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'An Act of Love, An Act of Justice': Anti-Nuclear Activists Headed to Prison for US Naval Base Protest

"To be clear," said Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day and one of the sentenced, "these weapons are not private property, they belong to the people of the United States; they belong to me, to you, to us."

Kings Bay Plowshares 7 members pose for a photo with a banner showing peace activist Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo: Kings Bay Plowshares 7)

The seven members of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, who entered the Kings Bay Navy Base in St. Marys Georgia on April 4, 2018 to protest nuclear weapons, are seen here holding a banner quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo: Kings Bay Plowshares 7)

Three more members of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 peace group were sentenced last week to between 10 and 14 months in prison plus probation and restitution payments for trespassing on a Georgia naval base to protest U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

Martha Hennessy—granddaughter of Catholic Worker movement founder Dorothy Day—was sentenced Friday to 10 months behind bars for her role in the April 2018 demonstration at Kings Bay Naval Base in St. Marys, Georgia. The previous day, activists Carmen Trotta and Clare Grady were sentenced to 14 and 12 months imprisonment, respectively, for their participation in the peaceful protest.

"These weapons are not private property, they belong to the people of the United States; they belong to me, to you, to us. These weapons kill and cause harm in our name, and with our money."
—Clare Grady, Kings Bay Plowshares 7

The fourth, fifth, and sixth Kings Bay Plowshares 7 sentences were handed down a month after Catholic priest Rev. Stephen M. Kelley was sentenced to 33 months time served for his role in the demonstration.

In a powerful sentencing statement Thursday, Trotta invoked peace activist Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1967 "Beyond Vietnam" speech, in which he called the U.S. government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" and stressed that "communism will never be defeated by the use of... nuclear weapons." 

Trotta defiantly declared, "That military base is a genocidal criminal conspiracy... and I will not pay restitution." 

In her statement, Grady said that:

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I believe it is a Christian calling to withdraw consent... from killing in our name. To do so is an act of love, an act of justice, a sacred act that brings us into right relationship with God and neighbor. This is what brings me before this court today for sentencing. It is the consequence of my choice to join friends to undertake an action of sacramental, non-violent, symbolic disarmament because the Trident [nuclear submarines] at Kings Bay [are] killing and harming in my name.

To be clear, these weapons are not private property, they belong to the people of the United States; they belong to me, to you, to us. These weapons kill and cause harm in our name, and with our money. This omnicidal weapon doesn't just kill if it is launched, it kills every day. Indigenous people are—and continue to be—some of the first victims of nuclear weapons; the mining, refining, testing, and dumping of radioactive material for nuclear weapons all happens on Native land. The trillions of dollars spent on nuclear weapons are resources stolen from the planet and her people.

Kings Bay houses at least six nuclear submarines, each armed with 20 Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles of the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) variety. Each missile contains numerous nuclear warheads, providing a thermonuclear force multiplier and overwhelming first-strike capability.

The weapons at the single base are capable of killing countless millions of human beings and the activists argued that they wanted "to highlight what King called the 'evil triplets of militarism, racism, and materialism'" and to "make real the prophet Isaiah's command: 'beat swords into plowshares.'"

On April 4, 2018—the 50th anniversary of King's assassination—Grady, Hennessy, Kelly, Trotta, and Kings Bay Plowshares 7 activists Mark Coalville, Liz McAlister, and Patrick O'Neill entered the base, splashed baby bottles containing their own blood on a wall, spray-painted an anti-war slogan on a sidewalk, and hammered away at a monument to nuclear war. 

Hennessy and Trotta's sentences were lighter than expected.

"We can't allow those kinds of things to happen without recourse," U.S. Circuit Judge Lisa Godbey said of the protest during Hennessy's sentencing, adding without a hint of irony that the protesters' actions were "dangerous not just to Ms. Hennessy but to the others there." 

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