Father Bill "Bix" Bichsel S.J. and six others were found guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on Mon., Oct. 21, of trespassing in March 2013 at Naval Base Kitsap in another nonviolent direct action protest against nuclear weapons. -- Judge Mary Alice Theiler refused to allow the defendants to conduct an affirmative defense and denied the witness stand to Ray McGovern, though the nationally known activist had come from the East Coast to testify. -- Charitably, the judge did allow the defendants to make statements, but only after telling them that their statements would influence her not at all. -- She then found all guilty as charged, and sentenced them to fines of $250-500 and 1-2 years of probation. -- In addition, "[a]ll were ordered to not enter any military base without permission of the base commander for the term of probation," Leonard Eiger reported in the only account of the trial that we have been able to locate. -- BACKGROUND: Bangor harbors the Pacific Fleet's Trident submarines and about a quarter of the U.S. military's "strategic" warheads, but it's a safe bet that the majority of local residents are unaware of this, since the basic facts are never reported and Bangor is rarely mentioned in the media. -- Although mainstream media has almost entirely blacked out coverage of the generation-long nonviolent campaign against nukes at Bangor, a core of determined activists has long worked in Western Washington for their elimination and the elimination of all nuclear weapons. -- Four years ago, it will be recalled, on Nov. 2, 2009, the Day of the Dead, Bill Bichsel was one of a small group of five that entered the base and, to their surprise, revealed astonishingly lax security at the base. -- They were later convicted at a trial where most of the defense's evidence about nuclear weapons, their illegality under U.S. treaties and humanitarian law, and the right of citizens to try to stop war crimes by their government were excluded. -- They received prison sentences of from two to fifteen months....
NUCLEAR RESISTER FOUND GUILTY OF TRESPASSING AT BANGOR TRIDENT BASE
By Leonard Eiger
October 25, 2013
Seven members of the Pacific Life Community stood trial in U.S. District Court on Monday, October 21. They were charged with trespassing, stemming from their arrests during the March 4, 2013, nonviolent direct action at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
William “Bix” Bicshel, S.J., Susan Crane, Ed Ehmke, Betsy Lamb, Denny Moore, Mary Jane Parrine, and Jerry Zawada, OFM, appeared before Chief Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler in United States District Court, Western District of Washington in Tacoma.
The resisters had gathered together in community earlier in the day to celebrate the Eucharist as they prepared for the day ahead.
The defendants argued that although a defense based on international law has not been approved by federal courts in the United States, the Supremacy Clause requires that the court allow defendants to present such a defense.
The judge disagreed, and ruled that the defendants could not present any affirmative defense against the charge of trespassing to which they had all pleaded not guilty. She stated that the only issue before her was whether the defendants had violated the statute.
Bix attempted to introduce Raymond L. McGovern as witness to testify on behalf of the defendants as to the pervasive inability of individuals to seek redress of grievances and the importance of First Amendment. The judge denied the request. Ray, a veteran 27-year CIA analyst and advisor to seven presidents, had just returned from Russia where he had presented Edward Snowden with the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. Ray helped create Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
Ray spoke eloquently the night before at the Festival of Hope (where he quoted Dr. King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail) about the need for us to shine a bright light on Trident.
After the prosecution made its case, Judge Theiler allowed each defendant to make a statement to the court, reminding them that intention would have no bearing on her decision.
Jerry Zawada’s testimony began with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr -- “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Jerry stated that his actions on the day of the action were consistent with the life he has lived. His goal is simply to eliminate nuclear weapons. He stated that “all my co-defendants are of one mind and heart as in relation to nuclear weapons.” Jerry also cited U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the 2010 Non Proliferation Treaty conference in New York. Moon said, “Please do whatever you can with your governments to abolish nuclear weapons.”
Mary Jane Parrine described how in her work as a caregiver and in chaplaincy she sees so much misery due to misappropriated funding that includes nuclear weapons. She described resistance movements and their successes -- including HIV care, women’s suffrage, civil rights. She said that “If I am guilty of anything I am guilty of coming to this work so late in life . . . We cannot stop talking about what we have seen and heard.”
Betsy Lamb said that on March 4 she spent a great deal of time in prayer, and intended to deliver a letter to the base commander and have a conversation about nuclear weapons. She said that if international law supersedes federal law then it most definitely does so in this case. “As long as the judge limits the scope of what she will consider in this case, nothing will change. As long as the people go to work every day keeping the subs running smoothly, nothing will change.”
Ed Ehmke described how in 2003 after a horrific attack on Iraq in which many innocent people died, he went to a demonstration in San Francisco. A newscaster put a microphone in his face and asked, “What do people of religion have to do with this?” Ed stated that “This gets to the heart of what we are talking about today. Fundamental to all of this is that these weapons are immoral by any standards.” Ed referred to Fr. Richard McSorley who referred to nuclear weapons as the “taproot of violence in our society today.”
Bill “Bix” Bichsel began by saying “thanks for allowing our friends to sit in the gallery here, I wish they were our jury. [There was such an overflow of supporters at the trial that the judge allowed people to sit in the jury section.] Bix continued that “we were there [at Bangor] to uphold Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter. Nuclear weapons are a sign of ultimate hopelessness and ultimate death . . . they rule us. I speaking of the inability to be heard about issues such as the one before us today Bix said that what is happening to Manning and Snowden “is an inversion of what we are as human beings.” Bix expressed his grave concerns about the ability to seek redress of grievances. He stated how the normative channels of change have failed us, so that we have to take other steps, other methods.
Denny Moore made an impassioned plea for Mother Earth and for us to come together in our common humanity. He reiterated how we all want peace, and we have different ways of approaching it. We need to come together in respectful dialogue if we are to solve these problems. And -- time is short.
Susan Crane elaborated on the application of international law to nuclear weapons. “If we want to protect human dignity, human rights, and human values, we need to consider the discipline of international law, which is the principal weapon of civilization against barbarism. International law and the recognized body of human rights is what stands between us and barbarism.” Susan stated that “by deploying and stockpiling nuclear weapons, nuclear nations assert the right to commit indiscriminate slaughter and devastation of the environment.”
Following the defendants’ statements, the judge found all seven defendants guilty of the charge of trespassing, and moved right into sentencing.
The prosecution asked, based on each defendant’s previous history with the court, for sentences ranging from 24 hours of prison confinement, up to two years of probation in addition to 90 days of electronic home confinement.
Judge Theiler did not order jail time for anyone. Instead, she imposed a fine of $500 for Bix, Jerry and Susan, along with two years of probation. Betsy, Denny, Ed, and Mary Jane were fined $250 and given one year of probation. All were ordered to not enter any military base without permission of the base commander for the term of probation.
Some of the defendants told the judge that they would not pay the fine as they have no income, nor would they comply with probation. The judge washed her hands of the issue and deferred it to the probation department.
After dealing with the court paperwork, our courageous resisters traveled downstairs to report to the Probation Office.
The defendants had met for a five-day retreat before the trial, facilitated and supported by Fr. Steve Kelly. They prayed together, discussed the issues, and enjoyed good food, companionship, and story-telling. They were supported and nurtured by Steve’s loving care in the spirit of community.
And with that, the Pacific Life Community 2013 court saga comes to an end.
What will be in store for the 2014 PLC? Join us in Las Vegas from March 7 to March 10 as we gather in community, continuing to break the silence, and speak truth to power. Come join the ACTION!!!
In Faithful Resistance,
Blogger’s End Note: It was my humble intention here to help you connect with yesterday’s events. I wrote from memory and my cryptic notes. In retrospect, my effort cannot come close to conveying the individual (and collective) strength, passion, and articulation that came through in the courtroom yesterday. The five resisters spoke truth to power, and each one from his and her own heart and mind; and, for the most part, extemporaneously. The spirit was, indeed, present, and filled the courtroom.