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.


  1. Is Nashua Chantal the same person as Robert Chantal? Unfortunately, I do not know him.

  2. Who's coordinating jail visits? I'm in Columbus.


We appreciate your feedback. Let us hear from you.