Sr. Megan Rice has been a Catholic sister of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus for over sixty years. Greg Boertje-Obed, a married carpenter who has a college-age daughter, is an Army veteran and lives at a Catholic Worker house in Duluth, Minnesota. Michael Walli, a two-term Vietnam veteran turned peacemaker, lives at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker house in Washington DC.
In the dark, the three activists cut through a boundary fence which had signs stating "No Trespassing." The signs indicate that unauthorized entry, a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
No security arrived to confront them.
So the three climbed up a hill through heavy brush, crossed a road, and kept going until they saw the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF) surrounded by three fences, lit up by blazing lights.
Still no security.
So they cut through the three fences, hung up their peace banners, and spray-painted peace slogans on the HEUMF. Still no security arrived. They began praying, and sang songs like "Down by the Riverside" and "Peace Is Flowing Like a River."
When security finally arrived at about 4:30 a.m., the three surrendered peacefully, and were arrested and jailed.
The next Monday, July 30, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli were arraigned and charged with federal trespassing, a misdemeanor charge which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail. Frank Munger, an award-winning journalist with the Knoxville News Sentinel, was the first to publicly state, "If unarmed protesters dressed in dark clothing could reach the plant's core during the cover of dark, it raised questions about the plant's security against more menacing intruders."
On Wednesday, August 1, all nuclear operations at Y-12 were ordered to be put on hold in order for the plant to focus on security. B&W Y-12 (a joint venture of the Babcock and Wilcox Company and Bechtel National Inc.), the security contractor in charge of Y-12, ordered the "security stand-down," which was fully supported by the National Nuclear Security Administration.
On Thursday, August 2, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli appeared in court for a pretrial bail hearing. The government asked that all three be detained. One prosecutor called them a potential "danger to the community" and asked that all three be kept in jail until their trial. The U.S. magistrate allowed them to be released.
Sr. Megan Rice walked out of the jail and promptly admitted to gathered media that the three had indeed gone onto the property and taken action in protest of nuclear weapons. "But we had to -- we were doing it because we had to reveal the truth of the criminality which is there, that's our obligation," Rice said. She also challenged the entire nuclear weapons industry: "We have the power, and the love, and the strength and the courage to end it and transform the whole project, for which has been expended more than 7.2 trillion dollars," she said. "The truth will heal us and heal our planet, heal our diseases, which result from the disharmony of our planet caused by the worst weapons in the history of mankind, which should not exist. For this we give our lives -- for the truth about the terrible existence of these weapons."
Then the government began increasing the charges against the anti-nuclear peace protestors.
The day after the magistrate ordered the release of Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli, a Department of Energy (DOE) agent swore out a federal criminal complaint against the three for damage to federal property, a felony punishable by zero to five years in prison, under 18 U.S. Code Section 1363.
The DOE agent admitted the three carried a letter that stated, "We come to the Y-12 facility because our very humanity rejects the designs of nuclearism, empire and war. Our faith in love and nonviolence encourages us to believe that our activity here is necessary; that we come to invite transformation, undo the past and present work of Y-12; disarm and end any further efforts to increase the Y-12 capacity for an economy and social structure based on war-making and empire-building."
Now, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli were facing one misdemeanor and one felony and up to six years in prison.
But the government did not stop there. The next week, the charges were enlarged yet again.
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