Protest and Resistance
By John LaForge
Winter Quarterly 2018-19
Regular readers will recall that for two summers in a row, Nukewatch has organized a delegation to Germany made up of US peace activists, and joined forces with Germany’s nation-wide campaign to oust the remaining 20 US nuclear weapons from Germany’s Büchel Air Force Base.
Under a program called “nuclear sharing,” the United States positions nuclear gravity bombs known as B61s at six NATO air force bases in five European states, one base each in Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Turkey, and two bases in Italy.
Military pilots in these NATO states reportedly train for loading the US nuclear bombs on their own fighter jets and are prepared to use them on orders from the president of the United States.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was asked last spring whether NATO’s “nuclear sharing,” was becoming “obsolete.” Speaking at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, April 5, 2018, Mr. Stoltenberg said:
Nuclear sharing, for those who don’t know … the United States, they have the weapons. But then other NATO allies, for instance, deliver the planes that can carry the nuclear bombs. So, then different nations work together to provide a nuclear capability. That’s nuclear sharing…. [I]t’s not obsolete. … I cannot comment on which countries are a part of our nuclear sharing arrangements…”
Protest and Resistance
German activists have worked for 20 years to see the bombs removed from Büchel, and hundreds have been engaged in protest and nonviolent resistance at the base.
Hundreds of activists have participated in the campaign “20 Weeks for 20 Bombs,” a 5-month peace camp organized by Nonviolent Action for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (GAAA) which is supported by 60 national and regional peace groups around the country. The Nukewatch/US delegation has twice joined the camp during its “International Week” in July.
In the years 2017 and 2018, International Week saw nuclear weapons opponents conduct uninvited “go-in” actions 58 times at the base, GAAA coordinator Küpker reports.
Selective Prosecution for Bunker Occupation
In one of the 2017 actions, a group of four US citizens, including this reporter, and German activist Gerd Büntzly set out to inspect a nuclear bomb bunker. After spending an hour on one of the heavily fortified and earth-covered bunkers, and being picked up and briefly detained by air base authorities, the action made headlines. Of the five, only Gerd Büntzly was charged and convicted of trespass and damage to property.
Büntzly will be in Koblenz, Germany on January 16, 2019, for an appeal of the low-level conviction. (check back for updates!)
In protest of the apparently selective prosecution of Gerd, Plowshares activist Susan Crane and I (who along with Bonnie Urfer and Steve Baggarly had joined Gerd on the bunker) submitted a formal letter to the German prosecutor’s office in Koblenz on July 25, 2018. The letter complained of the offices’s unfairness in charging just one for actions taken by five.
The prosecutor’s office first claimed that it could not find contact information for the US citizens. When it was reminded that the German Air Force, the civil police and the US Air Force all had the addresses, the prosecutor simply replied that our letter of complaint had not been persuasive in changing the offices’s position.
With the help of Küpker, translators, and GAAA, Susan Crane and I will travel to Koblenz in January to testify at the appeal hearing on Gerd’s behalf. To support Gerd’s defense of necessity in the case, German attorneys are helping arrange for our testimony and for the submission of formal declarations from international law experts.
Prosecutor’s Warnings to “Go-in” Activists
GAAA’s Küpker reports that over the last 20 years, so-called “go-in” protest actions involving crossing into air force property have led to charges and convictions for trespassing, and sometimes for property damage if the fence was cut. However, it is striking that prosecutors have always refused to charge activists from European countries outside Germany.
This year for the first time, letters of warning from the German military and in some cases from the state prosecutor have been sent to at least 16 activists from various countries informing them that the charges could be pending. Peace activists from The Netherlands, England, and the United States have received notices which strangely do not contain official charges. Küpker suggested the letters could be an attempt at intimidation.
Join the Effort to Oust US Nukes from Germany
The camp, set just outside the gates of the Büchel Air Force Base in west-central Germany, is again scheduled to run from March 26 to August 9, 2019. Contact Nukewatch to join this year’s delegation running July 8-16.