Arrests during nuclear weapons and drone protests at the site of the new Kansas City Plant and Whiteman AFB

site of new Kansas City Plant, photo by Robyn Haas

by Jane Stoever

Here’s a report on our Midwest Trifecta Resista 4/13-15, sponsored by groups listed below, from KC & beyond. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement & support! We rallied at three sites–exhausting, wondrous. Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, based in Chicago, inspired us!

Some 28 of us held Bradley Manning support signs 4/14 a.m. at Fort Leavenworth in Leavenworth, Kan., and offered flyers to drivers. One sign demanded, “Free the truth teller!” Bradley, charged with releasing documents and video to Wikileaks, has been imprisoned there. He is now in Fort Meade, Md., for pretrial hearings with a possible court-martial trial in August, but he is expected to return to Fort Leavenworth later.

Midge Potts of Springfield, Mo., said, “Bradley Manning has been accused of releasing a video of civilians being gunned down by our military—the military has been suppressing these crimes. And the media have apparently made it a crime that Bradley Manning was trying to find out about his sexuality; the media treat gender identity as a crime.” Midge shared her memories of being in the Navy in Bahrain in 1991 and bicycling around. “All I could see were oil wells,” said Midge. “I thought, ‘Oh, I know why we’re here.’” She biked from gold stores and tapestry shops to where “the real people” lived in huts and children wore clothes as thin as paper. “I’ve heard so many stories from Iraq Vets Against the War, over the decades, about innocent people being killed,” she added, asking Trifecta participants to keep hitting the streets on behalf of Bradley.

Kathy Kelly reflected, “The two main causes of insolvable problems today are the military-industrial complex and the prison-industrial complex. Bradley Manning’s courage is something we can catch. The people who are poor are our first priority.” Urging us to follow our convictions, she said, “Bradley Manning has been incredibly inconvenienced. We should never let inconvenience stop us from acting in accord with our deepest beliefs.”

Preparing for the next part of the Trifecta, Pace e Bene leaders Regina Rust and Jerica Arents of Chicago helped us plan ways we could all briefly resist the new nuke-parts plant in southern KC. Then about 35 of us gathered 4/14 p.m. at the entry to the new facility. Midge; Lu Mountenay of Independence, Mo.; Mark Kenney of Omaha; and Henry Stoever of Overland Park, Kan., were arrested for crossing the line between public and private property. Our community of supporters walked side-by-side with our resisters across the line. We gradually stepped back after being warned–heartening accompaniment! The four were released on $100 bonds within a few hours and have hearings for trespass at Municipal Court on May 15 at 1:30 p.m. Some of the four may request a trial setting to be able to testify; stay tuned. In a 4/11 letter to KC’s chief prosecutor and chief of police, Henry said he would risk arrest, adding, “The plant’s end-products become weapons of mass destruction, ready for our ‘first strike’ threat. The Kansas City Plant haunts us or should haunt us.”

For the third part of the Trifecta, about 35 of us opposed drone operations on 4/15 at Whiteman AFB in Knob Noster, Mo. We released black balloons commemorating 175 children killed by drones and flew kites for peace on earth, peace in the sky. Three brave ones were arrested: Mark Kenney; Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa; and Ron Faust of KC. Many of us followed the three across the line of demarcation for the base, walking maybe 40 yards before officers approached us. Brian held up our indictment (attached) of President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Whiteman AFB’s Brigadier General Scott Vander Hamm, and every drone crew for “extrajudicial targeted killings” by reaper drones. Brian told the officers, “We want to go to the commander” to present the indictment. An officer answered, “We can’t allow you to do that.” Brian replied, “Our consciences won’t allow us not to.” The three were led to a gym for processing. Earlier, Brian had told us the indictment was adapted from one presented last year at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in New York.

At the time of the arrest, perhaps 50 very young Air Force MPs-in-training poured out of a bus in full riot gear and formed a three-rows-deep line across the wide entry road. They moved slowly toward us, sometimes beating their long batons against their plastic body-shields in a precision drill. Tamara Severns of KC, a Trifecta coordinator, took the megaphone, telling the young officers, “As I look around, you’re the same age as all the kids out here. We want peace, and you guys want peace. You don’t want to go kill people.” Kathy Kelly called to them, “We assuredly mean you no harm.” Referring to the shields covering their faces and bodies, she said, “I think of the Good Witch Glenda in The Wizard of Oz.” Kathy sang, “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” She added, “You’re very good–you don’t frighten us. But the U.S. owns half of the world’s weapons. We could change this … together. We look forward to being in the front line with you” to ban war’s weapons. Within 75 minutes, Brian, Mark, and Ron rejoined us with federal statements charging them with trespass and saying they’d be notified of a court date. Their sentences may be as high as $1,000 and/or 6 months in jail–we hope not!

Our Trifecta was proposed in February by Col. Ann Wright; the weekend had earlier been intended for only the nuke-parts plant protest. Ann, now at home in Hawaii for physical therapy, joined our Trifecta on 4/15 by phone, saying, “Thank you for supporting Bradley Manning and/or whoever released documents to Wikileaks. … (At the nuke-parts plant) you are protesting the hypocrisy of U.S. policy in saying Iran and North Korea cannot have nuclear weapons. … As drones fly over Somalia, Pakistan, and the U.S., right here in Hawaii we have drones practicing flying between two sacred islands. And today, for the first time, drones are being protested at Whiteman AFB. Blessings to the beautiful kites and balloons as they fly over Whiteman Air Force Base, hopefully changing the views of the men and women who operate the drones.”

The Trifecta collective displayed signs such as “Exposing war crimes is not a crime,” “War is not a video game,” and “Assassination drones–the killing business is booming.” Some people joined in the whole weekend; some joined us for only one action; maybe 50 people participated in toto.

The weekend was cosponsored by KC Peace Planters, PeaceWorks-KC, Physicians for Social Responsibility-KC, local Catholic Worker houses, Vets for Peace, Mid-MO Peace Coalition, Occupy KC, Loretto Peace & Justice Network, Benedictines for Peace, and Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Social Justice Office.

See Robyn Haas’s photos here.

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by Ron Faust

The bullies try to gag whistleblowers,
The CIA sneaks drones into our private lives
And KC builds a nuclear weapons plant
All in the sacred name of National Defense,

As if middle America will never notice
And ask what these jobs are producing
And who is profiting from this industry,
Business as usual while flirting with disaster.

From Bradley Manning who exposed the truth
To Col. Wright and the deadly work of drones,
And Kathy Kelly who led us in civil resistance,
We go from Fort Leavenworth to KC to Whiteman,
As others promote an evil industry of destruction.

So many follow blindly down the road, saluting
The Military Industrial Complex
And naively dabble in the trifecta evils of
racism, capitalism, and militarism,
Yet we would be free to ban weapons of death
and save the human race for life,
not only sparing ourselves from a quick death
but also from living a slow death. Free us from both,
Knowing that we belong to the peace community.

(On occasion of the April 13-15, 2012, Trifesta Resista, with demonstrations for Bradley Manning and against drones at Whiteman AFB and nuclear weapons at KC)