Five people arrested on Memorial Day at Kansas City nuclear weapons plant

Arrestees L-R: Sunny Jordan Hamrick, Lu Mountenay, Tom Fox, Brian Terrell and Henry Stoever. PeaceWorksKC photo

By Jane Stoever, Peaceworks KC

“Emotionally powerful.” That’s how Bennette Dibben, a PeaceWorks Board member, describes the rally, die-in, and civil resistance that PeaceWorks-KC sponsored May 28, Memorial Day, in Kansas City, MO.

By the end of the three-hour witness, five persons had crossed the property line at the new nuclear weapons plant. They were arrested, processed, and released on the spot. They will go to Municipal Court at a date still to be set. After his release, resister Brian Terrell, of Maloy, Iowa, told the crowd the charge was trespass, and he will plead not guilty, seeing his action as necessary to try to prevent a nuclear war. A leader of the national Community for Creative Non-Violence, he said that in court, “I will answer to these false charges!”

Some 65 persons participated in the rally, a record; this was the group’s 7th consecutive Memorial Day protest of nuclear weapons.

About 25 of the protesters gathered at 10 a.m. at the blocked entry to the old KC Plant, where parts were made for nuclear weapons from 1949 to 2014. Speakers called for an end to nuclear weapon production in KC, mourning the deaths of the 154 persons whose families have told NBC Action News TV that their loved ones died from contaminants at the old plant.

Then participants drove 8 miles south, to a sidewalk that skirts the new nuclear weapons plant, the National Security Campus (NSC). About 50 protesters walked more than a mile in sweltering heat—a record 94 degrees—their chants including, “I’m gonna lay down my atom bombs, down by the riverside. I ain’t gonna study war no more!”

By 11:45 am, the walkers and others convened at the NSC entry road. Around 12:30 pm, Lu Mountenay, a Community of Christ minister in Independence, MO, asked, “Do peace activists like myself bother the military-industrial complex in the least?” She said she used to think not, but she’s beginning to change her mind. This is the fourth time she’s crossed the line, she said. “My grandchildren understand why I go to jail. I do it for them. They get it, even if the military-industrial complex doesn’t.” Turning to the four men ready to commit civil resistance with her, she said, “Here I stand with four thorns in the side of militarism.” The 65-strong protesters laughed, and she reflected, “I, too, am a bothersome weed on the property of death, perhaps a dandelion—hear me roar!”

photo by Jeff Davis

She led the crowd in cheering “No more nukes!” as the five crossed the purple property line.

Attorney Henry Stoever, saying why he planned to cross the property line, quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.” Stoever, the chair of the PeaceWorks Board of Directors, said he was stepping across the line for the third time, partly because “the world is in ever greater peril of a nuclear exchange or the use of one or more nuclear weapons than in the past.” He insisted, “We, the people, have never voted upon the production and use of nuclear weapons. We, the people, must say, ‘Not in my name!’” The crowd repeated his rallying cry.

Tom Fox, a former editor and publisher of the National Catholic Reporter, noted that Pope Francis said last November that the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral—against the will of God. “It stands, then, as clear as a thunderclap on an open plain in Kansas that the building of these weapons is equally immoral,” said Fox. He asked, “Do we have any choice but to speak out against these perilous weapons? I think not.” He added that, by stepping on the federal property, he was crying out in protest on behalf of his children Daniel, Christine, and Catherine, and of his grandchildren Kai, Bodie, Nora, Tommy, Rose, Judah, and Asha. His action might seem insignificant to some, Fox added. “To me it is a way to preserve a modicum of personal integrity. Whatever the consequence, I will sleep in peace tonight.”

Sunny Jordan Hamrick, of the Christian community Jerusalem Farm in Kansas City, said his brother and sister-in-law would soon have a son, Jackson. “I want Jackson to come into a world that tries to love its enemies,” he said. Calling to the police and security guards across the purple property line, Hamrick said, “In our back yard, we grow rye. I have three slices of rye bread here (not grown at “the Farm”), and I want to break bread with you after crossing the line.” Soon, they accepted his offer, and he shared the remaining bread with the protesters after he was released.

Next step: Municipal Court. When? Keep posted.


Kansas City, Missouri

By Tom Fox
Former Editor, Publisher at National Catholic Reporter

photo by Jeff Davis

It was a protest U.S. nuclear weapons and weapons’ policies from the Heartland of America, a bolt of energy so clear it sounded as a thunderclap on a Kansas plain. Our frail shoulders hid energized spirits lifted by the hopes of humanity and pledges by most of the world’s nations to abolish nuclear weapons.

We let the word go forth, we cried, to the four corners of the earth we will not be silenced. We will not acquiesce. We will not accept these weapons of mass destruction. Further, we vehemently protest the building of a new generation of these useless and suicidal weapons.

For some half a dozen years now several score of us peace activists here have converged at noon on Memorial Day on the “Kansas City National Security Campus”, ten miles south of Kansas City, Missouri, where some 85 percent of the nonnuclear components of our nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal are built. The plant’s Orwellian name hides true nature – and insecurity — of those who run the operations.

Organized by Peace Works Kansas City, we march on the plant, carrying peace signs, banners and flags, where police and security officers, in riot gear, always await us. They are serious and reasonable. They are familiar with our nonviolent intentions. This year, like most others, after a rally including expressions of protest and angry by former plant workers now suffering odd maladies and cancers, some of us break the law. This year several of us crossed a purple line on a driveway leading to the plant entrance, separating private from public property.

This year I was one of five arrested. I’ve been speaking against our nation’s nuclear weapons policies for nearly four decades. It seems at some point words are not enough. This year I felt civil disobedience was required as a means of maintaining some internal integrity.

The tradition of nonviolent anti-nuclear weapon protests is not new in Missouri, where on numerous occasions Plowshares movement protesters have broken into missile silos, hammered grates and poured blood. By comparison, our protests were modest, though similarly heartfelt.
Each of us came to this Memorial Day protest with a statement explaining our actions. The following are excerpts.

We are here to cry out against, with every moral fiber of our beings, our nation’s nuclear weapons policies. We come here to condemn these weapons of indiscriminate mass destruction. We come here to speak out against the mockery these weapons make of treasured U.S. values, ideals founded upon life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The weapons being made here represent fear, death, and an imprisonment to mad policies and a runaway military mindset…

Meanwhile, our hearts bleed for those who work here, many forced by the necessity of feeding families, to risk their lives laboring among cancer-causing toxins. Tear this plant down and use the money to build hospitals and schools. They provide truly fulfilling employment.

The values we uphold here today – nonviolence, justice, peace, respect for life – are not solely own by America. They extend well beyond our nation. They are well embedded into the hopes of the human family. Don’t tell us we cannot end this nuclear madness. Don’t tell us nations lack the will. One hundred and twenty-two nations have signed a Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons from the planet. Sadly our nation resists.

Even more sadly, we know we are living on borrowed time. Nuclear Armageddon is a real threat that no one wants to consider. And yet we must. As long as we cling to these weapons of mass destruction we face the real possibility – by intent or accident – that they will be used. Once used, life on planet Earth will be permanently altered. It could enter an environmental death spiral. The extinguishment of all human life is a real possibility.

Our nation’s policy-makers like to claim a moral high ground. They call upon other nations to give up their nuclear weapons while we continue to build a new generation of our own weapons. Can anyone say this makes sense? We are right to ask: What right do we have to ask North Korea and Iran to rid themselves and further refrain from building nuclear weapons while our nation moves forward building them. Meanwhile, our nation has allocated more than a $1 trillion in the years to come to build an even more accurate and, therefore, more threatening generation of nuclear weapons. This is hypocrisy.

We are building nuclear weapon parts here in Kansas City, using precious resources, while millions of children in our nation live below the poverty level. We are assembling parts for nuclear weapons here when our schools are under funded. We are shipping out nuclear weapons when money for medical research is drying up. This represents historic injustice. Remember, it was founding father Thomas Jefferson who said: “when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” We are duty-bound to be here…

Thirty-six years ago, a peacemaker, Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen also looked at evil in his Seattle Archdiocese. He called it out, terming the nuclear weapons carrying trident submarines he saw before him the “Auschwitz of Puget Sound.”

Is it, then, any less true today, these decades later, that this nuclear weapons plant – this monstrosity of misguided human purpose – is, in fact, the “Auschwitz of Kansas City, Missouri?”

Just last November Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ on earth, lamented that nuclear weapons terrorize the planet. He said the very possession of these weapons is immoral – against will of God. It stands, then, as clear as a thunderclap on an open plain in Kansas that the building of these weapons is equally immoral. Do we have any choice but to speak out against these perilous weapons? I think not.

I come here today with a person mission. I want to support the lives and well-being of my children and grandchildren and, by extension, all the children and grandchildren of the planet. I cry out in protest on behalf of my children: Daniel, Christine and Catherine. I cry out in protest on behalf of my grandchildren: Kai, Bodie, Nora, Tommy, Rose, Judah and Asha.

I choose today to break the law as a protest to our nation’s nuclear weapons policies. It might seem an insignificant action to some. To me it is a way to preserve a modicum of personal integrity. Whatever the consequence I will sleep in peace tonight.

We face a July 19th court date in Kansas City, Missouri.