17 nuclear disarmament activists arrested at 9th Memorial Day witness at Kansas City plant

Photo by Mark A. Semet

by Jane Stoever, Peace Works Kansas City

In a rebuke to White House attempts to “make America nuclear again,” 17 peace activists were arrested for trespass during the ninth annual Memorial Day peace witness for a nuclear weapons-free world. 
Sponsored by PeaceWorks-KC, the annual event surpassed previous years’ participation by turning out some 90 peace activists. Three activists from Europe added another first—representation from a growing and global nuclear weapons abolition movement.

A rally at the decommissioned Bannister Federal Complex commemorated the 154 employees known to have died from toxins generated at the plant during its 65-year history of nuclear weapons production. Then the activists travelled to the new National Security Campus at Mo. Highway 150 and Botts Road in south Kansas City, where more than 80 percent of the non-nuclear components of the U.S. nuclear arsenal are developed or procured. A mile-long march to the entrance of the plant was emceed by PeaceWorks Board member Jim Hannah, who urged the marchers to bear in mind not only what they are against, but what they are for.   
“As we march today toward this citadel of mass destruction,” Hannah said, “let us also imagine that fine day when the world awakes from the nightmare of nukes, when flowers and soybeans will again grow where now there is only concrete and asphalt, when our grandchildren may one day ask, ‘What’s a nuclear weapon?’ And let us hold to that ancient promise, ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war no more.’” (See the text of Jim’s whole speech below.) 
When they reached the entrance of the plant, the activists read the names and maladies of persons who have died from toxins at the old weapons plant, then symbolically laid on the ground in a die-in until the bugle call of “Taps” was sounded. Statements from line-crossers followed, then in unison they stepped across the purple line indicating the plant boundary. After repeated warnings that they would be arrested for trespass if they remained, Kansas City police handcuffed, searched, and photographed the activists on the site, then released them with a court summons. 
To date, nearly 140 arrests have occurred since 2010, the year construction began on the new plant. More than two million dollars a day is being spent there as the current administration ramps up efforts to “modernize” the current U.S. nuclear arsenal of some 5,000 warheads.

Photo by Mark A. Semet

‘March with disarmed hearts … toward nuclear Freedom Land!’

Jim Hannah of the PeaceWorks Board shared these remarks to begin the May 27, 2019, PeaceWorks-Kansas City Memorial Day march and peace witness at the nuclear weapons parts plant in south Kansas City.   
Welcome one and all to the ninth annual Memorial Day peace witness, sponsored by PeaceWorks, Kansas City. Thank you for showing up for peace! We particularly welcome our first international peace activists from Europe. Thank you! Your presence reminds us that we are not alone in our witness, that the world is slowly awakening from the nuclear nightmare. Many of you here share the goal of PeaceWorks—a world without war and its weapons. Yes, in our violent and troubled world we actually believe that PEACE WORKS! But for peace to work, we must give it a chance. 
So we gather today in the spirit of resistance to nuclear weapons, to protest against the omnicidal MADness of Mutually Assured Destruction. We are here to signal our opposition to the current U.S. administration’s efforts to “Make America Nuclear Again,” wasting more than a trillion dollars in this next decade to “modernize” the very weapons we pledged 60 years ago to reduce and eliminate. 
One side of the placard I’m carrying is an editorial cartoon from my high school days, drawn by Frank Miller. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 1963, back when we more awake to the horrors of nuclear war, reminded as we were by duck-and-cover drills at school and fallout shelters in the back yard. Two ragged survivors of an atomic blast are shown in the cartoon, one on each side of a cratered-out Earth. The one survivor shouts across the chasm to the other survivor, “I said—we sure settled that dispute, didn’t we?” That pretty much sums up the insanity of nuclear weapons, which are not just genocidal, and suicidal, but omnicidal—everything dies in nuclear winter. It’s sobering to realize that during the current White House administration, the Doomsday Clock of atomic scientists has been moved to two minutes to midnight—as close to doomsday as it’s ever been, equating our present nuclear danger to the height of the Cold War in 1953. Our nation needs a Great Awakening!
But we’re not here just to resist and protest and oppose. We are here to lift up an ensign of hope for a world of justice and peace. For me that vision also came in the 1960s, when I saw the first images of the Earth seen from space, seen on the other side of my placard, from the Apollo 8 in 1968. I imagine many of you felt something shift inside you, as I did, when I first saw what came to be called “Earthrise” and “the pale blue dot.” From the vantage point of astronauts, Earth is incredibly beautiful, fragile in the darkness of space, obviously one interdependent organism without political borders. It’s clear that we are all interdependent astronauts on Spaceship Earth—no exceptions. 
This photo fired my imagination, echoed in later years by the lyrics of John Lennon, who imagined a world “without greed or hunger,” who imagined “all the people sharing all the world,” who imagined “nothing to kill or die for.” He sang: 
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.
So as we march today toward this citadel of mass destruction, let us also imagine that fine day when the world awakens from the nightmare of nukes, when flowers and soybeans will again grow in what is now covered by concrete and asphalt, when our grandchildren may one day ask, “What’s a nuclear weapon?” And let us hold to that ancient promise (of Isaiah), “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war no more.”  
As we march, let us do so with disarmed hearts, in the spirit of nonviolence.
As we march, let’s also lift up our voices and sing: “Let’s keep on walkin’, keep on talkin’, as we march toward nuclear-Freedom Land!”  
VIDEOS by Mark A. Semet