Kangaroo Court Looming for Nuclear Weapons Critics

John LaForge

This July 28 photo shows the new Highly Enriched Uranium Materials building at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where three nuclear weapons protesters “named the Bomb” with human blood and spray-painted “The Fruit of Justice is Peace.” -U.S. government photograph
This July 28 photo shows the new Highly Enriched Uranium Materials building at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where three nuclear weapons protesters “named the Bomb” with human blood and spray-painted “The Fruit of Justice is Peace.” -U.S. government photograph


Three disarmament radicals that snuck into the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex last July — among them Duluth’s own Greg Boertje-Obed — are preparing for their Feb. trial, and face the prospect that any mention of nuclear weapons will be forbidden.

Y-12 is the 67-year-old 811-acre site in Oak Ridge, TN that’s been building H-bombs and contaminating workers and the environment since 1945. On July 28, Sr. Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg snipped through fences and walked up to the new Highly Enriched Uranium Materials building. They unfurled banners, spray-painted “Woe to and Empire of Blood” etc., prayed and broke bread. They carried an indictment of H-bomb production for its violation of domestic, military and international laws against planning and preparing massacres.

The three now face felony charges that may bring $500,000 fines and 15 years in prison. Yet as with previous cases of symbolic, limited damage to nuclear war systems, a Kangaroo Court is being arranged in advance. While the Bomb should be the focus of this case, federal courts have repeatedly kept facts about nuclear weapons away from jurors and excluded from the judge’s instructions to them.

In this case, prosecutors have moved to “preclude defendants from introducing evidence [even expert testimony] in support of certain justification defenses.” They want the court to forbid all evidence of “necessity, international law, Nuremberg Principles, First Amendment protections, the alleged immorality of nuclear weapons, good motive, religious moral or political beliefs regarding nuclear weapons, and the U.S. government’s policy regarding nuclear weapons.” The astonishing “basis” for excluding testimony regarding the threatened use of thermonuclear weapons is that such evidence is “irrelevant.”

Volunteer attorneys for the three have presented lengthy arguments to the contrary, arguing that interfering with nuclear war plans is legitimate “crime prevention.” Bill Quigley, Chris Irwin and Francis Lloyd have argued in pre-trial memos that forbidding a defense of necessity violates the protesters’ rights. Citing case law from 2005, 1994, 1980 and 1976, they note that “In a criminal case it is reversible error for a trial judge to refuse to present adequately a defendant’s theory of defense,” and, “where a defendant claims an affirmative defense [necessity, justification, crime prevention, etc.], and that ‘defense finds some support in the evidence and in the law,’ the defendant is entitled to have the claimed defense discussed in the jury instructions.” Instructions are the juror’s orders, and the last thing they hear before their deliberations.

It is easy to show that a necessity defense is relevant, the attorneys note, since their “burden is not a heavy one” and is met “even when the supporting evidence is weak or of doubtful credibility.”

Nevertheless, federal judges elsewhere have ruled in that testimony about nuclear weapons is “irrelevant” and “inadmissible,” and the exclusion of evidence has been upheld by four U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. Courts have in fact placed nuclear war policy and planning above the law as if the Bomb were sacrosanct, too precious to be handled by mere mortals.

In the present case, Magistrate Clifford Shirley is expected to grant the stifling motion, and if his gag order follows suit with previous nuclear weapons cases, the defendants will be denied their right to present a defense. It won’t be the protesters who are irrelevant then, but the court system.

John LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch and edits its Quarterly.    

Local Veterans for Peace,
Chapter 80, Supports
Anti-Nuclear Action

As part of its founding principles, Veterans for Peace has always called for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

So it is with deep appreciation that VFP Chapter 80 (Duluth/Superior) declares its support for chapter member Greg Boertje-Obed and his fellow disarmament activists, Sr. Megan Rice and Michael Walli, as they prepare for trial following their July 28 nonviolent direct action at the Y-12 nuclear weapons factory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Their “Transform Now” Plowshares action has drawn international attention to the US’s ongoing development and production of newly redesigned H-bombs in direct violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the president’s 2009 promise of a national commitment to seek “a world without nuclear weapons.”

With the government’s plans to build three new nuclear weapons production factories and its intention to produce up to 80 new B-61 H-bombs per year, the huge and hypocritical costs of the nuclear war establishment are too blatant to ignore. Greg, Megan and Michael chose instead to name the Y-12 factory (known as the Y-12 National Security Complex) with hammers, blood, banners and paint, putting themselves at risk of many years in prison.

The US Government has deployed — and under the guise of “deterrence” continuously threatens to use — some 5,000 nuclear weapons, all of which are many times the power of its Hiroshima bomb which killed 140,000 people.

The Transform Now activists understand the duty to obey the US Constitution and Nuremberg Law which, taken together, demand that we act to prevent such deliberately indiscriminate war before the fact. With them, we Veterans for Peace feel an overwhelming responsibility to arouse the conscience of others that we might break out of the acceptance of living with US preparations for nuclear war. — Veterans for Peace, Chapter 80, October 2012