Monday, March 18, 2013

Occupying the Courtrooms in the Militarized South

Greg Boertje-Obed, Sr. Megan Rice & Michael Walli

Courtroom solidarity. Its a powerful way to lend support to those comrades in action who face prosecution by the U.S. government for speaking up and pointing out some of the difficult truths of our militarized culture, while taking the risks of nonviolence in action against the war machine. 

Transform Now Plowshares activists—57 year old Greg Boertje-Obed 83 year old Sr. Megan Rice, and 63 year old Michael Walli traveled far distances by Megabus to appear at a preliminary hearing in Knoxville, Tenn on Feb. 7 on a Motion to Dismiss the additional charge of injuring national-defense premises, a felony sabotage charge. The three,  unarmed and determined, walked miles into the Y-12 bomb plant on Feb. 28, 2012,  defeating "deadly force" security  to expose the grave dangers to humankind posed by ongoing production of weapons of mass destruction.

Attorneys for the Defendants argued the new charge is unconstitutional because it adds 20 years of potential prison terms simply because the defendants chose to pursue a jury trial to air their beliefs and "constitutes unconstitutional vindictive, wrongful and selective prosecution." 
Frank Adams, Coleman Smith & Chris Irwin outside courthouse

Federal Magistrate C. Clifford Shirley later denied the defendants' motion to dismiss sabotage charge.  According to Frank Munger's Atomic City Underground blog, the case has been reassigned to Judge Amul R. Thapar, a U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky, but there was no indication of where the trial will be held or if the currently scheduled trial date of May 7 will be moved.

There have been many court appearances since the July 28, 2012  action in Oak Ridge Tenn. that unmasked the fundamental insecurity of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and its bomb-grade uranium storage facility in Oak Ridge. Don't let court delays and media blindness obscure the importance of this case.
OREPA's Eric Johnson holding forth in courthouse lobby
Next Action: Gather at the Friendship Bell at Alvin K Bissell Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn. at 12:30pm on April 6 to walk to the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex. The rally will include music, drama, and more and will begin outside the gates of the bomb plant at 2:00 p.m. For Info: Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. 

OREPA’s spring Action for Disarmament will focus on the government’s plan to spend $8 billion on a bomb plant to build more bombs at the same time the President is preparing to sign a directive to reduce the stockpile by one third.  

Atty. Bill Quiqley speaks flanked by  NAACP Edward Dubose & Nashua Chantal
               In Columbus, Ga. on March 13, 2013, yet another peaceful protestor was put on trial by the U.S. government for a symbolic act of dissent against the counterinsurgency terror taught at the U.S. Army School of Americas (WHINSEC).

Nashua Chantal was prosecuted by a young woman JAG officer who called for the maximum sentence. He was summarily found guilty and sentenced to six months imprisonment in an alarmingly perfunctory manner by U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles.

A circle of support at Americus Mennonite Fellowship
Nashua, a 60 year old carpenter, craftsman and civic volunteer living in Americus, Ga., crossed over the fence at Fort Benning, Ga. on November 18, 2012, at the 22nd annual School of Americas Watch vigil.  Nashua was unarmed & and dressed symbolically as a sad clown.

Following a heartfelt pre-sentencing statement, this brave human rights defender was shackled and taken away as courtroom supporters sang, "Courage, Brother. You do not walk alone.  We shall walk with you and sing your spirit home".

Nashua crossing over. Nov. 18, 2012.     Photo: Mike Haskey
Human rights activists from throughout the country  joined with members of the Americus Mennonite Fellowship for a meal and moving send off the night before trial, and many joined a procession to the courthouse on the morning of the trial.

Still from Military video of  clown capture inside Fort Benning
Nashua, who has served time in a Yazoo, Miss. prison for a previous peaceful protest at Fort Benning, joins with 300 others (including this author) who have challenged the morality and legality of the counterinsurgency torture training of the U.S. Army School of Americas (WHISEC) with civil resistance.  Collectively we have served over 100 years prison time.  Write Nashua at this address:
Robert Chantal, #5340
Lee County Sheriff's Jail
P.O. Box 2407
Opelika, AL 36804
and check the SOA Watch. website for updates and Action opportunities.

Judy Collins of Lanett,Ala. sings for Nashua

Photos & Story by Clare Hanrahan
Keep us writing & posting. Your comments, contributions (we really need a laptop),  and support keeps us on the ground in the Southeast.

Thanks to Monica T., Kasha B., Redmoonsong, & Ellen T. for ongoing support and to Anne G. for camera! For on the road accomodations, thanks to:  Vine & Fig Tree Community & Americus Mennonite Fellowship.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Gaining Ground In The South - More Action, Training, and Collaboration

Surveillance of Activists: Democratic National Convention
        In previous posts we have introduced War On The Earth!  our presentation which details the environmental impact of militarism in Atomic Appalachia and the Southeast.  It shows how the many parts of the  Military Industrial Complex and the Global Economic War Machine work together The surveillance state is an integral part. 

Coleman Smith with Lynne Newsome, 
Quaker House Director
In our work, we offer to collaborate with other like-minded groups, supporting our mutual work by using this presentation as an  organizing and outreach tool.  As we stimulate conversation and  homegrown action ideas for peace and justice work in Southeast, we are supporting a network of war resisters throughout the region. 
Chuck Fager, Outgoing Director of Quaker House

We were invited by the Fayetteville-based Quaker House to participate in the Forgotten Issues. Unheard Voices exhibit at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. 

We showed War On The Earth! during  the afternoon seminars and helped with hanging the exhibit detailing the history and work of Quaker House over the years.
We've also presented to groups such as  The Ethical Culture Society of Asheville, NC, the Occupy Caravan,  Hilton Head (S.C.) Islanders for Peace, the Carolina Peace Resource Center in Aiken, S.C. , and we helped with planning of the 30th annual Alternative New Year gathering at  the Kings Bay, Georgia, Trident Nuclear Submarine Base.
In addition to providing Nonviolent Action Trainings, and our work with Occupy Asheville's NV Direct Action Trainers Group, we also published an educational Action Zine through our DAWG'Gone South Productions, available as printed copy or in a PDF download. Contact us at
Chattanooga Mixing It Up at "Fountain of Youth" !
War On Earth!  continued to startle, educate, and move  audiences at other Southern gatherings as diverse as the Chattanooga, Tenn. Know Nukes Ya’ll Conference.

  Affinity Group and Spokes Council Structure Workshop
When working in a community with many temperaments, talents, and convictions, the question of "...How far are you willing to go using what tactic in a direct action?"  is at the root of an exercise which encourages people to talk about their decisions to picket and write letters rather than physically blockading an Applachian strip mining site or sitting in a tree to halt construction of the Keystone Pipeline.   

"How do we best challenge an unjust law or point out the injustice of a particular act?"
This is a question raised often in our strategy sessions.

Clare Leads Exercise on Diversity of Nonviolent Tactics

Center of BOA's Universe

One reason we fight BOA

 May 9, 2012 Bank Of America 
National Day of Action in Charlotte.

Banking giant BOA is one of the worse offenders in the collapse of our housing market due to it's over selling of mortgages to families who could not afford them. But BOA made out like a bandit when it led the way in foreclosures of these same mortgages.
Asheville Activists Debra Lee & Cathy in Charlotte
Avram Friedman of Canary Coalition 
 on task with documentation

After participating in statewide networking and supporting Nonviolent Direct Action trainings prior to the May 9th BOA action, representatives from Asheville and Western North Carolina made a strong appearance at the Day of Action Against Bank of America with activists on the ground, technical support through Message Design, Signage, and Art Build, Legal Observers, Street Medics, and several affinity groups taking direct action from Street Theater to Civil Disobedience.

         Asheville Street Medics  
CoreyPine (center) & Eva (right)
Legal Observers Hanrahan and Smith 
Hold the Line at BOA Action

War Tax Resisters gather around their message
The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee met in Chicago in May.   

We joined with 7,000 marchers at the NATO summit as part of our weekend gathering, adding the strong voice of those who refuse to pay for the wars.

 Forming Ranks to tell NATO and US why we fight.

May 2013 will find the War Tax Resisters in Asheville. Stay tuned for details of an exciting and informative weekend of workshops, education & action.

23 Square Mile Hobet 20 Mine Site in West Va.
Nonviolent Civil Resistance against the 23 square mile Hobet 20 Moutain Top Removal operation in West Virginia.

Late July found us engaged with almost 120 Mountain Justice activists of all ages, genders, and experience camped and trained for a week in preparation for occupying the largest open pit coal mine operation in the state.
Practicing a body blockade for Nonviolent Intervention
New South Network helped by setting up and running the messaging, signage and art build. We were also on call as Legal Observers and walked on to the mining site with 50 others to shut down the operation for most of a day. Read more here

Messaging, Signs & Art Build at Action Camp

Mountain Justice Warriors Face Off Against Goliath (Photo from: R.A.M.P.S.)