Monday, 6 September 2010
Crossing the line "in a time of war"
A federal grand jury in Tacoma has indicted five anti-war protesters, including prominent members of the anti-nuclear-weapons movement, on charges of conspiracy, trespass and destruction of government property for entering a secure area at the Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor complex last November.
The charges carry penalties of up to 10 years in federal prison.
The indictment names two well-known Jesuit priests — 81-year-old William Bichsel, of Tacoma; and 60-year-old Stephen Kelly, of Oakland, Calif. — and two nuns belonging to the Society of the Sacred Heart, 83-year-old Anne Montgomery, of New York; and 65-year-old Susan Crane, of Baltimore. The fifth defendant is Bremerton social worker Lynne T. Greenwald, 60.
The five are accused of using bolt cutters Nov. 2 to breach three chain-link fences surrounding the so-called Main Limited Area of the base, which is home to part of the Pacific nuclear submarine fleet. That area is patrolled by armed guards, who confronted the invaders at gunpoint, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"All citizens are free to disagree with their government," said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan. "But they are not free to destroy property or risk the safety of others."
Durkan said the group — dubbed the "Bangor 5" in the news release — entered the naval base "during a time of war" and went into an area clearly marked as off-limits.
"They endangered themselves and prompted military personnel, who are duty-bound to guard the area, to quickly make a decision over the use of force," Durkan said. "These defendants quite literally cross the line and must be held accountable."
According to news accounts, several of the defendants have been arrested for, or charged with, similar actions over the years.
Montgomery spent time in jail in the 1980s after she and other protesters breached security at Martin-Marietta Aerospace Corp.'s defense plant in Orlando, Fla. Court documents indicate they entered a building where they "hammered and poured blood onto both nuclear and conventional missile launchers and components belonging to the United States Army."
She recently accepted the 40th annual Peace Award of the War Resisters League — an honor she now shares with Father Daniel Berrigan, the Jesuit war protester who was jailed in the 1960s and co-founded the anti-war and anti-nuclear Plowshares Movement.
Further reading (for example), video.