Arrests after line crossing at Nevada nuclear test site

Two arrested at the close of the Sacred Peace Walk

by Brian Terrell

On Thursday, April 14, Ray Cage of Tucson, Arizona and Catherine Hourcade of Stockton, California entered the gates of the Nevada National Security Site and were briefly detained by Nye County Sheriff’s deputies and National Nuclear Security Administration police. The evening before, Catherine and Ray and about a dozen other activists with the Nevada Desert Experience (NDE) arrived at the historic “Peace Camp” across Highway 95 from the site after walking more than 60 miles from Las Vegas. This land, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site, was commandeered by the United States government from the Western Shoshone nation, and since 1951, is the most bombed and poisoned place on the planet.

For 40 years, NDE has organized protests of nuclear testing and other preparations for nuclear war at the site, including the annual Sacred Peace Walk that brought the activists to the site on April 14. In October 2018, Nye County authorities ended a three decades long tradition of detaining protestors and releasing them with citations that were subsequently never filed. Over those years, permits to be on the site issued by the Western Shoshone National Council were accepted by the police for identification purposes. At an Indigenous Peoples Day protest organized by NDE that year, three people were detained at the site – two had state issued photo ID and were released with warnings and the third, Marcus Page-Collonge, identified himself with the permit from the Western Shoshone and was taken to the county jail in Pahrump. Marcus was subsequently convicted of trespass and sentenced to community service.

At NDE’s next event at the test site, the Sacred Peace Walk in April, 2019, 33 people were arrested at the test site. Two were charged with making a “public nuisance” for blocking the road, and were taken to the county jail and later released. Of the 31 arrested for trespass, 25 presented ID issued by governments other than the Western Shoshone nation and were released on site with warnings. Six others offered only their permits from the Western Shoshone, legal owners of the land, for ID and were charged with trespass and held on bond in the jail in Pahrump. Four of the protestors remained to celebrate a glorious Easter in jail before bailing out and all charges from that event were eventually dropped.

COVID-19 concerns became a factor as county and federal “law enforcement” were changing their strategies so in spring 2022, NDE limited participation in the Sacred Peace Walk to just over a dozen. Due to the fact that social distancing is not possible in jail and the protocols of the police for jailing protestors were not clear, this year NDE did not encourage risking arrest at Creech Air Force Base or at the test site. Early Thursday morning, Lt. Jordan of the Nye County sheriffs visited Peace Camp with the gift of a dozen donuts, a friendly gesture, even if reinforcing a stereotype. With Lt Jordan’s explanation that no one with a state issued ID would be taken to jail and that those who had been arrested and warned in 2018 or later would be released with citations to appear in court later and those not previously so warned would be given a warning ticket, Catherine and Ray decided to take the risk. 

Ray, as expected, had his ID taken and was released with a warning. Catherine was initially cited to appear in court to answer to charges of trespass, a citation that was soon voided as an error. As COVID restrictions are lifted and the calculated legal ramifications of nonviolent direct action at the test site are better known, it is hoped in this most dangerous point in history, that anti-nuclear activists will return to the scene of the world’s greatest crime and, if need be, clog the courts and fill the jails.

Video of April 14 action by John Amidon: