Three activists arrested on Memorial Day at Kansas City nuclear weapons parts plant

photo by Cody Boston

Sorrow and hope at the heart of annual Memorial Day remembrance

by Kristin Scheer

PeaceWorks Kansas City held its 13th annual Memorial Day event this year at the Kansas City National Security Campus (NSC), where parts for nuclear weapons are made and procured. That day, May 29, was warm and sunny, and 63 of us gathered to march, mourn, rally, and picnic to object to the work that happens there. At the end of the event, 14 persons crossed the purple line separating the NSC property from public property. Eleven of our 14 retreated when warned of arrests. Three remained; they were arrested, taken to a police station, processed, and soon released. Their Kansas City, Missouri Municipal Court hearing is June 28.

During the Memorial Day rally, Breanna Crawford, an Indigenous Cherokee/Dakota (Sioux) and a member of the PeaceWorks Board, reminded us that we were on Osage and Kickapoo land. We observed a moment of silence to acknowledge that fact and legacy. In her later talk, Breanna said water is at the center of our climate crisis. She spoke of uranium mining on Indigenous lands and the contamination of communities downstream. “When we say mni wiconi, water is life, we mean it,” she said. “As a young Indigenous woman, I am grateful for what I have learned from my elders—their wisdom, the ways they were taught by their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so forth. I have heard many stories. What I loved about each part of those stories was the connections, traditions that continued to live on inside all of them that now lives on in me.” She called on us to respect what the Earth has given to all of us because we are only visitors.

Breanna concluded, “Take a minute and imagine a world where there is no hatred, no violence, no lies. Just truth, just peace and love.” 

Charles Carney, of the PeaceWorks Board, recalled his 253-mile peace walk from Wichita to the Kansas City National Security Campus in 2021. “I didn’t really feel that I was doing much for peace,” Charles said. “Then I had a revelation: What I was doing was exactly peacemaking. I was enjoying nature, treading lightly, cultivating relationships with people. I felt a profound connection to all beings and all life—the tiny bugs, the blades of grass, the eagle and coyote I saw, the rodents, and all the amazing peacemakers who walked with me.” Charles said he discovered there is no way to peace; peace is the way. He urged us, “Look at the sky, take a deep breath.”

photo by Cody Boston

At the end of our rally, I and 13 others crossed the property line of the National Security Campus. I was among the 14 who crossed and the 11 who stepped back, choosing not to remain. But I stand in support of those who did: Ann Suellentrop, a PeaceWorks vice chair; Kimmy Igla of the PeaceWorks Board; and Rylan Scott Keeling, communications director of Poetic Underground KC and a leader on the Fountain City Poets Slam Team.

Some of us made declarations before we crossed the line. Henry Stoever said, “I object to building weapons we dare not use but continue to build.” Jane Stoever said, “I do this for my grandchildren,” holding up their pictures, “that they may have a future.” Ron Faust remembered Julian Assange and the whistleblowers. Charles Carney declared, ”I am not disturbing the peace. I am disturbing the making of war.” Ann Suellentrop noted the evil of the idea that we can destroy life and reminded us that Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Nonviolence or nonexistence!’” 

Sunny Jordan Hamrick pointed out that “every dollar spent here is stolen from brothers and sisters at home and threatens brothers and sisters abroad. Today we choose to create peace.” Responding to Sunny’s comment, Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn referred to the federal government’s plan to spend $2 trillion within 30 years to update the nuclear arsenal. “Imagine the education and health care those dollars could fund. We are being robbed!” she exclaimed.

The youngest line-crosser, Lexi Heckeroth of the First Central Church of the Brethren in Kansas City, Kansas, said, “I am only 18 years old. Why am I scared that there may not be a future for me?”

—Kristin Scheer co-chairs the PeaceWorks KC Communications Team.

Carrying flags of the 68 nations that have ratified the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons