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February 27, 2014
Circle of Mercy
Three Catholic anti-nuke activists were sentenced yesterday (February 18) in Knoxville, TN. I was truly blessed to attend their sentencing along with many other supporters and came home deeply impacted, moved...and sad.
As many of you know, the three (Michael Walli from the DC Catholic Worker, Greg Boertje-Obed from the Duluth Catholic Worker and Sister Megan Rice) made their way on July 28th, 2012 to the largest container of enriched uranium in the world located at the Y12 weapons plant in Oakridge, TN. (The New York Times' William Broad declared it "the greatest breach of security in U.S. nuclear weapons program history"). Once there, they hammered on the container with household hammers, spray-painted biblical passages on the container, broke bread, and prayed.
Yesterday the two men were sentenced to 5 years in prison each and Sister Megan was sentenced to 3 years (she is 84 years old).
Their court witness, their being surrounded by many old faces of the Catholic Left, many of them participants in previous Plowshares actions, and the entire court process was simply an amazing event to be present at.
Judge Thapar's main dilemma (that he expressed) was what sentence to hand out in order that it might be a deterrence. "How do I deter his actions? How do I stop his actions"? (he said, speaking of Michael Walli). How does one deter acts of peace? How does one deter the gospel? Was not their action an attempt at nuclear deterrence? In the end he did sentence below the US Government guidelines that the prosecutors were pushing for and, although he commented extensively on how "good these people are," he did sentence them to these disheartening sentences.
What he insisted throughout the process was that the three should have pursued their passion for the abolition of nuclear weapons through legal means and he repeatedly used the example of same sex marriage and the recent legalization of marijuana as groups that had fought their battle legally and were seeing change. What he forgot to mention was that these movements and where they stand now did not appear on the scene in a vacuum. Their struggles involved acts of violating the law, including acts of Civil Disobedience and years of living together without legal sanction. AND the current legalization of marijuana in Colorado itself is a violation of Federal law!
In their final statements to the court Michael Walli termed their action as "lawful missionary work at the Y12 Plant", terming it an "anti-Christ, state terrorist site." Sister Megan informed the judge that "to remain in prison for the rest of my life is the greatest honor you could give me." (He would not honor that wish).
So much to talk about in regards to their presence, their action, and those present to support them. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks for listening.