Activists arrested during drone and nuclear weapon protests in Missouri – part of Trifecta Resista weekend

photo by Shane Franklin

photo by Shane Franklin

by Jane Stoever and Ann Suellentrop

PeaceWorks – Kansas City held 4 actions over the May 31-June 1 weekend. On Saturday morning, May 31, we held two rallies in Leavenworth, Kansas. At one rally, we sought pardon for Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. She’s begun serving 35 years there for revealing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The second rally, two miles up the road at the Federal Penitentiary, called for pardon for Greg Boertje-Obed, now serving about 5 years in the pen for the Y-12 Transform Now Plowshares action against nuclear weapons at the uranium processing site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Saturday afternoon we went to the old Kansas City Plant for making parts for nuclear weapons, to demand comprehensive cleanup of about 900 known toxins there. The contaminants have poisoned workers at the Kansas City Plant and other federal agencies at the Bannister Federal Complex.

Two people were arrested for trespass: Georgia Walker of Kansas City, Missouri, and Ethan Hughes of the Possibility Alliance at LaPlata, Missouri. Georgia was bailed out late that night, and Ethan was released on time served Monday afternoon, June 2, with court fees waived (bravo!). Georgia’s court date is July 10, 1:30 p.m., at Municipal Court, 1101 E. Locust, Kansas City, Missouri—y’all come! ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Before stepping through the PeaceWorks door marked “Open the door to a nuclear-weapon-free world” and crossing onto Kansas City Plant property, they shared a few words. Georgia, fighting back tears, said, “I enter this door in the name of Lillian Spieler and Georgia Taylor, who died because of this site, working for the IRS. They died at 61 and 62. They were my aunts.” Georgia’s tears signified the suffering of the 154 families whose members are named in an NBC Action News list as having died from contaminants at the complex.

Ethan Hughes challenged us: “Because love sweeps through us right now, I just don’t want to focus on this plant, to focus on the nuclear industry.” Referring to his work in Ecuador with indigenous people, he noted that 10,000 people have died because of the banana operations. He said as many chemicals pour down our drains as are applied in the chemical-industrial-agricultural system. “Let love pierce through our hearts,” Ethan implored. “We are complicit, and love can transform us. Go home and empty the chemicals under your sink. Go home and choose every action towards peace. We need to stand up to empire and transform it with love.” He turned from the activists’ circle to the police, saying, “It’s hot. Thank you for your patience. Blessings to you and your families. Thank you for your beautiful lives,” and he led the circle in applauding the police. Before entering the door, Ethan announced, “I walk for all of life—the koalas, the hedgehogs, the ants, and my beautiful daughters.”

photo by Vicke Kepling

photo by Vicke Kepling

On Sunday, June 1, we went to Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, Missouri to protest drone warfare. Killer drones are guided by remote control from Whiteman Air Force Base, and B2 nuclear bombers are also there. Georgia Walker (again) and Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, were arrested for trespass. They gave large loaves of bread to the Air Force officers after crossing the property line.

Using the megaphone, Tamara Severns called from the base entry area, “They offer you bread, the bread of peace,” and we sang, “Let Us Break Bread Together.” When Kathy asked the officers to give their commander an indictment against all U.S. drone warfare, the officers refused, putting the indictment in Kathy’s bag to be returned to her.

As Georgia and Kathy walked, handcuffed, toward the Visitors Center for processing, Tamara called to them, “Be careful with our peacemakers. They come to you in peace.” Addressing Georgia and Kathy, Tamara called, “We’re with you guys. We’ll be out here singing and praying and thinking of you.” Tamara had been arrested by surprise at a drone protest April 6 as she walked to the Visitors Center to use the bathroom, unaware that she was not allowed to use the facility we had used before.

Georgia and Kathy were processed quickly at the base and are waiting to learn their court date, just as Tamara is.

When asked earlier about the logic of crossing the line at Whiteman Air Force Base, with a likely sentence of 4-6 months, Kathy replied, “It’s impossible to find actions commensurate with the crimes being committed in wars and preparation for wars. When trillions of dollars and needed ingenuity and scientific skills are controlled by militaries, societies can’t meet human needs. Commensurate actions elude us. But we can each do what we can. I hope our action at Whiteman will heighten awareness of how urgently our voices are needed.”

In a phone call, Col. Ann Wright spoke at the Whiteman entry, saying, “It is so important we continue to challenge the Obama Administration about these terrible drones. It’s at our own peril” that we continue to fly them throughout the world, killing people.

At the Leavenworth rally for pardon for Chelsea Manning, Deb Van Poolen of Missoula, Montana said she had attended each day of Chelsea Manning’s court-martial last year. “Chelsea is a symbol for someone who blew the whistle on war crimes. Other people in the military need to hear from us—if you want to take a stand to highlight war crimes, we will support you!”

Likewise, calling for pardon for Greg Boertje-Obed, Womanpriest Janice Sevre-Duszynska of Lexington, Kentucky said she attended the sentencing this January for Greg, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli. Janice noted that Greg, an Army veteran, came away from two tours in Vietnam saying that the U.S. can’t as a nation have such dominion over other people, and that Jesus was all about forming community, sharing the planet, making it a better place for the children.

At each Trifecta event, about 50 activists gathered, coming from Montana, Kentucky, Texas, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska and Illinois, as well as Kansas and Missouri. The weekend let us make wonderful connections and meet new activists, especially because we rented a bus to transport all of us to each site! Now that’s protesting in STYLE!