K.C. judge finds protester guilty of trespass action, tells her to stay away from local nuclear weapon plants

9+Georgia+continuum+banner,+door-1by Jane Stoever

The judge and prosecutor wanted to consider only a line-crossing. Civil resister Georgia Walker and her lawyer wanted to expose the evil of nuclear weapons, the scourge of contaminants from making the weapons. The verdict: guilty of trespass May 31, 2014, at Bannister Federal Complex, where parts were made for nuclear weapons from 1949 to this year. The sentence: A year’s probation, including avoiding the old and new sites in Kansas City, Mo., for making nuclear weapon parts.

Why no trespass fine, no community service, no jail time?

“I am familiar with Ms. Walker and her work,” Municipal Judge Anne LaBella said during the Sept. 26 trial. After other line-crossings at the old or new site for nuke-parts production, defendants typically did community service, spent time in jail, or paid fines. Not so, this time around!

Overheard during trial

Henry Stoever, defense lawyer: Where do you reside?

Walker: St. Therese Little Flower Convent (in midtown).

Stoever: Describe your work.

Walker: I’m executive director of an organization that works with men and women coming out of prison. I’ve accompanied a number of clients who’ve come before you (Judge LaBella).

Stoever: Which organization?

Walker: Journey to New Life.

Prosecutor: Objection! The city acknowledges Ms. Walker is a wonderful citizen. Objection.

Stoever: These are common questions.

LaBella: Limit them (to line-crossing). I am familiar with Ms. Walker and her work.

Stoever: Do you have anything else to say about Journey to New Life?

Walker: We help people who have mental illness, a history of addiction. … We help them get off the street and into a new life.

Stoever: Are you a member of PeaceWorks?

Walker: I serve on the board.

Stoever: How do you know Bannister Federal Complex?

Walker: Two of my aunts worked for IRS (at the complex), in a building very contaminated. They did not know that. They died at 61 and 62. (Walker fought back tears, and the judge offered her some tissues.)

Walker: Sorry!

LaBella: It’s all right.

Walker: The reason for my action is I think more people should become aware of what has happened.

Stoever: The judge will not let us talk about the 898 toxins http://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/investigations/plutonium-and-more-than-100-other-new-toxins-identified-at-bannister-federal-complex- found on the property. (The courtroom, with 20-some supporters there, erupted in laughter.)

Walker: I’m not a lawyer. I don’t understand one fact: Trespassing laws surely were passed because there was property to be protected. I took steps to call attention to an issue that should concern all Kansas Citians: What’s going to happen to that property? The agency that managed that property (Honeywell) should be on trial. They should be prosecuted. I don’t get it. Boundaries are a matter of law. I respect law. In this case, “protecting” that property was a way of limiting the amount of public discourse. It’s a misapplication of city resources to charge me (with a crime). We weren’t going to do anything to that property. In the week prior, I and two other people drove through the property to scope it out. I saw no guards.

Stoever: You’ve used the word complicit (in earlier statements).

Walker: As a matter of faith, I cannot be complicit in making parts for nuclear weapons by not speaking out. We could be silent. We could ignore it. We could be violent. Or we could take the way of faith and let people know what’s really going on with that property. It’s speaking truth to power. Some people have got to do it. They (the government) won’t stop. They hide behind the legitimacy of national security. I think they create world insecurity.

Stoever: You referred to the property.

Prosecutor: Objection.

Stoever: We raised the rights of the constitution, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly.

Prosecutor: Objection.

Stoever: Your honor, she is going to be sentenced. Her intent, purpose, motive come into play.

LaBella: You can step down (from the witness stand), Ms. Walker.

Closing arguments, sentencing

Prosecutor: You (Judge LaBella) heard the defendant’s testimony that she crossed the property line after being instructed not to. She was warned twice.

Stoever: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed by Lyndon Johnson in 1968 to reduce nuclear weapons until they were all eliminated. We continue to upgrade these weapons, to build more parts. We have violated the law. Earlier this week, The New York Times described improvements to the weapons and submarines and planes, which over three decades will cost $1 trillion. Only by confronting things in our midst, only then will things change. … We have laws about trespass, throwing things down, dumping things down. What Georgia Walker did is raising up humanity, for our survival. … If there’s a fire, we find justification for going in, finding persons, finding animals. I’m asking the court not to look narrowly on this, but to look at the broad sphere of justice—Lincoln’s words about our inalienable rights, movements such as abolition of slavery, voting rights, gay rights, the women’s movement. Georgia’s act is an act of justice and conscience. … Georgia upholds the spirit of the law, not a narrow interpretation.

LaBella to Walker: I understand your effort to call attention to your concerns. My concern is that the law doesn’t get broken again. (Walker had, on July 13, 2013, crossed the property line at the site for the new nuclear weapons production plant in KC.) I find you guilty. … Stay away from the Honeywell and Department of Energy property.

Prosecutor: She’s required to stay 1,000 feet from the property.

LaBella: Do not be within 500 feet of the property.

Comment after trial

Chris Wade (Walker’s colleague, director of the Justice Project, speaking to Walker): I’m down here a lot. She didn’t want to find you (Walker) guilty. She knows what you do. She wouldn’t give you community service.