Editor's Note: The following press release was just issued regarding the Transform Now Plowshares appeal to be heard tomorrow. The March 9th issue of The New Yorker magazine has a feature article by Eric Schlosser (Author of Command and Control) on the Transform Now Plowshares action. Click here to read BREAK-IN AT Y-12.
WHILE PRESIDENT PRAISES COURAGE OF NONVIOLENT ACTIVISTS OF FIFTY YEARS AGO, NONVIOLENT ACTIVISTS TODAY—INCLUDING 85 YEAR OLD NUN—HELD IN FEDERAL PRISON, CHARGED WITH SABOTAGE, FOR SAME COURAGEOUS ACTION, US SIXTH CIRCUIT TO HEAR APPEAL OF TRANSFORM NOW PLOWSHARES 9:00AM, THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 2015, IN CINCINNATI, OH
Five days after President Barack Obama’s March 7, 2015, speech on the Edmund Pettis Bridge, praising the courageous leadership of nonviolent demonstrators, modern day nonviolent activists languish in Leavenworth, McKean, and Brooklyn federal prisons, serving terms from three to five years, for the July 28, 2012, Transform Now Plowshares action at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Embarrassed by the security breach at the bomb plant, Obama’s Justice Department charged Megan Rice, then 82 years old, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed with sabotage, invoking a little used statute originally intended for wartime saboteurs.
The Transform Now Plowshares three were convicted in 2013, imprisoned, and sentenced in 2014; Rice received a sentence of 35 months; Boertje-Obed and Walli, veterans of previous nonviolent plowshares actions, received sentences of five years. Rice, now 85, is currently incarcerated in Brooklyn, NY; Walli in McKean prison in Bradford, PA; Boertje-Obed in Leavenworth, KS.
Attorneys for the Transform Now Plowshares activists will have fifteen minutes on Thursday, March 12, 2015 to argue before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, that the government’s misapplication of the sabotage statute was inappropriate and the sentences of Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed should be recalibrated.
Like John Lewis and the Selma demonstrators fifty years ago, the Transform Now Plowshares action was designed to call attention to the failure of the United States government to live up to its ideals: in this case, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, in which the US promised, in 1970, to negotiate an end to the nuclear arms race and complete nuclear disarmament “at an early date.”
When Boertje-Obed, Rice and Walli learned of US plans to build a new multi-billion dollar nuclear weapons production facility—the Uranium Processing Facility—at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, they selected the site for the Transform Now Plowshares action. Fully aware of the grave personal risk they were taking, they entered the high security, deadly-force-authorized security zone at Y-12 and painted biblical peace slogans on the walls of the nation’s radioactive nuclear bomb material storehouse—the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility. They surrendered peacefully when accosted by security.
“The President, on the Bloody Sunday anniversary, might well have been speaking of Walli, Rice and Boertje-Obed when he said: ‘It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo. That’s America. That’s what makes us unique.’” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance.
Hutchison and other supporters from around the country will be in Cincinnati for the court hearing on Thursday, March 12, 2015. The hearing will be held at the federal courthouse, 100 East Fifth Street, beginning at 9:00am.
“Courageous agents of social change are often praised decades later,” Hutchison said. “Sometimes they get apologies. Sometimes, like Rosa Parks, they get medals. We believe it is an injustice to imprison them in the meantime. What the President said in Selma is true in Cincinnati today: ‘What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?’”
During motions hearings in federal court in Knoxville in 2013, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark testified the United States is not keeping its Nonproliferation Treaty commitment made while he was serving as Attorney General and declared the weapons production activity at the Y12 complex “unlawful.”
The Transform Now Plowshares action was one of several events that have so far thwarted plans for the new UPF bomb plant in Oak Ridge. Despite having spent more than $1.5 billion on design plans, no plan has yet been approved, and construction has not yet begun.
Two and a half years after the action, its effects continue to resonate; the March 8, 2015 issue of the New Yorker carries a major article by Eric Schlosser about the action.
for more information on Transform Now Plowshares, the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex or the Uranium Processing Facility: Ralph Hutchison 865 776 5050, email@example.com
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