Jack Cohen-Joppa led off at this year’s Pacific Life Community Faith & Resitance Retreat with history and current state of resistance to nuclear weapons and war-making. The Cohen-Joppas (Jack and Felice) have a pretty darn good handle on such things with their 32 years of publishing The Nuclear Resister and supporting resisters everywhere. At one point Jack handed out cards on which were written entries spanning more than 65 years, and telling highlights from the history of nuclear weapons resistance. One by one a different person read an entry, sort of litany of resistance. It was a powerful and centering way to begin our weekend, which ended with a nonviolent direct action at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base. Here are the individual event descriptions listed in chronological order.
At a California prison camp, conscientious objector Bent Andresen, hearing the news about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, penned a leaflet decrying the new superbomb and calling for the abolition of war. Within days he had walked away from the prison, had 5,000 copies of his leaflet printed up, and took off hitchhiking across the country. He passed his leaflet as he travelled until federal marshals caught up with him. He began a hunger strike and did not voluntarily drink or eat for eight months. After the first month he was sentenced to two years in prison; for seven months before he was released, he was force fed by a tube in his nose at the medical center for federal prisoners in Missouri.
When the mushroom clouds over Japan revealed to Gordon Maham the purpose of his secret government engineering job, he resigned from the job at Oak Ridge in protest, thus losing his draft exemption. Refusing post-war conscription, Maham was arrested and jailed for three years as a conscientious objector.
June 15, 1955
28 people, including A.J. Muste, Dorothy Day and Ammon Hennacy, were arrested in New York City for refusing to take shelter during the Civil Defense drill. Their statement said, “These drills create the illusion that the nation can devote its major resources to preparation for nuclear war and at the same time shield people from its catastrophic effects.”
August 6, 1957
Eleven pacifists were arrested after crossing over into a prohibited area in protest of a nuclear bomb test at the Nevada Test Site.
May 2, 1958
The crew of the Golden Rule were arrested while attempting to sail into the nuclear bomb test area in the South Pacific.
Five pacifists served 104 day prison sentences for trying to halt construction of a missile base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
November 22, 1960
Bill Henry and Don Martin swam out to the newly launched nuclear submarine Ethan Allen in Groton, Connecticut and climbed aboard. They were arrested and sentenced to jail time.
1961 and 1962
Following Great Britain’s first H-bomb test, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament – CND – was founded in the spring of 1958, inaugurating an annual march for unilateral disarmament between London and the nuclear weapons plant at Aldermaston and giving the world a simple graphic for nuclear disarmament now known globally as the peace symbol. Mass sit-ins led by the Committee of 100, a direct action faction founded by Bertrand Russell, led to thousands of arrests.
Greenpeace – known internationally for nonviolent direct action – began with a 1971 voyage to stop U.S. nuclear weapons testing in Alaska.
September 9, 1980
The first Plowshares action. The Plowshares Eight – Sr. Anne Montgomery, Molly Rush, Elmer Maas, Phil Berrigan, Fr. Dan Berrigan, Dean Hammer, John Schuchardt and Fr. Carl Kabat – entered a General Electric assembly plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. They hammered on re-entry vehicle cones for nuclear missile warheads, and poured their blood on project blueprints.
November 17, 1980
160 women were arrested for “obstruction of an entrance” after blocking all the entrances of the Pentagon to protest the planning of nuclear annihilation going on inside the building.
December 13, 1980
Atlantic Life Community member Peter DeMott, protesting the christening and launch of a Trident nuclear submarine in Groton, Connecticut, happened upon an unlocked van with the keys inside. He started it up and repeatedly rammed it into the rudder of a nearby Trident sub.
February 10, 1981
Six people, including Ladon Sheats and Larry Rosebaugh, climbed the fence of the Pantex nuclear warhead assembly factory in Texas, and sang and prayed until they were arrested.
Two years later, a minister who lost his pulpit after supporting the first witness at Pantex, was also arrested there as he entered the gate carrying a lit candle, knelt and prayed.
March 11, 1981
Larry Perlazzo, Larry Purcell, Dan Delaney and Chris Selvig walked into the Lockheed factory in Sunnyvale, California. Passing into secure areas without clearance badges, they poured their blood over Trident missile parts and blueprints, and wrote “Choose Life Not Death” on the wall.
One thousand nine hundred and fifty three arrests were made as anti-nuclear activists occupied the site of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California.
September 7, 1982
Sr. Pat Mahoney and Sr. Marie Nord were arrested after entering the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, labeling two of the plutonium buildings “Auschwitz” and “Dachau” and running a large black flag reading “Death Factory” up the plant’s flag pole.
June 14, 1982
In New York City, one thousand six hundred and ninety one people were arrested blockading the U.N. missions of the nuclear nations.
Ash Wednesday, 1983
Ground Zero members Mary Gronden, Shelley Douglass and Karol Schulkin were arrested while walking down the railroad tracks into the Bangor Trident base, hanging photos of Hiroshima victims and peace and international law quotes on railroad cars.
January 24, 1983
Two hundred and ten people were arrested at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Some of the twenty eight who had entered the base in a backcountry action brought a coconut with them “to remind us of our brothers and sisters in the Marshall Islands who have been displaced from their homes because of missile testing from Vandenberg Air Force Base.”
June 20-22, 1983
One thousand and sixty eight protesters were arrested for blockading the entrance of Livermore Nuclear Labs in California.
In an international day of protest of the Cruise and Pershing II Euromissiles, 1,423 people were arrested at 20 different nuclear weapons related sites in the U.S. alone.
Women used bolt cutters to cut down five miles of the nine mile perimeter fence at Greenham Common, a nuclear cruise missile base in England. Hundreds were arrested and charged with criminal damage.
February 24, 1984
Two hundred people blocked the railroad tracks in Portland, Oregon, causing the White Train – transporting nuclear weapons – to stop for several hours. 33 were arrested.
November 12, 1984
Carl Kabat, Paul Kabat, Helen Woodson and Larry Cloud Morgan – the Silo Pruning Hooks – were arrested after beginning the disarmament of a nuclear missile silo in Missouri with a jackhammer and sledgehammer.
August 6, 1985
In over 300 communities around the world, people chalked, whitewashed and painted human and animal silhouettes on streets and buildings as a grim reminder of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At least 200 people were arrested in 21 U.S. cities. 200 additional arrests were reported in Canada, England and Australia.
August 6, 1985
450 arrests took place at 29 sites around the U.S. and Canada to say Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Never Again. One of those arrests took place when Richard Miller dismantled a portion of railroad tracks leading from the Pantex plant, and put up a banner that read “Pantex equals Auschwitz – Stop the Train.”
Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was convicted of treason and espionage in a secret trial, for releasing photos and information about Israel’s secret Dimona nuclear facility. He was imprisoned for 18 years, 12 in solitary confinement. Restrictions after his release in 2004 keep him from leaving Israel to this day. He wrote while in prison, “I have no choice, I’m a little man, a citizen, one of the people, but I’ll do what I have to. I’ve heard the voice of my conscience and there’s nowhere to hide.”
Over a week of protests to Reclaim the Nevada Test Site resulted in 2,065 arrests. The following year, over 1,500 people were arrested and Nye County gave up prosecuting trespass at the Test Site.
August 15, 1988
Fourteen people with the Missouri Peace Planters entered 10 Minuteman nuclear missile silos in western Missouri. Some sat silently and prayed, and some planted trees. Many returned to the silos on subsequent days before receiving jail time.
January 3, 1995
Vincent Eirene was arrested while praying inside the gate of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where the Bomb was born.
As part of the Trident Plowshares 2000 campaign, three women boarded a barge at the Faslane Trident base in Scotland, where they damaged nuclear submarine test equipment and threw computers overboard. A judge hearing a defense under international law ordered a jury to acquit the women.
October 6, 2002
Sister Ardeth Platte, Sister Carol Gilbert and Sister Jackie Hudson – the Sacred Earth & Space Plowshares II – were arrested after entering the N-8 missile silo in northern Colorado. Wearing white jumpsuits emblazoned with “Citizen Weapons Inspection Team, Disarmament Specialists”, they made the sign of the cross with their blood on the silo lid, and hammered on its rails.
Feast of the Holy Innocents, 2005
Frank Cordaro, Renee Espeland, Paul Gallagher and Fr. Jack McCaslin walked down the entry road of the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, with a banner reading “Herod killed the infants, STRATCOM would kill the world.” The four were arrested and Cordaro later served his eighth six-month prison sentence, many for similar protests at STRATCOM.
All Souls Day, 2009
Susan Crane, Fr. Steve Kelly, Fr. Bill Bichsel, Sr. Anne Montgomery, and Lynn Greenwald – the Disarm Now Plowshares – entered the nuclear weapons storage area at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base in Washington state. They planted seeds, prayed, hammered on the fence and poured blood before being arrested.
April 15, 2010
Richard Sauder, imprisoned following a series of prayerful protests in the early 1980s at missile silos in Arkansas and Missouri and Navy bases in Virginia and Georgia, was arrested again in 2010, inside a nuclear missile silo near Parshall, North Dakota. He spent another 100 days in jail.
Fourteen protesters entered the construction site of the new Kansas City nuclear weapons parts plant. All were arrested after surprising construction workers and standing directly in front of earth moving equipment in the muddy soybean field, bringing construction to a halt.
April 1, 2012
800 Europeans from 10 counties converged at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Formed into nonviolent humanitarian intervention teams, 483 activists were arrested trying to occupy the site.
July 28, 2012
Greg Boertje-Obed, Sr. Megan Rice, and Michael Walli – the Transform Now Plowshares – hammered on the foundation and poured blood on the walls of the new storehouse for bomb-grade highly enriched uranium at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex in Tennessee.