By Kelly Lundeen
Nukewatch Spring Quarterly 2019
On April 4, 2018, seven participants of the Kings Bay Plowshares entered the Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia, hung banners and poured blood. Their protest against the base’s Trident submarines marked the 50th commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Clare Grady, Martha Hennessey, Patrick O’Neill, and Carmen Trotta have been released pending trial, while Father Steve Kelly, Mark Colville and Elizabeth McAlister remain jailed in Brunswick, Georgia. Later charged with three federal felonies and one misdemeanor, the activists were ordered by the court to submit Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) Supplemental Briefs, which were filed on Jan. 18. As the one-year anniversary of their disarmament action approaches, we share excerpts from some of those declarations.
Because of participants’ deeply held religious convictions, the seven contend that the charges of conspiracy, depredation of property on a naval installation, depredation of government property, and trespassing, are an inordinate burden to their free exercise of religion, and violate the RFRA. They argue that since the government has neglected to offer them the least-restrictive means to settle the charges brought against them for acts carried out as part of their religious beliefs, the charges should be dismissed. As we go to press, the court has not yet ruled on the motion to dismiss. The seven activists face up to 25 years if convicted on all counts.
From the Declaration of Elizabeth McAlister:
I make this affidavit to explain why I entered and symbolically disarmed the facility protecting, celebrating, and worshiping nuclear weapons at King’s Bay Trident Naval Base.
I write this from jail where I have been since my arrest at Kings Bay April 5, 2018…. Due to the government’s actions, I am faced with the choice of either following my conscience and living a life consistent with my faith and beliefs and going to jail, or denying the faith and beliefs with which I have tried to live with my whole life and staying out of jail. I am 78 years old. Going to jail for my beliefs keeps me away from my loving children and grandchildren at an important time in their lives and mine. But the idolatry of these nuclear weapons and the government which protects their massive destructive power, leave me no choice, I must follow my conscience and my faith…
From the Declaration of Martha Hennessy:
…I am being threatened with prison for following my conscience, or being allowed to retain my freedom if I ignore the primacy of my conscience…Imprisoning me for my religious beliefs and civic duty to point out government crimes against humanity would prevent my continued positive contributions to my family and society. My country’s threat to use nuclear bombs in a first strike capacity as outlined in the most recent Nuclear Posture Review compels me to follow my conscience and religious beliefs…. As in all Plowshares actions from the beginning of the movement, inspiration comes from the [Christian biblical] Scriptural readings of Isaiah 2:4 to turn swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. The pouring of blood on the Missile Shrine and where the weapons are maintained is a symbolic act of contrition and remorse for the shedding of blood of innocent victims when the bomb was used in Japan in 1945…
From the Declaration of Clare Grady (who repeated part of the Action Statement read prior to entering the Naval Base):
“Nuclear weapons kill every day by their mere existence. Their production requires mining, refining, testing, and dumping of radioactive material, which poisons Sacred Earth and Water, primarily on Indigenous land. We see the billions of dollars it takes to build and maintain the Trident as stolen resources, which are desperately needed for human needs. We see nuclear weapons as a cocked gun, the biggest gun, used 24/7 to ENFORCE the many layers of state-sponsored violence and deadly force required to maintain white supremacy, global capitalism, and global domination”…
Hammering dents in the monuments to the missile is [one] step I took to withdraw my consent… The hammer I used was made with metal from melted down guns, weapons converted into peaceful tools… Our non-violent symbolic act of disarmament seeks to withdraw consent from the Trident weapons system, and the systems of theft and domination that the Trident enforces.
Elizabeth McAlister calls on the conscience of us all:
Knowing and doing are at the core of every examined life. The hardest question our culture has faced, and it has faced it repeatedly is this: “If you knew, why didn’t you do something?”
Find legal updates, jail addresses and actions you can take to support the Kings Bay Plowshares here.