Activists cut fences, occupy nuclear weapons bunker in protest of U.S. nukes in Germany

Activists prepare to enter Büchel Air Base in Büchel, Germany to challenge U.S. nuclear weapons deployment. From left, Bonnie Urfer, Steve Baggarly, Susan Crane, John LaForge and Gerd Buentzly. (photo by Ralph Hutchison)

An international group of five peace activists got far inside the Büchel Air Base in Büchel, Germany, after nightfall on Monday, July 17, 2017, and for the first time in a 21-year-long series of protests against the deployment of U.S. B61 thermonuclear bombs there, climbed on top of one large bunker used for nuclear weapons. After cutting through two exterior fences and two more fences surrounding the large earth-covered bunkers, the five spent more than one hour unnoticed sitting on the bunker. No notice of the group was taken until after two of them climbed down to write “DISARM” on the bunker’s metal front door, setting off an alarm. Surrounded by vehicles and guards searching on foot with flashlights, the five eventually alerted guards to their presence by singing, causing the guards to look up. The internationals were eventually taken into custody more than two hours after entering the base.

The five – Steve Baggarly, 52, of Virginia; Susan Crane, 73, of California; John LaForge, 61, and Bonnie Urfer, 65, both of Wisconsin; and Gerd Buentzly, 67, of Germany – said in a statement titled All Nuclear Weapons are Illegal and Immoral: “We are nonviolent and have entered Büchel Air Base to condemn the nuclear weapons deployed here. We ask Germany to either disarm the weapons or send them back to the United States for disarming,” it said in part.

John, Steve, Susan, Gerd

An hour after being detained, searched and photographed, the five were released through the base’s main entrance without being charged.

At least 20 U.S. B61 thermonuclear bombs are deployed at Büchel Air Base.

The action came at the end of an “international week” at the base organized by “Nonviolent Action to Abolish Nukes” (GAAA). The effort was part of a 20-week-long series of actions – “Twenty Weeks for Twenty Bombs” – that began March 26, 2017 organized by a 50-group coalition campaign, “Büchel is Everywhere, Nuclear Weapons Free Now!” Three other nonviolent direct actions took place during the week, one of which succeeded in its demand to see the base commander. Oberstleutnant Gregor Schlemmer actually appeared at the site of a highway blockade and agreed to received a copy of the newly-adopted U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons from activist Sister Ardeth Platte, OP of Baltimore, Maryland.

More than 60 people from around the globe – Russia, China, Mexico, Germany, Britain, the United States, The Netherlands, France and Belgium – participated.

Activists from the United States came to Büchel to highlight the plans for modernization of the B61. Ralph Hutchison, from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where a new thermonuclear core for the “B61-Model12” will be manufactured, said: “It is important that we show this is a global movement. The resistance to nuclear weapons is not limited to one country. The new B61-12 program will cost more than $12 billion, and when production starts sometime after 2020, Büchel is scheduled to get new nuclear bombs.”
“The idea that nuclear weapons provide security is a fiction believed by millions,” said John LaForge, of Nukewatch in Wisconsin, which organized the 11-person delegation from the U.S. “Tonight we showed that the image of a secure nuclear weapons facility is also a fiction,” he said.

one of the two banners they took into the base

“Everyone’s children and everyone’s grandchildren have a right to a nuclear weapons free world. All of creation calls us to life, to disarmament, to a world of justice – for the poor, the Earth, and the children,” read the statement, released in both German and English.

Susan Crane, a Plowshares activist from the Redwood City, California Catholic Worker, said, “The Commander of the Base, Oberstleutnant Schlemmer, came to meet us at 3:00 a.m. and told us what we did was very dangerous and we might have been shot. We believe the greater danger comes from the nuclear bombs that are deployed at the Base.”

Büchel is Everywhere, Nuclear Weapons Free Now! continues until August 9, 2017 and will close with a commemoration of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan.

All Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal and Immoral: statement of activists entering Büchel Air Base

All Nuclear Weapons are Illegal and Immoral

The United States has 8500 nuclear weapons including the 20 B61 thermonuclear gravity bombs here at Büchel Air Base under NATO. The United States is always ready to destroy all life on the planet with nuclear weapons. Büchel Air Base is part of this readiness.

One hundred and twenty-two countries at the United Nations recently approved a legally binding treaty outlawing the development, testing, production, manufacturing, possession, stockpiling, transference, use or the threat of the use, of nuclear weapons People around the world want nuclear disarmament, including every child.

We are five citizens of the world, four from the United States —Susan Crane, Bonnie Urfer, Steve Baggarly, and John LaForge—and one from Germany—Gerd Buentzly.

We are nonviolent and have entered Büchel Air Base to condemn the nuclear weapons deployed here. We ask Germany to either disarm the weapons or send them back to the United States for disarming.

Everyone’s children and everyone’s grandchildren have a right to a nuclear weapons-free world. All of creation calls us to life, to disarmament, to a world of justice—for the poor, the Earth, and the children.

+ + + + + +

Alle Atomwaffen sind illegal und unmoralisch

Die Vereinigten Staaten haben 8,500 Atomwaffen, einschlieBlich, im Rahmen der NATO die 20 Atombomben hier in Buechel. Die Vereinigten Staaten sind immer noch in der Lage, alles Leben auf der Erde mit Atomwaffen auszuloeschen. Buchel ist ein Teil dieser Bereitschaft.

122 Laender haben bei den Vereinten Nationen vor kurzem einen gesetzlich bindenden Vertrag unterschrieben, der die Entwicklung, Erprobung, Produktion und Bearbeitung von Atomwaffen, ebenso, wie ihren Besitz, die Lagerung, Weitergabe, Anwendung oder die Drohung damit verbietet. Die Menschen in der ganzen Welt wollen die atomare Abruestung und die Kinder und Enkelkinder aller Menschen haben ein Recht auf Leben.

Wir sind fuenf Menschen dieser Welt – vier aus den USA — Susan Crane, Bonnie Urfer, Steven Crane, und John LaForge — und eine Person aus Deutschland — Gerd Buentzly.

Wir sind gewaltfrei und in Luftwaffenstuetzpunkt Buechel eingedrungen, um die hier stationierten Atomwaffen anzuprangern. Wir verlangen von Deutschland diese Waffen entweder unschaedlich zu machen oder sie in die USA zurueckzuschicken.

Alle unsere Kinder und Enkelkinder haben ein Recht auf eine atomwaffenfreie Welt. Die Schoepfung ruft uns auf zum Leben, zur Abruestung, fuer eine gerechte Welt: fur die Armen, die Erde und die Kinder.

— Steve Baggarly, Gerd Buentzly, Susan Crane, John LaForge and Bonnie Urfer

— 17 July 2017


Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base

BÜCHEL, Germany 

The fairy tale that nuclear weapons provide state security is a fiction believed by millions. On July 17, five of us proved that state guarantees of “highly secure” nuclear weapon facilities are just as fictitious.

After nightfall, an international group of five peace activists, me included, got deep inside the Büchel Air Base here, and for the first time in a 21-year long series of protests against its deployment of US nuclear bombs, we occupied the top of one of the large bunkers potentially used for storing nuclear weapons. The US still deploys up to 20 B61 gravity bombs at the air base and German pilots train to use them in war from their Tornado jet fighter bombers.

After hiking along shadowy farm roads, shushing through a dark row of tall corn, clipping through the base’s outer fence, crossing a brightly lit air base road, and tramping noisily through a few wooded brambles, our small group cut through a second chain-link fence, bumbled past a giant hanger and under the wing of a jet fighter bomber, and reached a double-fence surrounding the broad, earth- bermed bunkers. After cutting through the two non-electrified fences without tripping a single alarm or even having the lights snap on, the five of us scurried up to the top of the wide-topped, grass covered concrete Quonset hut. No motion detector or alarm, no Klieg light or guard had noted our intrusion at all. We spent over an hour chatting, star gazing, checking our radiation monitor, and enjoying being flabbergasted that our implausible plan and Google-earth route had worked. This was supposedly a severely controlled H-bomb storage depot, but we’ll never know. We didn’t try breaking into it.

It started getting cold around 1 a.m. and we’d come prepared weeks or months in jail, but not for being outside all night. So Steve Baggarly, 52, of the Norfolk, Virginia Catholic Worker, and I climbed down to scratch “DISARM NOW” on the bunker’s giant metal doors, finally alerting some guards. The two of us hustled back up to the others on top and were soon surrounded by vehicles’ scanning spot lights and guards searching on foot with flashlights. Rather comically, we were still unnoticed as we watched the patrols scurry around. We ultimately decided to announce our presence by singing “The Vine & Fig Tree,” prompting them for the first time to look up. We were taken into custody over two hours after entering the base, and after being searched, photographed and briefly lectured, we were released without charges. Some may be pending.

The five, Baggarly, Susan Crane, 73, of California, Bonnie Urfer, 65, of Wisconsin, Gerd Buentzly, 67, of Germany, and I, said in a prepared statement, “We are nonviolent and have entered Büchel Air Base to denounce the nuclear weapons deployed here. We ask Germany to either disarm the weapons or send them back to the United States for disarming….”

Our bunker occupation, called a “go-in” action by German anti-nuclear campaigners here, was the fourth act of civil resistance during “international week” at the base. Organized by “Non-violent Action to Abolish Nukes” (GAAA), the week saw over 60 people — from Russia, China, Mexico, Germany, Britain, the US, The Netherlands, France and Belgium — participate. The 7-day effort was part of a 20-week-long set of actions — “20 Weeks for 20 Bombs” — launched on March 26, 2017 — in conjunction with the start of final negotiations at the UN for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — by a 50-group nation-wide coalition called “Büchel is Everywhere!”

Two earlier protest actions succeeded in a couple of ‘firsts’: an unprecedented meeting between blockaders and the base commander and the removal of the otherwise very prominent United States flag. During an early morning blockade, “Oberstleutnant” Gregor Schlemmer personally approached protesters — something unheard of in similar US protests — and accepted a copy of the newly-minted UN Treaty Ban from Sister Ardeth Platte, OP, of Baltimore, Maryland. A day earlier, when over 35 activists streamed through the main gate which was mistakenly left unlocked, spontaneously lowered the US flag, and placed loaves of bread around the memorialized jet bombers, Sr. Platte and Sr. Carol Gilbert, OP, also of Baltimore, demanded a meeting with Mr. Schlemmer so they could deliver the treaty. The next day’s shocking appearance prompted a joke: “Yesterday we took down the flag, and today the commander surrendered.”

Eleven activists from the United States came to Büchel to put a spotlight on US plans to replace the B61s instead of removing them. Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance in Tennessee — where a new thermonuclear core for the “B61-Model12” might be manufactured — said, “It is important that we show this is a global movement. The resistance to nuclear weapons is not limited to one country.” The new “B61-12” program will cost over $12 billion, if and when production starts sometime after 2020, and “Bushel is scheduled to get new hydrogen bombs. Nothing could be stupider when 90% of Germans want them out and the when world wants to abolish nuclear weapons,” he said.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.