Two Dominican sisters receive time served for Y-12 protest

Sr. Carol Gilbert helps her Domincan Sister Ardeth Platte through the barbed wire at Y-12. Photo by Tom Bottolene.

DAY THREE • 16 September 2011 • Part I, Carol Gilbert

Carol Gilbert, arrested at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in OakRidge, Tennessee in July 2010 and convicted in May 2011 on a misdemeanor trespass charge, appeared before Judge Bruce Guyton for sentencing on Friday, September 16, 2011. Carol’s pre-sentencing investigation determined her sentencing range—points for prior offenses, added to points for the current offense—at 1-7 months.

Assistant District Attorney Melissa Kirby announced the government had no objections to the pre-sentencing report and sought a “just and fair sentence,” noting Carol had already served four months.

In her elocution, delivered just before the judge handed down his sentence, Carol said, “We do not choose jail. We do choose nonviolent direct action. We do choose to try to uphold Article 6 of the United States Constitution which was not allowed in this courtroom. We do choose life over death. But we do not choose jail.”Carol declared that Oak Ridge can not continue to refurbish and upgrade nuclear warheads and, at the same time, adhere to humanitarian law and the laws of war.  She spoke of women she met in jail who had horror stories to tell of the damage done to their families, health, and the environment by the work at Y12.

Drawing a distinction between civil disobedience, which breaks a specific law to accomplish a greater good, and civil resistance, which acts to uphold a law based on the citizen responsibilities established at Nuremberg to resist government crimes. Carol described her presence in the courtroom, along with her co-defendants, as drops of water—drops of water that, over time, wear away the stone.

Carol closed her statement with a remembrance of Jackie Hudson, to which the gathered audience responded, “Presente!”

The judge then sentenced Carol to time served, imposed no fine or probation.

DAY THREE • Part II, Ardeth Platte

It was the same and it wasn’t. Ardeth arrived in court four hours after Carol Gilbert to face sentencing for the same civil resistance act—trespass at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in July 2010 protesting the ongoing production of nuclear weapons components and the plan to build a new bomb production plant at Y12.

The prosecutor stood and reminded the judge that Ardeth had already served four months and asked for a sentence that would deter her specifically and others generally—the same language we have heard for each defendant.

The judge recited Ardeth’s points (history and offense) and status (Cateogry 2) which placed her in the 1-7 months range. Ardeth’s lawyer agreed they had no objection to the presentencing report.

And then it was Ardeth’s turn, and she addressed the court for her elocution, beginning with a blessing of peace on the judge, the judge’s staff, the prosecutors, the marshals, the audience—“everyone who has brought us to this place today.” Then she told the judge she would be sharing her history with him so he would understand a little of who she is. Her statement, “I Refuse to Be Silent,” began by calling Jackie Hudson to the gathering, and moved to reminding the judge that she came to court expecting justice, expecting law- breakers to be prosecuted, expecting killing and threats to kill to be brought to trial. She noted the prosecutors instead chose to prosecute the Y12 Thirteen, limiting their testimony at trial, and ignoring law and treaties.

“Nuclear weapons are the taproot of violence,” Ardeth said, “and they must be abolished. So I refuse to be silent.” Aligning herself with her community and her church, Nobel laureates and legal experts, the World Court and the world community, she said “We each in our own way refuse to be silent.” She described her education in the church where “the words of Jesus took root in me,” and her exposure to racism, sexism and class-ism. The movements to address those issues taught her “the way to bring about systemic change through legal, political, and direct action.” She spoke of anti-war actions and efforts to declare Michigan a Nuclear Free Zone at the ballot.

“During the 1980s and 1990s, under the tutelage of lawyers, we learned the laws of the United States applicable to nuclear weapons, war, and our own nonviolent actions,” Ardeth said, “and our duty and responsibility to stop them.”

“Nuclear weapons inflict indiscriminate and uncontrollable mass destruction, violate fundamental rules and principles of humanitarian law, and threaten the existence of life itself.” She spoke of the specific work at Y12, refurbishing the W76 warhead, as breaches of Article 6 of the Nonproliferation Treaty.

“So I ask you,” she said, “Is it out democratic right to stop wrong- doing? Is it legal to defy treaties?…My commitment has been to put my mind, body, spirit and voice on the line to stop war, weapons and killing.”

“You may wonder why I’m taking the time to add this to my record,” said Ardeth. “I have two reasons: first to let you know my commitment and my passio; second, with hope to invite you and all who are part of the court to be agents for change in this key time of history as were the courts in the abolition of slavery, voting rights for women, stopping child labor, civil rights, unionization, and a multitude of other laws protecting air, land and water… Join the movement to stop the killing.”

Ardeth concluding by invoking Jackie Hudson’s mantra, urging the court to “take a step outside your comfort zone.”

The judge listened intently to the entire elocution and then handed down his sentence: time served, no fine, no probation, and a $25 special fee to be paid immediately.

As Ardeth was taken away for processing, one of the marshals came over with her hand extended. “This is Sister Carol’s watch,” she said. “She left it here in May and told us we could give it away. But we aren’t allowed to do that; we would just have to throw it out. So I decided to keep it for her.” She then told us to expect them to be released around 6:00pm, and we adjourned for the afternoon to see Bix off to the airport and reconvene at the release.


Ardeth and Carol’s sentencing statements:


         Sister Jackie Hudson, Order of Preachers, was the next peacemaker scheduled for sentencing, next Monday morning at 9:30. Her life was given on August 3rd, 2011, her testimony complete, and it resounds loudly and clearly, remaining with us and we are grateful.  Jackie, presente!

Magistrate Guyton, we have been taught, have learned and believe that:

In these courts, justice should be rendered.

In these courts, prosecution for broken laws and policies regarding cancer-causing radioactivity that     poisons soil, water, animal and human life should be enforced.

In these courts, killing and threats to kill should be on trial.

In these courts “Deterrence” – intentional threats to kill massively (i.e. triggers cocked at targeted nations) should be listed on trial dockets as criminal.

In these state and federal courts Y 12 (along with Los Alamos and Kansas City Nuclear Complexes) producing and processing uranium, plutonium, materials and parts for nuclear weapons should be prosecuted as crimes.

Prosecutors, you have chosen instead to prosecute the Y 12 thirteen.  Your “in limine” motion to silence us at trial about applicable Constitutional, Humanitarian, Customary, International laws and treaties substantiating our action and motivation stripped us of our defense.

The probation officers chose to list for you some of my nonviolent, symbolic, direct actions of civil resistance that were designated points because of arbitrary arrests and incarcerations.  However, they too have eliminated the moral and legal ways and means of my teaching and preaching truth about war and weapons, nor have they recorded the reasons why I refuse to be silent.

So before sentencing I want to tell you more of my story.  Note that it is violence, injustice and killing that move me to actions.  I believe that nuclear weapons are the taproot of all violence and must be abolished. Poverty and deprivation kill too.  Domestic and foreign violence, injury to air, soil and water kills, massive killing in war with conventional bombs and threats of actual use of nuclear weapons – all are immoral, illegal and criminal.

So I refuse to be silent.

         My stance is the same as my religious community of Dominican Sisters, my intentional community of Jonah House and my Roman Catholic Church.  It is the same position taken by international law professors and lawyers (like Charles Moxley who testified before you), the World Court, Global Zero, Nobel Peace Laureates, many Admirals and Generals, political leaders, scientists, organizations and millions of people throughout the world.

We each in our own way refuse to be silent!

         At four years of age, I/We in kindergarten were ordered to duck and cover.  Our families were ordered to extinguish all lights for blackouts in the entire city.  In those early years we were all incorporated under the cloak of fear to participate in war.

At nine years of age my country obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as you know, killing hundreds of thousands of people – innocent women, men and children with “Little Boy” and “Fat Man”.  (Years later I have had the privilege of being with and speaking at forums with the Hibakusha who plead for a nuclear-free world also.)  The pictures of their land and burnt dead make me weep.

At thirteen years of age my brother was accidently shot while deer hunting.  What I recall was the sight of the open leg wound and its difficult healing process.  It stirred in me images and awareness of the maiming and killing in warfare.

In the early 50’s I entered college and then the Dominican Sisters Community, preparing for a vowed life and teaching ministry.  Scripture, theology, social documents of the Church, secular studies, the life and charism of Dominic, our founder – an itinerant preacher of truth, along with many Dominican saints formed me and deepened my conscience.

Affected by and study of a nonviolent/loving God, a nonviolent Jesus, giving his life rather than taking another’s life, all people made to the image of God, one family of sisters and brothers in the world, to become a Beatitude people, love God and neighbor as self, do good to those who persecute you, forgive seventy times seven, hammer swords into plowshares –all of these words/concepts took root in me. I would never be the same because sacred life and creation became most meaningful.

I found my voice, must speak out, must speak truth!

         In the 60’s and 70’s, during the years of my educational ministries, the “isms” became evident, focused and clearer to me. Racism was prevalent so it was right and good to be part of the nonviolent civil rights movement. Farmworkers were oppressed, so many of us joined boycotts and marches with Cesar Chavez and workers. Sexism and classism reflected the subjugation of women and the poorest and my heart and eyes were opened to the need for education, empowerment and organized efforts. For in each of these movements for justice, I saw democracy in action and had to join it; it was the way to bring about systemic change through legal, political and direct action.

I refused to be silent then and now!

         Assigned to an Upward Bound program at our college as an administrative assistant and to an inner city high school as principal brought me face to face with killing. It was the time of turmoil, riots and sniping in the streets of the cities. At the same time war was escalating and raging in Vietnam. Militarism had a devastating effect on domestic budgetary needs: education, food, shelter, health care. African Americans, Hispanics, and people made poor challenged me to walk by faith’s talk about preferential option with the poorest. Some of our grads were coming back in body bags and some of our students and family members were killed on the city’s war-zoned streets.

         We opened an Educational Center to drop outs, expellees and adults to offer some hope and self-determination sessions during a dark time. I participated in moratorium marches within the city and also in Washington DC. My own conversion kept deepening.

My voice was not silent!

War is not peace. Basic human necessities are intended as a right for all of God’s people. Hundreds of thousands of us were part of the demonstrations…and the Vietnam War ended. But nuclear weapons continued to be built. Each President, except Ford, threatened to use them, from Truman to the present as weapons of mass destruction have become more and more powerful.

We continued organizing – teaching conscientious objection, joining thousands at the UN Disarmament Conference in New York City in 1978 and a million of us in 1982. Nearly 1800 were arrested at the five nuclear weapon nation’s Embassies. In 1979 I was invited to the White House with other religious leaders to examine the SALT treaty. As a City Councilwoman I attended “Women for the Prevention of Nuclear War” with Rosalyn Carter, Ellen Goodman, Coretta Scott King, Joanne Woodward and numerous women leaders from every walk of life. As Mayor Pro Tem of the city I voted at our California Conference with Mayors for Peace for a Nuclear Freeze. Upon return from these urgent events our Michigan Coalition developed, gained signatures, and placed on the November 1982 ballot an Initiative banning nuclear weapons from our state. It passed by a 56% vote of the people.

         However, the federal government and Dept of Defense defied the will of the people of Michigan by deploying and storing hundreds of nuclear cruise missiles for B52’s at two  Strategic Air Command (SAC) Bases in 1983 and 1984. For the next twelve years, we prayed, studied, organized, marched, demonstrated, lobbied and did legal, political, and direct actions until every nuclear weapon was removed (1995) from our state, which is a wonderland with fresh water lakes surrounding it. At the same time we did all we could do to gain funds and commitment to cleanup the serious contamination which we believe caused cancer rates to escalate in the area.

I and others refused to be silent!

{As an interesting sideline, all of my arrests at these bases were for trespass. In the city I served for years, the police were facing a hostage situation – a veteran had collected a stash of guns and was holding his wife hostage. The police requested me to come to defuse the situation, so the man could be seized and given the mental health care that he needed. There was no question about my trespassing to stop a possible killing. I did so and it was successful. It is exactly what we attempt to do each time we enter a nuclear site – to save lives and stop the hostage-taking of other nations.}

During the 1980’s and 1990’s under the tutelage of lawyers, we learned the laws of the United States applicable to nuclear weapons, war and our own nonviolent actions. These experts: Francis Boyle, Kary Love, Bill Durand, Richard Faulk, Bill Quigley, Peter Weiss, Bob Aldridge, Ved Nanda, Lawyers for Prevention of Nuclear War, Anabel Dwyer, etc. by their writings and testifying through the years substantiate the illegality and crimes of governments and corporations and our duty and responsibility to stop them.

A Coalition of Michigan peacemakers and lawyers led by Anabel Dwyer developed the Nuremberg Campaign. Atty. Dwyer attended the sessions at the Hague regarding the International Court of Justice report and opinion of nuclear weapons being illegal in threatening to use or ever using them. The Campaign included depositions, laws, procedures to be taken to stop the SAC Base from illegal action. The briefs were submitted to the Attorney General, two federal District Attorneys and two county prosecutors. Day by day we offered leaflets at the SAC Base to teach Air Force personnel that they must disobey any command (according to their Field Manuals) to threaten use or to launch nuclear weapons.

I refuse to be silent!

         Lawyers who are experts in Law continue to teach us the pertinence of the Constitution, Geneva, Hague, UN  Charter, Nuremberg Principles, Poison Earth Treaty, World Court Decision, the Non Proliferation Treaty – “with its obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects, under strict and effective international control.”

Nuclear weapons inflict indiscriminate and uncontrollable mass destruction, violate fundamental rules and principles of humanitarian law and threaten the existence of life itself.

I/We were informed that the replacement upgrades in targeting capability of Trident D-5 missiles, W76 and W88 series are breaches of Article VI of the NPT and signed agreements, therefore, the ongoing production at Y12 Oak Ridge must be halted and total disarmament take place.

I refuse to be silent and joined

in issuing the proclamation on July 5, 2010.


So I ask you now:

Is it or is it not the duty to stop crimes?

Is it legal to defy treaties?

Is it legal to kill civilians?

Is it legal to bomb counties at which no war has been declared? to torture?

Is it legal to threaten with nuclear weapons?

Is it legal to occupy countries and establish 1000 military bases on ¾ of the world’s countries?

Is it legal for the U.S. to divide the world into Command Centers, controlling independent


Is it legal to allow or cause people to starve and be malnourished here and abroad?

Is it legal to sign treaties to total nuclear disarmament and not fulfill them?  If it is legal, it is certainly not moral. My commitment has been and is to put my mind, body, spirit and voice on lines to stop war, weapons, and killing. I oppose all killing – by the pen, by guns, by conventional and nuclear weapons. I refuse to be silent about personal, societal, state and national murder. I refuse to be silent regarding the lies told, the resources stolen, the crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The universe, Earth, creation and creatures are sacred, too magnificent to be destroyed.

You may wonder why I’m taking time to add the above material to the record and my rap sheet. No doubt you have probably decided my sentence before I spoke. I wanted you to know my convictions and passion and what has led me to do what I do…not only civil resistance and the promise to give my life for justice and peace.  I want to invite you to be agents of change.

My question is – where are the courts and judges. Will any of you be agents for change as were the courts in abolishing slavery, child labor, gaining civil rights, women’s voting, unionization, and other laws galore that had to be upheld and interpreted.  It is an urgent time, a kairos moment, a key time in history – wherein abolition of nuclear weapons is law. Let all of us go home to feed the poor and serve God’s people! Never again bring to court nonviolent civil resisters at Y12. Cases dismissed. Join the movement to stop weapons, war and killing! Prosecutors – bring forth the cases of contamination and radiation. Stop nuclear weapons and prosecute those breaking the law. As Jackie would say, “Let’s all take another step outside our comfort zone.” I trust and hope you will be the persons that will someday do it.


Sentencing Statement by

Sister Ardeth Platte, O.P.

September 16, 2011 for Y12 Action


Judge Guyton, before I begin my prepared statement I want to apologize for how I look and hope my mind is operating because the last 31 hours have been hectic.  We were awakened at 2 am and left Ocilla at 4:30 am with the officer driving 80 -90 miles an hour plus about half of the trip texting.  I don’t know what the law is in TN or GA but in MD and in MI that is illegal. You might not think I am a very law and order person but my friends would tell you I am. We arrived about 11:30 am and were given a very nice lunch by the marshals. We then sat in the holding cell for most of the afternoon and then taken for processing.  We arrived in our cells at 10:30 pm and were taken out again at 5 am for court.  The jail also ran out of combs to give us. So, I apologize to you.

One of the charisms of my Dominican religious order is “to give to others the fruits of your contemplation.”

These past 131 days I have contemplated what if anything I would say to this court.

Four clarifications need to be made:

1.)   We do not choose jail. Anyone who has ever been in jail, prison, or even a lock-up would never choose it.  We do choose non-violent direct action. We do choose civil resistance enough to risk arrest and incarceration.  We do choose to try and uphold Article 6 of the United States Constitution (the supremacy clause) which was not allowed in this courtroom. We do choose life over death.  But, we do not choose jail.

2.)   I chose not to testify at trial because of your order which would silence my truth.  Your order spoke of lack of “imminence”. I believe that every human being and all species are my brothers and sisters.  These last 131 days have only strengthened for me how imminent our action was.

The United States cannot at one, refurbish and upgrade nuclear warheads at Y-12 Oak Ridge for deployment, threat or use and abide in good-faith by promises to adhere to humanitarian law, the laws of war limiting the use of force and our obligation in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Criminal Code and I understand the U.S. Military Code.

We met women both in Blount County Detention Center, Maryville, TN and Irwin County Detention Center, Ocilla, GA who had friends, relatives, spouses or themselves that worked or lived near Y-12.  We heard stories of cancers, deaths, class action suits, loss of jobs due to contamination, money awards, environmental contamination and radiated deer.  We heard from peacemakers where on 279 out of 365 days last year, the water leaving the Y-12 facility was contaminated beyond safe drinking water levels.  This speaks to me of imminence!

3.)   This court has no understanding of the difference between civil disobedience and civil resistance.  Civil disobedience means breaking a specific law.  One example from our history is the African-American population who broke the racist Jim Crow municipal ordinances by sitting at lunch counters legally prohibited from serving them.  Civil resistance is upholding the laws.  The necessity defense and Nuremburg principals say that citizens have a responsibility and a duty to resist illegal government crimes.

In many countries around the world and sometimes in this country people are acquitted for these non-violent actions.  Our Y-12 action on July 5, 2010 was an act of civil resistance.

4.)   I want to explain why Sister Ardeth Platte and I chose not to comply with supervised release after trial.  We had been on ten months of strict supervised release which we followed to the letter of the law.

When we appeared here in July of 2010 you gave us permission to go to our motherhouse in MI for meetings.  Usually, we have been on unsupervised release where we just signed a paper promising to return to court and not break any laws. So, when we got to Baltimore the papers did not read we could travel outside of MD.  We did finally get approval after many phone calls. Then in October we had a college student group and we wanted to take them to a trial in VA for a Pentagon peace action. When I called the probation department the officer said he would need to call TN.  He called back a few hours later and said if it was up to him he would give permission but after talking to TN he could not say yes. We could not participate in any demonstrations, vigils, rallies, prayer services, even our local death penalty vigil all of which were legal and First Amendment rights. Another hardship was parking when we had to visit the probation office as the costs were at least $8 and sometimes as high as $18 which were prohibitive for us. We could not work with the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Community on Faith and Resistance Retreats held three times a year in D.C. We also knew that after the guilty verdict we would need to return to TN for PSI reports and sentencing and it seemed better to begin serving the time.

These 131 days most of which were spent in a “for profit, private jail” (and that is a whole other story) taught me again how we treat the poorest in this country-the throw aways:

pain clinics, addictions, trauma, conspiracy laws, no trials, plea

bargains, mandatory minimums, over-crowded federal and state

prisons and lack of medical care – you know what happened to

our Sister Jackie, may she rest in peace, and hers is one of many

stories I could share.

I want to close with a story about our Sister Jackie Hudson.  When Jackie was giving a presentation she always ended by asking people “to take one step outside of their comfort zone.

Each of the warheads prepared or refurbished at Y-12 is known and intended to threaten or inflict vast, indiscriminate and uncontrollable heat, blast and radiation.   Life as we know it would cease.

After ten months of strict supervised release and 131 days in jails we come before this court as drops of water…drops of water that over time can wear away the stone.

And so Judge Guyton, prosecutors, U.S. Marshalls, court workers and friends, I stand before you today, in the memory of our Sister Jackie, who was to be sentenced in this courtroom on Monday, September 19th and say, “Let’s all take one step outside of our comfort zone.” Jackie Hudson, Order of Preachers, PRESENTE!

Sentencing Statement

September 16, 2011 –Knoxville TN

Carol Gilbert, OP

(Y-12 Action July 5, 2010)