Die-in at Bangor nuclear sub base honors Martin Luther King, Jr.

photo by Leonard Eiger


Activists from a local peace group blocked the main gate and staged a die-in at the Navy’s West Coast Trident nuclear submarine base for more than a half hour in an act of civil resistance to nuclear weapons.

Nearly fifty people participated in Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action’s annual celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday, January 19, 2013.

Under the theme “We Are One,” the day focused on Dr. King’s commitment to nonviolence and his opposition to war and nuclear weapons.

The day’s activities included a viewing of a video about King’s 1967 sermon in opposition to the Vietnam war. That followed with a discussion of the sermon’s relevance in the context of today’s unending wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and the effects on the poor and disenfranchised in the US, as well as the entire world. Participants also participated in nonviolence training, education about the Trident nuclear weapons system and the Bangor submarine base, and preparations for the vigil and nonviolent direct action planned for the afternoon at Bangor.

The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles from Seattle, contains the largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons in the US arsenal (and possibly the entire world).  Each of the 8 Trident submarines at Bangor carries up to 24 Trident II (D-5) missiles, each capable of being armed with as many as 8 independently targetable thermonuclear warheads.  Each nuclear warhead has an explosive force of between 100 and 475 kilotons (up to 30 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb).

In the afternoon while the group maintained a peaceful vigil on the roadside outside the base entrance eleven protesters entered the roadway directly in front of the entrance gate.  They carried a banner, which they stretched across the inbound traffic lanes.  It quoted from Martin Luther King Jr.: “When scientific power outruns spiritual power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.”  An additional banner that was brought out a few minutes later read, “Abolish Nuclear Weapons.”

Peacekeepers from Ground Zero ensured the safety of all participants throughout the vigil and nonviolent direct action, and communicated with base security personnel as needed.

Traffic into the main gate was re-routed for approximately a half hour until a Washington State Patrol officer arrived and ordered the protesters to leave the roadway.  The protesters then dropped the banners and staged a die-in on the roadway.  As one participant explained, “By doing a die-in, we can illustrate the horrific result of a nuclear weapon.”

Eight of the die-in participants crossed onto the base before dropping to the ground.  Naval security personnel, who had been observing during the vigil and action, immediately moved in to arrest them.  They were taken to a building on the base where they were questioned, processed and released after being issued citations for trespassing.  All will receive summons to appear in Federal court.

Those cited for trespassing were Mary Gleystein, Kingston, WA; Lynne Greenwald, Tacoma, WA; Rodney Herold, Seattle, WA; Thomas Hodges, Seattle, WA; Constance Mears of Poulsbo, WA; Taylor Niemy, Bremerton, WA; Michael Siptroth, Belfair, WA; and Carlo Voli, Edmonds, WA.

The other three protesters – Gabriel LaValle, Lynnwood, WA; Tom Shea, Snoqualmie, WA; and Alice Zillah, Olympia, WA – remained outside of the base boundary.  All three left the roadway and were not cited.

While the blockade and die-in were in progress, others vigiled along the roadside.  One participant was overheard referring to one of King’s where he said that “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind” in a direct reference to the need to work together to abolish nuclear weapons from the Earth.

Ground Zero holds three scheduled vigils and actions each year in resistance to Trident and in protest of U.S. nuclear weapons policy.  The group is currently engaged in legal actions in Federal court to halt the Navy’s construction of a Second Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor.  Ground Zero is also working to de-fund the Navy’s plans for a next generation ballistic missile submarine, estimated to cost $99 billion to build.

For over thirty-three years Ground Zero has engaged in education, training in nonviolence, community building, resistance against Trident and action toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Contact:  Leonard Eiger, Media and Outreach
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action