Activists prepare for civil disobedience at nuclear weapons plant tomorrow

by Joshua J. McElwee

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- About 110 people are meeting here now to consider risking arrest tomorrow at a vigil opposing the construction of a major new nuclear weapons production facility.

The facility, known as the Kansas City Plant, set to be the nation's first new nuclear weapons complex in 33 years, is to replace an existing one here that makes 85 percent of the non-nuclear parts of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

The activists are here from across the country for a three day conference aimed at building awareness of and resistance to the construction of the weapons plant.

Gathered in a local public high school gym, the activists are deciding what form tomorrow's vigil will take. Some ideas include a liturgy of repentance complete with ten-foot-tall puppets representing the construction company which is building the facility and the local city council, which has subsidized the construction of the $1.2 billion facility with $815 million in municipal bonds.

Yesterday, activists heard from Art Laffin, a member of the Dorothy Day Catholic in Washington, D.C, on the conference's theme: "The hope of Easter and a disarmed world."

Summing up a life of what he calls "Gospel obedience" -- ranging from involvement in two Plowshares actions and weekly vigils outside the White House and Pentagon -- Laffin explained how he thinks nonviolent actions against nuclear weapons facilities "keep telling the story" of Jesus resurrection.

Laffin told the activists their witness shows "the reign of God is at hand. Right here. Right now."

The weekend's conference comes as local people opposed to the nuclear weapons plant are gathering signatures for a local ballot measure that, if enacted, would require Honeywell, the operate of the complex, to cease nuclear weapons operation at the site. As of yesterday afternoon organizers estimated they had over 4,000 of a needed 3,200 signatures to have the measure included in a local fall ballot.

Once completed, the new Kansas City Plant will be the first known nuclear weapons complex in the world to be owned by a city government. Through a myriad of lease agreements, Kansas City will hold title for the facility until the bond measures the city approved are paid of by private developers in a lease-to-purchase scheme.

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