Monthly Archive for April, 2020

Peacemaking in the shadow of pandemic

Patrick O’Neill with his wife Mary Rider

By Patrick O’Neill

  Blank stares. During the course of our four-day federal trial last October, that’s all I saw in the faces of our jurors in U.S. District Court in the Deep South city of Brunswick, GA. Those 12 people took so little time to convict us that it was clear they never had to deliberate. Our guilt — on three felonies and a misdemeanor count — was a foregone conclusion.
  I am among seven Catholic pacifists who were arrested April 4, 2018 on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. for a protest against the Trident nuclear submarines at Naval Station Kings Bay in St. Mary, GA. Five of my co-defendants and I have been out of jail under house arrest and curfew since our release on bond. Fr. Stephen Kelly, a Jesuit priest, is doing time in the Glynn County Detention Center in Brunswick, where he has been jailed since our arrest. We are worried about Fr. Kelly and the coronavirus because there is no way to practice social distancing in jail.

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Italian plowshares activist Turi Vaccaro released from Sicilian prison

Turi Vaccaro hangs his Swords into Plows banner inside the MUOS base in Sicily, December 2, 2014. Photo by Fabio d’Alessandro

After 21 months behind bars, Turi Vaccaro walked out of Sicily’s Pagliarelli prison on April 15. The 67-year-old pacifist was a fugitive from court for previous acts of nonviolent resistance to the Pentagon’s MUOS satellite relay station when police caught up with him at the annual NO MUOS peace camp in August, 2018. He was sentenced then to nearly 12 months for a December, 2014 Spade in Aratri (Swords into Plowshares) action, at which he cut the fence to enter the MUOS site, planted fig trees and grape vines, and picked up a large rock and battered electrical equipment vital to the operation of a MUOS satellite dish. While in custody, other outstanding protest charges were prosecuted and months were added to his sentence.

Vaccaro was to have been released at the end of 2019, but throughout his imprisonment he has silently refused consent to prison discipline in numerous ways, and last fall he refused to sign the forms requesting parole. A further six months were added to his sentence on January 1, pushing his expected release date out to August, 2020.

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Sentencing dates set for Kings Bay Plowshares 7

from the Kings Bay Plowshares media team, April 10, 2020

After a six month wait, U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood has set two May dates for sentencing the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 defendants, who were found guilty on October 24, 2019 for their nonviolent symbolic disarmament action at Kings Bay Naval Base in April 2018.

On May 28, Carmen Trotta of St. Joseph Catholic Worker in New York City, Mark Colville of the Amistad Catholic Worker in New Haven, Connecticut, and Clare Grady of the Ithaca Catholic Worker in New York, will be sentenced by the Southern District Federal Court Judge in Brunswick, Georgia.

On May 29, Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., held for the last two years in Georgia county jails, Martha Hennessy of Mary House Catholic Worker in New York City and granddaughter of Catholic Worker movement co-founder Dorothy Day, Elizabeth (Liz) McAlister of Baltimore’s Jonah House and widow of Phil Berrigan, and Patrick O’Neill of the Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker in Garner, North Carolina, will also be sentenced by the same court.

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“He’s Got Eight Numbers, Just Like Everybody Else” by Kathy Kelly

3/14/18 – Fr. Steve Kelly at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, photo by Felice Cohen-Joppa.

Trident nuclear disarmament activist Steve Kelly, a Jesuit priest, begins his third year imprisoned in a county jail as he and his companions await sentencing.

by Kathy Kelly

April 3, 2020

On April 4, 2020, my friend Steve Kelly will begin a third year of imprisonment in Georgia’s Glynn County jail. He turned 70 while in prison, and while he has served multiple prison sentences for protesting nuclear weapons, spending two years in a county jail is unusual even for him. Yet he adamantly urges supporters to focus attention on the nuclear weapons arsenals which he and his companions aim to disarm. “The nukes are not going to go away by themselves,” says Steve.

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 now await sentencing for their action, performed two years ago inside the Kings Bay Trident Submarine base in southern Georgia. They acted in concert with many others who take literally the Scriptural call to “beat swords into plowshares.”  Commenting on their case, Bill Quigley, a member of their legal team, told me “their actions speak louder than  their words and their words are very powerful.” Bill encourages us to remember each of them in our thoughts, prayers, and, hopefully, through our actions. “The legal system is not big enough for the hearts, minds and spirits of these folks,” he adds. “The legal system tries to concentrate all of this down to whether you cut a fence or sprayed some blood.” Bill believes we should instead look at the impending disaster nuclear weapons could cause, and the continuing disaster they do cause by wasting crucially needed resources to potentially destroy the planet.

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