Quantcast

Peace Activists Face 25-Year Sentence for Disarmament Action at Nuclear Submarine Base

Popular
The Kings Bay Plowshares seven appeared with actor and supporter Martin Sheen last week after their arguments for dismissal of their federal charges were heard by a judge in Georgia. @kingsbayplow7 / Twitter

By Julia Conley

Advocates for seven faith-based peace activists are calling on the public to support the group as they fight federal charges and a potential 25-year prison sentence for disarming a nuclear submarine base.


The Kings Bay Plowshares Seven (KBP7) nonviolently and symbolically disarmed the Trident nuclear submarine base in Kings Bay, Georgia on April 4, 2018. Last week in federal court, District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood heard the peace advocates' pre-trial arguments asking her to dismiss the felony and misdemeanor charges against them.

Lawyers for Mark Colville, Father Steve Kelly, Elizabeth McAlister, Martha Hennessy, Clare Grady, Patrick Michael O'Neill and Carmen Trotta say the federal government violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) when it charged the KBP7 with conspiracy, trespassing, and destruction and depredation of property.

The activists say they were acting in the name of their Catholic faith when they cut through fencing and wire at the submarine base and allegedly vandalized a building and static missiles.

"All of my actions and those of my co-defendants have been measured and guided by the principles of nonviolence expressed in Sacred Scripture. I would argue our communal criminal history has been all about upholding the basic tenets of love and providing for the common good," said O'Neill in his oral argument. "My actions are an extension of my beliefs. This connection between sincerely held religious beliefs and sacramental practice (action) are one and the same."

Under the RFRA, their lawyers argued, the government is required to take each of the defendants' beliefs into consideration and to levy the least restrictive charge against the group possible.

"A prosecution on three felonies and a misdemeanor was not close to that standard," argued attorney Stephanie McDonald, according to The Brunswick News in Brunswick, Georgia.

Colville said in his argument that the group doubts the government ever considered a punishment less restrictive than the felony and misdemeanor charges and the potential 25-year prison sentence the group now faces.

"Despite being given numerous opportunities, the government has yet to produce any evidence that it ever considered any less-restrictive means of protecting its so-called 'compelling interest,' while its own witnesses indicated that there were/are several such means available," Colville said. "The question this begs, then, is: did the government consider something more restrictive, and then talk themselves down? To this? What exactly could that have been? Is there still some federal statute on the books that allows for a public flogging?"

The KBP7's case marks the first time the RFRA has been invoked in this way.

In the courtroom last Wednesday, three of the defendants were seeing each other and the other advocates for the first time in 16 months after being incarcerated in a county jail in Georgia. Colville, Kelly and McAlister argue that their civil rights have been violated by their prolonged imprisonment, during which they have not had access to in-person legal preparation.

The courtroom last Wednesday overflowed with supporters, with about 60 people in the room as the KBP7 gave their arguments, and another 25 outside.

Actor and activist Martin Sheen was among the advocates who assembled in the court.

"I've been inspired most of my life by people who take the gospel seriously and live the gospel as a basic truth," Sheen told The Brunswick News. "If what you believe doesn't cost you anything, then what is it good for? I think that's the fundamental value of the Plowshares' action."

Circulating their petition on social media after the hearing, the KBP7's support committee called on the public not only to join their call for the government to dismiss their charges, but also to help rebuild the anti-nuclear weapons movement "that helped disarm the world's nuclear arsenals from 90,000 down to 15,000 weapons in the 1980s."

"We who share the moral vision of the Kings Bay Plowshares Seven proclaim our support for their courage and sustained sacrifice and call for the immediate dismissal of all charges against them," reads the petition, addressed to Attorney General William Barr. "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."

A number of global peace advocates and Nobel Peace Laureates are among the signers of the petition, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Poor People's Campaign leaders Rev. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis and Medea Benjamin.

Judge Wood is currently considering the KBP7's arguments.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Emily Deanne

Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.

Read More Show Less
Kokia drynarioides, commonly known as Hawaiian tree cotton, is a critically endangered species of flowering plant that is endemic to the Big Island of Hawaii. David Eickhoff / Wikipedia

By Lorraine Chow

Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Frederick Bass / Getty Images

States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
A couple works in their organic garden. kupicoo / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristin Ohlson

From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A competitor in action during the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships in Uummannaq, Greenland on April 9, 2001. Michael Steele / Allsport / Getty Images

Greenland is open for business, but it's not for sale, Greenland's foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger told Reuters after hearing that President Donald Trump asked his advisers about the feasibility of buying the world's largest island.

Read More Show Less
AFP / Getty Images / S. Platt

Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.

Read More Show Less
Newly established oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Hans Nicholas Jong

Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.

It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."

Read More Show Less