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Why Won’t the Media Criticize Harsh Treatment of Pacifists?


“How brave it is to believe that in today’s world, reasoned, nonviolent protest will register, will matter. But will it?… The threshold of horror has been ratcheted up so high that nothing short of genocide or the prospect of nuclear war merits mention. Peaceful resistance is treated with contempt. Terrorism’s the real thing.” …

— Arundhati Roy

Initial court appearances, known and unknown

James Holmes was in court Mon., July 30, in Aurora, Colorado, charged with 142 counts of murder, etc. The whole world knows of this initial hearing for the alleged murderer/terrorist because every detail of Holmes’ life is now regularly put at the top of TV and radio news shows and above the fold in every newspaper. Someone kills a lot of people and the media swarms.

Not so if your action was a peaceful attempt to prevent massacres.

On exactly the same day, the first court appearance took place in Knoxville, Tenn. for disarmament activists Michael Walli, 63, of Washington, DC, Megan Rice, 82, of New York City, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth, Minn. (Greg is a married father of one and a former ROTC medical clerk trainee.)

You won’t have heard or read a word of these pacifists because their action was free of violence and mayhem. On the contrary, their protest was against nuclear madness and the continuing waste of hundreds of billions of dollars on nuclear warhead production, and it involved hoisting a banner and issuing an indictment against illegal U.S. weapons.

Early on July 28, the three walked into one of the country’s “most militarily secure” sites — the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. — and conducted a bold protest against the government’s plans to spent $80 billion on upgrading the nuclear weapons production complex.

Unarmed activists walk around nuclear “security”: Facing 1 year in prison and $100,000 fine for protest

According to statements released by the three and phone calls from Blount County jail in Tenn. where they are being held, they entered Y-12 before dawn, passed through four fences and entered the maximum security “Use of deadly force authorized” area, where they hoisted banners, spray painted messages and poured their blood (drawn by a nurse) on the Highly Enriched (weapon-grade) Uranium Materials Facility.

Appearing before federal magistrate Bruce Guyton, the three face one charge of federal trespass which carries a max of one year in prison and/or a $100,000 fine. Felony charges may be pending.

The indictment of nuclear weapons production delivered by Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed cites U.S. Constitutional and Humanitarian Treaty Law, as well as the Nuremberg Principles. It says in part, “The ongoing building and maintenance at Y-12 constitutes war crimes that can and should be investigated and prosecuted by judicial authorities. We are required by International Law to denounce and resist known crimes.”

The action, which they called “Transform Now Plowshares,” is one of a long tradition of Plowshares actions in the U.S. and around the world which challenge or interfere with war plans and weapons of mass destruction, and which often take inspiration from the Old Testament prophesy to “turn swords into plowshares and study war no more.

At Y-12, construction is under way to replace facilities for producing “enriched uranium” for H-bombs. It is budgeted to cost over $6.5 billion. Stealing these funds from hungry and impoverished people forces them to starve, hence the protesters’ use of blood to “name” Y12.

Anniversary of U.S. Massacres at Hiroshima & Nagasaki

You may have thought that the nuclear war budget was shrinking and that the President honestly meant something when he spoke of “a world without nuclear weapons,” but you’d be mistaken.

The President and Congress have funded new construction of a pair of projects at Y-12 — one of which was reached by the protesters — for producing uranium for new U.S. H-bombs.

One of the laws mentioned by the activists, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, obliges the U.S. to undertake complete nuclear disarmament. Y12 openly contravenes this law. 

While the world notes the anniversary of the U.S. atomic bomb massacres at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Greg, Megan and Michael wait in jail to endure the wrath of an embarrassed nuclear weapons establishment.

Prosecutors who will advance the federal case against them may not want to call their government work “protection of the Bomb” — especially in the face of international law requiring its abolition — but that’s what it is.

Still, the media won’t criticize harsh treatment of the pacifists. While the press over-kills the multiple murder story in Colorado, our TV nation seems to agree with George Carlin: The United States isn’t warlike, it just likes war.

John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin.


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

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