The National Nuclear Security Administration's Kansas
City Plant, managed by Honeywell to help make nuclear weapons, became
the scene of civil disobedience for the first time June 18. Four people
were arrested when they blocked the employees' entrance to the plant,
while about 35 supporters blocked the plant's front driveway.
Crosses were planted along the highway and chalk
bodies colored the sidewalks. A huge sheet-turned-banner told the story
of death and destruction related to the plant. More than a dozen
vehicles from NNSA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Kansas
City Police came to the scene, and a police helicopter hovered overhead.
"We want to shut down the plant and clean up the
contamination," protester Jane Stoever explained to a guard for the
NNSA. "And we want to stop them from repeating the same mistakes by
building a new plant." The plant makes and procures 85 percent of the
contents of U.S. nuclear warheads, including the firing sets, aiming
devices and casings that carry fissile materials.
On June 14,the NNSA and Kansas City
signed a $1.2 billion dollar lease agreement for a new south Kansas City
"campus" for the complex's nuclear weapons plant. Local financial agent
Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. received the go-ahead to offer bonds worth
up to $815 million for building the new plant. This bond authorization
is the outgrowth of a convoluted privatization scheme whereby the city
will own title to a federal nuclear weapons facility. The plan includes a
decision by the city's Planned Industrial Expansion Authority (PIEA) to
declare a soybean field "blighted" in order to use "urban blight funds"
(desperately needed in midtown Kansas City) to build a nuclear
weapons plant. The upshot: The PIEA recommended and the City Council
approved a $45 million tax cut for the new plant in the same year as the
city is closing almost half its schools in a reorganization move. The
new NNSA project is part of a larger development plan for an Intermodal
Center at the former Richards Gebaur Air Force base by real estate
developer CenterPoint Zimmer.
"The new bomb plant will make millions of dollars
for a few, get the workers sick, pollute the land and build weapons of
mass destruction; meanwhile, our school are crumbling and being closed,"
said Ann Suellentrop of Kansas City, Kan., nurse and lead organizer for
opposition to the current and new Kansas City Plant. "You can't build
nuclear weapons and not get sick."
Several federal agencies are now investigating
contaminants at the current plant. The local NBC affiliate lists about
350 persons who have reported serious illnesses from working at the
plant, plus about 30 persons whose families say they died from illnesses
caused by toxins at the plant.
The protesters chanted slogans such as "City
Council, shame on you, building bombs, not funding schools" and "DOE,
stop the lies before more workers get sick and die."
The four persons arrested were Frank Cordaro of
Des Moines, Iowa; Ronald Faust of Gladstone, Mo.; Steve Jacobs of
Columbia, Mo.; and Jane Stoever of Overland Park, Kan. They received
citations for a "disturbance to wit: impedes or disrupts the performance
of official duties of a government employee." They must pay $125 or
appear at the U.S. Courthouse in Kansas City on Aug. 6, the 65th
anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bomb attack on Hiroshima.
Homeland Security officers released the four in
about an hour. Then a dozen of the protesters went to the Oppenheimer
office, asking to meet with those working on the bond project to learn
more about the 14 thus-far-unidentified investors. Oppenheimer staff
refused to meet with the protesters and threatened to have them
arrested, but ultimately promised to meet with the group if they set up a
Sponsors of the protest were PeaceWorks-KC (email@example.com),
Physicians for Social Responsibility-KC (kcnukeswatch.wordpress.com), and
East Meets West of Troost (eastmeetswestoftroost.ws).
Authors Ann Suellentrop (firstname.lastname@example.org)
and Jane Stoever (email@example.com), both from the wider metropolitan area of Kansas
City, Mo., helped coordinate the protest and participated in it.