- Oak Ridge Y-12

A series of events in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, once again drew hundreds of people to mark the anniversary of the atomic bombings at the original uranium enrichment plant, known as Y-12.

The commemorative events culminated Sunday, August 9, when more than 200 people rallied for nuclear disarmament at a nearby park. They marched two miles to the Y-12 gate, established a peace village in the road and shut down the bomb plant for the day. Twelve people were arrested. Their journey through the local court and jail over the next two weeks kept the issue in the media and public eye, and provided a community-building focus for the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, organizer of the annual events.

As in years past, the Oak Ridge commemoration began before dawn on August 6, with recitation of the names of victims outside the factory fence. Friday afternoon, the Peace Pilgrimage from the Nipponzan Myohoji Atlanta Dojo arrived after walking 450 miles through Georgia and Alabama into Tennessee, meeting up with the Run for A Nuclear Free Future, a team of marathoners who arrived from Portsmouth, Ohio, and the uranium enrichment plant there. In the evening, peace lanterns were set afloat in the Tennessee River, in the tradition of remembrance practiced in Hiroshima.

Saturday brought a workshop in nonviolent action, preparing for the rally, march and direct action on Sunday.

Sunday, of the peace villagers arrested, Judy Burkhardt was released from custody and banished from public property in Oak Ridge. Sigrid Dale were released on bail that evening. The other ten did not post bail and stayed at the Anderson County Jail. They were all arraigned on Monday, returned to jail, and were back in court again on Tuesday. Burkhardt, Dale, and Justin Rubenstein were all first-offenders in the town of Oak Ridge. They were released with no fine, just $200 in court costs. Pam Beziat, a second-offender, pled no contest and was sentenced to five days in jail. The eight remaining defendants pled not guilty, and elected to remain in jail while Beziat completed her sentence.

Trial for the eight was the following Tuesday. Judge Ron Murch frequently cut off the defendants' testimony, but their conscience could not be contained, and its expression had the support of a standing-room only crowd in court. Murch found them all guilty as charged.

Second offenders Ron Dale, Kim Redigan, and Kip Williams were fined and sentenced to time served. Jerry Bone, Erik Johnson, Libby Johnson, Lissa McLeod, and Judy Ross, each with more than two previous arrests, were sentenced to ten days in jail. With credit for time served, they finished their terms by the next weekend.

Plans are underway already for what OREPA hopes will be the largest demonstration in Oak Ridge history next year, on the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

For more information, contact the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, POB 5743, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, (865)483-8202, email: orepa@stopthebombs.org web: www.stopthebombs.org

The Nuclear Resister
October 2004