used to cause harm.

Matters of conscience are not necessarily utilitarian.

...