Monday, May 16, 2011

"The Law is in the Service of Death": Nuclear Weapons Resisters Jailed in Tennessee

"The no trespass law at Y12 is one of a web of laws used to protect Weapons of Mass Destruction...The laws and the courts defend weapons for doomsday. The law is in the service of death. My action at Y12 was to willfully do good in the service of life." 
--Steve Baggarly testifying at Knoxville trial
 The scales of justice were tipped against the defendants long before the trial began," according to a report by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. Eight of the twelve Y-12 nuclear resisters convicted of federal trespass at the Y-12 nuclear bomb plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, are being held in the Blount County Adult Detention Center in Maryville after a three-day trial ending May 11 in Knoxville. The Y-12 facility processes uranium for new hydrogen bombs being built to replace W76 warheads on Trident submarine ballistic missiles
Nuclear Resisters gather prior to Federal trial in Knoxville

Asheville organizers Coleman Smith and Judith Hallock of New South Network of War Resisters, joined with the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance and other regional activists in support of defendants who traveled from throughout the U.S.

Judith Hallock, a founding member of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, was one of 23 arrested in July and convicted on state charges for blocking the road into the Y12 facility.

According to a report by John LaForge in Nukewatch, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton prohibited the defendants from relying on justification defenses, specifically declared irrelevant  their moral, political or religious beliefs, and declared, "Whether the production of nuclear weapons at the Y-12 National Security Complex violates international law is irrelevant to the present case."
Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch of Washburn, Tenn. at the gates of Y-12 bomb plant.

Conviction on federal charges carries a potential prison sentence of up to one year for those resisters who crossed the barbed wire fence onto federal property at the bomb plant. Prison and jail time is not a new experience for these valiant activists, each with exemplary records of civil resistance to the crime of nuclear weapons production. 
Sr. Jackie Hudson, 76, of Poulsbo, Washington; Sr. Carol Gilbert, 63, and Sr. Ardeth Platte, 75, both of Baltimore, Maryland; Jean Gump, 83, of Bloomingdale, Michigan; Steve Baggarly, 46, of Norfolk, Virginia;  Bonnie Urfer, 59, of Luck, Wisconsin; and Michael Walli, 62, of Duluth, Minnesota.are all being held at the Blount County Adult Detention Center.  The men are reported to be together in one small unit, while the women have been split between two separate units. 

Fr. Bill Bichsel, 82, of Tacoma, Washington who was already serving a three month prison sentence for the Disarm Now Plowshares action, remains at the Knox County Sheriff's Detention Facility, where federal marshals had delivered him in shackles from a prison in Washington state to stand trial in Knoxville.

The other defendents are Beth Rosdatter, 50, of Lexington, Kentucky.; Sr. Mary Dennis Lentsch, 74, of Washburn, Tennessee; Bradford Lyttle, 83, of Chicago, Illinois; and Dennis DuVall, 69, of Prescott, Arizona. (Ill health prevented a 13th defendant, David Corcoran of Chicago, from participating and the court scheduled an August 22 trial.).

Members of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance and other supporters have begun visiting the prisoners during the one hour per week they are permitted to have visitors, according to a report by the Nuclear Resister, and commissary accounts have been established for all of the defendants. Contributions for that purpose should be sent by check payable to Sue Ablao and note it is for the Y-12 Resisters. Sue¹s address is: Ground Zero Center For
Nonviolent Action, 16159 Clear Creek Road NW, Poulsbo, WA 98370.

The complete postal addresses for the peace prisoners are listed below and can also be found at Individually addressed letters to the activists held in Blount County
may not contain photos, cards, or any enclosures in addition to your letter.  Your letter should be written on standard 8.5 x 11 paper.

To write individually to Bonnie Urfer, Jackie Hudson, Carol Gilbert, Ardeth Platte, Jean Gump, Michael Walli and Steve Baggarly:

(Inmate's Name)
Blount County Adult Detention Center
920 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway
Maryville, TN 37804-5002

To write to Bill (Bix) Bichsel:
William Bichsel, IDN 1155703
Unit 2B
Knox County Sheriff's Detention Facility
5001 Maloneyville Rd
Knoxville, TN 37918

Report by Clare Hanrahan of New South Network of War Resisters


  1. all my letters to Blount county detention were returned to me by the jail. I followed the address instructions. Any advice?

  2. MacGregor,
    Yes. Since this posting all defendants awaiting sentencing were moved to a private jail in Ocilla, Ga. Two have been released on health/family issues pending sentencing, and one-Sr. Mary Denis is enroute to begin serving time prior to sentencing.

    The main places for updates on the 8 who are (or have been) serving
    time in jail, for having trespassed onto Y-12 on July 5, 2010, can be
    found at:


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