11 anti-nuke activists in court this week, 2 sentenced to jail yesterday

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Two anti-nuclear activists were sentenced to jail yesterday for acts of civil disobedience at the Y-12 National Security Complex, a key U.S. nuclear weapons production and maintenance compound, to protest a proposed major new facility at the Oak Ridge, Tenn., site.

Jean Gump and Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel, part of a group of twelve activists who were found guilty last May of criminal trespass at the site, were sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton to time served and three months in jail, respectively.

Construction of a major new nuclear weapons manufacturing facility at the Oak Ridge complex, projected by the Army Corps of Engineers to cost some $7.5 billion, was officially announced by the federal government July 25.

Gump and Bichsel were part of a group of 13 who took part in the July 5, 2010, action, which came at the end of a 200-strong peace rally outside the gates of the complex. After a prayer vigil, 13 people climbed over a barbed wire fence onto the property and were arrested, Ralph Hutchison, a coordinator for the group opposing the new Tennessee facility’s construction, told NCR in May.

Nine of the eleven remaining activists are scheduled to face sentencing in front of Guyton throughout this week and next. Another defendant, Dominican Sr. Jackie Hudson, passed away Aug. 3. The last of the group, David Corcoran, was not part of the May trial because of illness. His trial date is set for Nov. 14.

Bichsel, who was also part of an anti-nuclear action in Tacoma Washington in 2009, recently concluded a three-month sentence for that protest.

Seven others in the Oak Ridge group were taken into local custody after the May trial because they would not accept supervised release until sentencing. Gump, who was originally part of the group held in custody, had been released at the time of sentencing due to family concerns.

Hutchison, the coordinator for the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, posted an update to the group’s Web site yesterday with details about the sentencing, including a transcription of Bichsel’s statement to the court.

Said Bichsel:

"When we threaten other nations with nuclear weapons, we can hardly say we are bent on peace, sisterhood and brotherhood. Nagasaki and Hiroshima have shown us the terrible destructive power of these bombs. We can do something as a nation instead of using our power to show Afghans around, we can share with one another, enter into a dialogue.

Myself, in this court of justice, I want today to recommit myself to justice, to nonviolence, to the love of Jesus, to work with others of different beliefs. I want to commit myself in conjunction with Jackie Hudson, my co-defendant who died a short while ago, she is also a very moving spirit….

I recommit myself in the spirit of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King, Jr, of Oscar Romero. I stand hoping to have the strength to carry out this commitment, even to death, in this courtroom of justice."

Keep following NCRonline.org this week for updates as the activists are sentenced.

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