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Nonviolent pacifists hooded and convicted

From left: Susan, Lynne, Anne, Steve & BillFive peace activists were convicted this week of trespass and property damage by a US federal court jury. All aged over 60, the defendants now face prison sentences of up to 10 years.

They are: Sacred Heart Sister Anne Montgomery (83), Jesuit priests Bill Bischel (81) and Steve Kelly (60), Jonah House community member Susan Crane (67) and nurse Lynne Greenwald (60).

Their protest focussed on the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base in Washington State, 20 miles west of Seattle. This base is “home to the largest single stockpile of nuclear warheads in the US,” with ‘hundreds’ of thermonuclear missiles and 8 nuclear submarines. Each submarine carries nuclear warheads with thousands of times the destructive capacity of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 (pictured).

The city of Hiroshima after the nuclear attackIn a nonviolent act of war resistance they call ‘Disarm Now Ploughshares’ action, the group:

“cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Navy base during the night of the Feast of All Souls, November 2, 2009. They then walked undetected for hours nearly 4 miles inside the base to the Strategic Weapons Facility … There they cut through 2 more barbed wire fences and went inside. They put up 2 big banners which said, 'Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident Illegal and Immoral,' scattered sunflower seeds, and prayed until they were arrested at dawn."

Upon arrest, the five were handcuffed and hooded with sand bags because, as the marine in charge testified, “when we secure prisoners anywhere in Iraq or Afghanistan we hood them … so we did it to them.”

Many acts of nonviolent resistance to war share the 'Ploughshares' name and the Biblical vision of Isaiah 2:4, that nations "shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and … study war no more."

Representing themselves, the 5 argued that nuclear weapons are both illegal and immoral and that all citizens have a “right and duty to try to stop international war crimes from being committed by these weapons of mass destruction.”

Prosecutors at the trial said the US government "would neither confirm nor deny the existence of nuclear weapons at the base.”

After the guilty verdict was read, the 5 defendants stood and blessed the jury.

They are due to be sentenced on 28 March 2011.

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