Fr. William “Bix” Bichsel, SJ began a 3 month prison sentence at the SeaTac Federal Prison on November 10. The sentence resulted from an action at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on July 5, 2010.
On January 10, Bix left SeaTac, and headed to a federal transition house in Tacoma, Washington for the last month of his sentence.
That evening, friends who are Buddhist monks with the Nipponzan Myohoji Order on Bainbridge Island, were part of a group who were walking and drumming on their way to attend a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day vigil and action at the Trident nuclear sub base in Bangor. Senji Kanaeda and Gilberto Perez decided to make a small detour to drum and pray in front of the house where Bix was now residing.
Bix was very happy to see and hear them. His captors were not as happy, and reported the incident. Early the next morning, Bix was abruptly awakened, shackled, and returned to SeaTac by marshals. Upon his arrival, he choose not to comply with demands and was placed in a solitary cell in the special housing unit (SHU).
Friend and supporter Joe Power-Drutis wrote:
He welcomes this time of solitude to pray and fast and meditate.
One meditation he shared was of the White Rose movement that came into
being through a young girl and her brother and other students who came
to understand they could no longer be silent while the Nazis sent
millions to the gas chambers during the Holocaust. They did not want
the German people’s moral failure to be theirs. They had the courage
to act, at all costs, and to speak out, calling for passive resistance
against Hitler’s regime. Imprisonment and death was the price they
paid for speaking their truth. Bix reminds us, as we celebrate the
life of Martin Luther King, of King’s challenge to us “one has a moral
responsibility to disobey unjust laws”.
After reporting that he was continuously very cold in his cell, and his requests for another blanket were ignored, supporters held a vigil outside the prison and made phone calls to officials to ask that Bix be given blankets. Extra blankets were finally brought to his cell, and Bix reports that he is much warmer.
[later note: Bix ended his fast on January 25.]
From: Blake Kremer, attorney
January 19, 2012
Bix called around 2 PM today and said that he would like a visit from
me. He related to me the following:
“Found out at a hearing on Tuesday the BOP’s reason for taking me into custody. Brought two people in from the halfway house to describe
the incident when the monks came to greet me. I did not know the
monks were coming, but I threw them some kisses and that was it. The
next morning the marshal came and took me into custody.
“I am now on non-compliance and in the SHU. I entered into a fast –
this is my ninth day. I am amazed at how much strength I am getting.
No food at all – just water. Every morning they bring me breakfast; I
just take two half pints of milk. I feel with all of this my spirit
feels great. It is very cold for me all of the time. I cannot sleep
at all – 24 hours a day without sleep, fighting off the chill. I have
asked for a jacket or a pillow or a mattress; they do not comply.
“I am very delighted in the way that this has happened. Welcome
angels singing joy and peace is the theme that comes to me. Rejoice
Rejoice Rejoice – I loved the visit from the monks that lead to his
current imprisonment. I am where I should be. I am good.
“I am cold all the time, I wear a blanket. I am in bed all the time
to stay warm.
“I am deeply thankful for where I am and I feel a deep sense of god’s
presence. I would like to have others join in the fast if they want
to. There is a fast for Christian unity from the 18th to the 25th. I
would like others to consider joining in or being more conscious of
our call to eliminate nuclear weapons or oppose unconscionable actions
and inhumane treatment. I told BOP that I would not comply, as a
matter of conscience. They said: this is a matter of policy not
conscience. I said: that is exactly my point. And that is what I
would like others to consider: that what is policy for some is not
acceptable for Christians.”
From: Blake Kremer, attorney
January 22, 2012
I met with Bix yesterday, January 21st, and he asked me to pass along
Bix is still in the SHU. Bix received a letter from Terry Morrison
where he learned of the Tuesday vigil, and he is deeply appreciative
Bix says that he has received extra blankets, and he is no longer
cold. He is able to stay warm enough in bed, and wears his blankets
when he stands up to stay warm. Bix says that he continues to not be
able to sleep at all, but he no longer thinks that being cold is the
cause of that. He thinks that it relates to “itchiness” that continues
to trouble him.
Bix wants everyone to know that as he continues on his fast –
yesterday was his eleventh day – that he feels stronger and more
confirmed in his resolution. Bix is appreciative of any who join him
in his fast, the goal of which is to unite us as one and strengthen
resolve against nuclear
weapons. Bix says that there are 10,000 issues that we can work on;
this is one thing that we can all unite together on today. Bix says
that Christians can unite in conscience where God speaks to all of us,
to abolish nuclear weapons and to oppose those policies of the US that
are without conscience. This was a point that Bix was reminded of when
he was taken back to the BOP
and told by his jailer that his re-arrest was a matter of policy, not
of conscience. Bix talked about how policy without conscience
reminded him of the courage of the White Rose and their courage in
protesting Nazi policies without conscience, even though they were
beheaded for their resolve.
Bix talked about his re-arrest at the halfway house, and how just
prior to that he saw Gilberto and others drumming outside the house.
Bix said that the monks looked like angels bringing songs of peace and
joy to him. While Bix was re-arrested for this “unauthorized contact,”
he continues to think of that and delights in the memory of what he
considered wholly authorized
contact. He blew kisses to them at the time, and continues to rejoice
in the memory. Bix sings to himself in his solitary cell, and hopes
that at the vigil [outside the prison by supporters] today, those present will sing: “angels we have heard on high.”
Bix is deeply appreciative of those who are thinking of him and sends
February 9 marks the end of the 3 month sentence for the Y-12 protest, and following that Bix is scheduled to begin 6 months of home detention for the Disarm Now Plowshares action.
You can write to Bix at:
William J. Bichsel, S.J
# 86275-020 SHU
P.O. Box 13900
Seattle, WA 98198 – 1090
Fellow Jesuit priest and member of the Disarm Now Plowshares, Fr. Steve Kelly, also remains in solitary confinement at SeaTac, in a nearby cell. You can write to Steve at:
Stephen Kelly, S.J.
# 00816-111 SHU
P.O. Box 13900
Seattle, WA 98198 – 1090
You can also write to Susan Crane, the other member of the Disarm Now Plowshares currently in prison in California:
5701 8th St. Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568
[An updated listing of prisoners of conscience can be found here.]
For more information, visit www.disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/