Jury Reaches Verdict in Disarm Now Plowshares Trial
December 13, 2010
For Immediate Release
Tacoma, Washington, Monday, December 13, 2010: The federal criminal trial of five veteran peace activists that began December 7 ended today after the jury found them guilty on all counts. The five defendants, called the Disarm Now Plowshares, challenged the legality and morality of the US storage and use of thermonuclear missiles by Trident nuclear submarines at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base outside Bremerton Washington.
In their defense the peace activists argued three points: the nuclear missiles at Bangor are weapons of mass destruction; those weapons are both illegal and immoral; and that all citizens have the right and duty to try to stop international war crimes from being committed by these weapons of mass destruction.
The five were charged with trespass, felony damage to federal property, felony injury to property and felony conspiracy to damage property. Each defendant faces possible sentences of up to ten years in prison.
On trial were: Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York; Bill Bischel, SJ, 81, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma Washington; Susan Crane, 67, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore, Maryland; Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from Bremerton Washington; and Steve Kelly, SJ, 60, a Jesuit priest from Oakland California. Bill Bischel and Lynne Greenwald are active members of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, a community resisting Trident nuclear weapons since 1977.
The five admitted from the start that they cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Navy base during the night of the Feast of All Souls, November 2, 2009. They then walked undetected for hours nearly four miles inside the base to the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific (SWFPAC). This top security area is where the Plowshares activists say hundreds of nuclear missiles are stored in bunkers. There they cut through two more barbed wire fences and went inside. They put up two big banners which said "Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident Illegal and Immoral," scattered sunflower seeds, and prayed until they were arrested at dawn. Once arrested, the five were cuffed and hooded with sand bags because the marine in charge testified "when we secure prisoners anywhere in Iraq or Afghanistan we hood them...so we did it to them."
The eight Trident nuclear submarines home ported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor each carry 24 Trident D-5 nuclear missiles. Each missile carries up to eight warheads, each one having an explosive yield of up to 475 kilotons, over 30 times the destructive force of the weapon dropped on Hiroshima.
Additionally, Bangor is home to SWFPAC where nuclear warheads are stored ready for deployment. Located just 20 miles west of Seattle, it is home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal, housing more than 2000 nuclear warheads.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the 2,364 nuclear warheads at Bangor are approximately 24 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal, more than the combined nuclear warheads than China, France, Israel, India, North Korea and Pakistan.
The jury heard testimony from peace activists who came from around the world to challenge the use of Trident nuclear weapons by the U.S. Angie Zelter, internationally known author and Trident Ploughshares activist from the UK, testified about the resistance to Trident weapons in Europe.
Stephen Leeper, Chair of the Peace Culture Foundation in Hiroshima, told the jury, "the world is facing a critical moment" because of the existence and proliferation of nuclear weapons. Though prohibited from testifying about the details of the death, destruction, and genetic damage to civilians from the US nuclear attack on Hiroshima, he testified defendants "have a tremendous amount of support in Hiroshima." When asked if he had encouraged the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants in any way he said, "Yes, I told them, `Yes, do anything you possibly can to bring this to the consciousness of the world, because Americans more than any other people in the world are unconscious of what's going on.' "
Retired US Navy Captain Thomas Rogers, 31 years in the Navy, including several years as Commander of a nuclear submarine during the Cold War, said of Trident, "strategic nuclear weapons on submarines... are kept on alert, deployed, and if ever used, they are released with a coded message that's authenticated on board the ship, and the commander of the ship shoots the missiles, delivers the weapons. Which, in my opinion, in my knowledge, is contrary to the law of armed conflict which says a commander is responsible for - - is responsible for following the rules and principles of humanitarian law, and for not indiscriminately hurting noncombatants and for not causing undue suffering or environmental damage, and that commanding officer is powerless, and it's an awful feeling.
The peace activists represented themselves with lawyers as stand by counsel. Attorneys Anabel Dwyer and Bill Quigley also assisted the defendants. Dwyer is a Michigan attorney and Board Member of The Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP), and an expert in humanitarian law and nuclear weapons. Quigley is the Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and Professor at Loyola New Orleans.
Prosecutors said the government would neither confirm nor deny the existence of nuclear weapons at the base, and argued that "whether of not there are nuclear weapons there or not is irrelevant." Prosecutors successfully objected to and excluded most of the defense evidence about the horrific effects of nuclear weapons, the illegality of nuclear weapons under U.S. treaty agreements and humanitarian law, and the right of citizens to try to stop war crimes by their government.
The Disarm Now Plowshares defendants tried to present evidence about the presence of nuclear weapons at Bangor despite repeated objections. At one point, Sr. Anne Montgomery challenged the prosecutors and the court, "Why are we so afraid to discuss the fact that there are nuclear weapons?"
There were many indications that the jury found it difficult to convict the Disarm Now Plowshares defendants. Jury questions,facial expressions, body language and post-trial conversations all gave this impression. One of the jurors said that from what he could tell, no one was ready to convict right away.
After the verdict was read and the Judge Settle was about to dismiss the jury, Steve Kelly stood and announced that the defendants would like to bless the jury. Steve and all of his co-defendants stood with their hands raised in blessing as he said, "May you go in peace and have a safe, happy holiday."
Sentencing is scheduled for March 28, 2011 at 9:00 am.
For more information on the trial and the Plowshares peace activists please see the site for Disarm Now Plowshares http://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/ or Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action http://www.gzcenter.org/index.html
Contact: Leonard Eiger (425) 445-2190
Media & Outreach Coordinator
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
Megan Rice shcj
Nevada Desert Experience
1420 W. Bartlett Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89106-2226 www.NevadaDesertExperience.org
702 646 4814
PHILIP BERRIGAN in 2002 : We (U.S.) are number one in war, and war is our number one business. We're number one in poisoning the planet with radioactive garbage. And I recently received a report from Afghanistan: we have poisoned that land with 3,000 tons of depleted uranium, —these huge bombs we have manufactured, earth-penetrating and rock-penetrating, and we ( U.S.) have left it as a legacy to that unfortunate land.
LOCAL NEWS: Jury finds Bichsel et al. guilty on all counts --
sentencing of Bangor Five set for Mar. 28, 2011
[Father Bill "Bix" Bichsel and four co-defendants were found guilty of
trespass, destruction of government property, and conspiracy on
Monday, Adam Lynn of the *News Tribune* reported shortly after
noon. -- The five "felons" will be sentenced in March.
-- Their trial stems from the Plowshares action in which the five engaged in the early morning hours of Nov. 2, 2009,
(http://www.ufppc.org/local-news-mainmenu-34/9112/) the Day of the
Dead, when Bichsel and four others risked their lives to call
attention to the weapons system based there.
-- In a statement about the action issued then,
(http://www.ufppc.org/local-news-mainmenu-34/9132/) Father Bix said:
"At this place of global death and hopelessness I wish to witness in
faith to the life-giving and transforming power of this presence which
can expel the demon of violence from the hearts and minds of people
possessed by the need for nuclear weapons."
-- Scarcely a glimmer of this perspective pierced the filter of the mainstream media.
-- On Monday afternoon, an Associated Press reporter (whose account appeared in the *Washington Post*) gave no sense of the nature of the weapons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SLBM) aboard the Trident subs
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohio_class_submarine) and stockpiled at
-- The *Kitsap Sun*'s remarkably able account of the case
provoked on the paper's website dozens of remarkably benighted
comments from readers.
-- And a sneering and inaccurate account of the trial was posted Monday afternoon on the website of the *Seattle Weekly*, of all places.
-- (The piece is beneath further comment. What can Curtis Cartier have been thinking?)
-- More information on the Plowshares action and the trial is available here. (http://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/)
-- See in particular a video (http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=17716253) of a talk in Tacoma on Dec. 8 by Steven Leeper, the chair of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation.
-- Leeper addresses the real issues at stake, none of which were reported in the press.
-- Reporting on this case, in fact, has been characterized
from start to finish by a remarkable failure even to mention the point
of the entire story: humanity's urgent need to abolish nuclear
ACTIVISTS GUILTY OF BREAKING INTO KITSAP NAVAL BASE
By Adam Lynn
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
December 13, 2010
A federal jury has convicted five anti-war activists who broke into
Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor to protest the nuclear weapons stored there,
the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and the U.S. Attorney's
The jury today found guilty on all counts the Rev. Bill Bichsel, 82, a
Jesuit priest in Tacoma; the Rev. Stephen Kelly, 60, a Jesuit priest
from Oakland, Calif.; Sister Anne Montgomery, 84, of Redwood City,
Calif.; Susan Crane, 67, a retired public school teacher from
Baltimore; and Lynne Greenwald, 60, a social worker from Bremerton.
The five were charged with using bolt cutters to cut through three
chain-link fences to enter an area where nuclear warheads are stored
on the base, about 40 miles northwest of Tacoma.
The were convicted of conspiracy, trespass, and destruction of
Bichsel told the *News Tribune* for a story earlier this month the
nuclear weapons at Bangor are illegal under international law because
"they are indiscriminate killers of civilians and combatants."
But U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle prohibited arguments relating
to the interpretation of international law as a defense in the trial,
according to court documents.
Sentencing is set for March 28. The defendants face a maximum of 10
years in prison although they are expected to get lighter sentences
under federal guidelines.
ANTI-NUCLEAR WEAPON PROTESTERS CONVICTED IN TACOMA
By Manuel Valdes
December 13, 2010
SEATTLE -- A federal jury on Monday convicted five anti-war activists,
including octogenarians and Jesuit priests, who cut fences at Naval
Base Kitsap-Bangor in 2009 to protest submarine nuclear weapons.
Members of the group could face up to 10 years in prison when they are
sentenced in March.
The five defendants were convicted of conspiracy, trespass, and
destruction of government property, the U.S. attorney's office said.
The group includes 82-year-old Jesuit Rev. Bill Bichsel of Tacoma;
60-year-old Jesuit Rev. Stephen Kelly of Oakland, Calif.; 84-year-old
Sister Anne Montgomery of Redwood City, Calif.; 67-year-old retired
teacher Susan Crane of Baltimore; and 60-year-old social worker Lynne
Greenwald of Bremerton.
All five remained free under their personal recognizance, the U.S.
attorney's office said.
"When those who seek to exercise their right to protest violate the
rights of others, they must be held accountable under the law,"
Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlen Storm said in the statement.
Court documents said the five defendants cut through a perimeter fence
on Nov. 2, 2009, to reach an area near where Trident nuclear warheads
are stored in bunkers. They cut through two more fences and an alarm
system, causing about $6,000 in damage, prosecutors said.
Marines responded to the alarm and found the group inside the limited
access area displaying a banner denouncing nuclear weapons, putting
their blood on the fence and ground, and kneeling in prayer.
They were arrested, hooded, taken to the Naval Criminal Investigative
Service office and issued letters barring them from the base.
Greenwald and Bichsel had previously been permanently barred from the
"No, I don't have any regrets," said Crane, who recently became a
grandmother. "The main thing that we know is that these weapons are
just horrendous, grotesque, and the base is only there to serve or
take care of the Trident nuclear weapons."
The guilty convictions didn't come as a surprise to the defendants,
said Anabel Dwyer, an attorney for Kelly.
Judge Benjamin Settle had prohibited the defendants from using
international law and the lethality of nuclear weapons as a defense.
The five defendants believe nuclear warheads stored and on submarines
at the base are illegal under international, national and humanitarian
The trial hinged on straightforward charges relating to trespassing
and property damage.
"It's sort of unnecessary prosecution," Dwyer said. "I'm very sorry
about the outcome. What they did was justifiable, pointing out
weapons of mass destruction."
Crane and Dwyer didn't want to speculate on sentences the group might
receive in March.
JURY FINDS PROTESTORS WHO CUT THROUGH BANGOR FENCES GUILTY
By Maks Goldenshteyn
Kitsap Sun (Bremerton, WA)
December 13, 2010
TACOMA -- The five protesters who cut through fences at Naval Base
Kitsap-Bangor and reached a warhead-storage area were found guilty
Monday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma of conspiracy, trespass,
destruction of property on a naval installation, and depredation of
The jury deliberated for about four hours Friday and Monday before
finding the five guilty on all counts, according to a press release
issued by the court.
They face up to 10 years in prison and will be sentenced by Federal
Judge Benjamin Settle on March 28, 2011.
Defendants Bill Bichsel, 82, a Catholic priest from Tacoma; Anne
Montgomery, 84, a nun from New York; Susan Crane, 66, of Baltimore;
Lynne Greenwald, 61, of Tacoma; and Stephen Kelly, 61, of Oakland,
Calif., will remain free on their own recognizance until then.
"These individuals' actions were very risky and needlessly put
themselves and our service members at risk," said Navy Region
Northwest spokesman J. Overton. "We hope that the decisions of the
justice system dissuade others from attempting similar activities."
Conspiracy is punishable by up to five years in prison. Trespass is
punishable by up to six months in prison. Destruction of property on
a naval installation is punishable by up to five years in prison and
depredation of government property is punishable by up to 10 years in
Some of the counts carry a fine of up to $250,000, according to the release.
Overton said he wasn't prepared to discuss whether any new security
measures had been put in place since the incident.
The five defendants subscribe to an international anti-nuclear weapons
movement that gets its name -- Plowshares -- from Bible scriptures
that promote beating "swords into plowshares."
The protesters, who represented themselves in court, argued during the
four-day trial that the nuclear weapons at Bangor are illegal and
immoral, said spokesman Leonard Eiger of the Ground Zero Center for
The activists readily admitted breaking into Bangor but pleaded not
guilty to the charges in October.
Reached by phone, defendant Crane said no one was surprised by
Monday's court decision.
Crane said it took a year of study and "prayer and reflection" to plan
"If you go on a regular search engine, and you go on Google Earth, you
can see the roads. You can see where the bunkers are," she said.
Crane claims that many workers observed them after they infiltrated
the base, particularly after reaching Escolar Road.
"I'm still thinking, how is it that five people who we didn't walk
very fast were able to walk on the base for four hours? How is that
all of these people walked by us and drove by us? How is it that all
that happened? How did we get past two high security fences? How was
that able to happen on a base that was supposed to be protected?"
According to court documents, the defendants entered the base during
early-morning darkness on Nov. 2, 2009. Wearing dark clothing, they
used bolt cutters to chop a hole in the perimeter fence, climbed
inside, and wired the fence back together.
Most of the defendants brought living wills; Bichsel carried a
doctor's note saying he "was not a good candidate for incarceration,"
according to court filings.
By about 4:45 a.m., the activists had overshot their intended
destination and were spotted by two civilian workers near the north
end of the base, according to court filings. The workers didn't
report the intruders because they believed they'd be apprehended by
Marines patrolling the area.
At 6:30 a.m., after walking for four hours, the protesters reached the
Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific's limited access area, where
Trident nuclear warheads are stored in bunkers. They cut through two
more fences and an alarm system, causing about $6,000 in damage.
Marines responded to the alarm and found the group inside the limited
access area displaying a banner denouncing nuclear weapons, squirting
red liquid on the fence and ground, and kneeling in prayer. They were
arrested, hooded, taken to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service
office, processed, and issued barment letters. [NOTE: First time
we've seen this word: it's not in the *Oxford English Dictionary*!
-- But it's in the Code of Federal Regulations: 32 CFR 809a.5. --
That's Title 32: "National Defense." -M.J.]
Greenwald and Bichsel had previously been permanently barred from the base.
Crane said she wasn't scared after being discovered by military
personnel, and isn't scared at the prospect of jail time.
"That isn't the right word," she said. "I try to do what seems to be
the right thing by my faith -- respect all life, love my enemies, and
love other people. And that's what I'm working on. Somehow in the
midst of that, fear takes a backseat."
Eiger, the group's spokesman, said the defendants and their supporters
have been meeting everyday at Tacoma Catholic Worker since the trial
began last Tuesday for brief sessions of song and prayer.
He said no matter the outcome of next year's sentencing, the
defendants will try to stick to their routines. Shortly after the
jury delivered its verdict, Bichsel presided over a funeral.
"He doesn't stop. He doesn't sleep. He took his nitroglycerin pills
like did the night at Bangor and he keeps going," Eiger said.
ANTI-WAR GROUP CONVICTED OF BREAKING INTO KITSAP-BANGOR NAVY BASE,
HANGING ANTI-NUKE BANNER
By Curtis Cartier
December 13, 2010
Two priests, a nun, a nurse, and an activist cut through a chain-link
fence at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base and hang up a banner that says
nuclear weapons suck. The U.S. government says "you're going to jail,
But seriously folks, five anti-war activists loosely associated with
the ultra-religious Jonah House in Baltimore, Md. were just found
guilty of trespassing, felony damage to federal property, felony
injury to property, and felony conspiracy to damage property at a
federal court in Tacoma today.
As reported by the Huffington Post and Associated Press, the case
stems from a 2009 infiltration of the Navy base, in which the group of
radicals clipped its way through the base's fence and into an area
where thermonuclear missiles are stored for use by Trident submarines.
Once there, they put up a huge banner reading: "Disarm Now
Plowshares: Trident Illegal and Immoral," they scattered some
sunflower seeds and prayed until they were arrested in the morning.
When marines on the base found the group, they handcuffed and hooded
them, because, as they later said at the trial "when we secure
prisoners anywhere in Iraq or Afghanistan we hood them . . . so we did
it to them."
In court, the group of activists argued their case along three main
points: that nuclear missiles are weapons of mass destruction, that
weapons like that are both illegal and immoral, and that all citizens
have the right to try to stop international war crimes, in this case,
crimes they felt were assured to be committed eventually using the
weapons at the base.
The court, however, wasn't having it and the group was barred from
presenting evidence about nuclear weapons' morality and legality.
Instead, prosecutors were able to narrow the case toward whether or
not the group broke in to a federal base and away from whether nuclear
weapons are housed at the base (they are, lots of them) or whether
that's a good or a bad thing.
The trial saw peace activists from around the world show up and
testify on behalf of the defendants and of nuclear disarmament.
The crew of fence-cutters are looking at up to 10 years in prison and
include Fr. Bill Bischel, 81, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma; Sr. Anne
Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York, Susan Crane, 67,
a member of Jonah House community, Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from
Bremerton and Fr. Steve Kelly, 60, a Jesuit priest from Oakland,
According to information from the group Subversive Peace Making, at
the end of the trial, after each of them was found guilty, Fr. Kelly
insisted on standing up and "blessing" everyone in the court,
apparently saying: "may you go in peace and have a safe, happy
Will do, Father. Same to you, especially considering that you and
your friends are likely heading to prison for several years.
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