Ash Wednesday Witness of Repentance at the White Hous

Dear Friends,

The beginning of Lent is not far away. On Ash Wednesday a prayer service will be held in front of the White House to call for personal and societal repentance and conversion to the Gospel call of justice, nonviolence and peacemaking. Please come, bring a friend, and share the below info with your network. 
With gratitude,

When: Ash Wednesday, March 5 from Noon-1:00 p.m.

Where: White House (north side on Pennsylvania Ave.)

“The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk.1:15)

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is a time for personal and societal repentance, a time for radical conversion, renewal and transformation. Living under the brutal occupation of the Roman empire, Jesus declared: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk.1:15) Living in the U.S. empire, which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” we need to heed Jesus’ proclamation now more than ever.
On Ash Wednesday people from the faith-based peace and justice community in the D.C. area will hold a prayer service in front of the White House to call for repentance and conversion of ourselves, our society and our churches to the Gospel way of justice, nonviolence and a reverence for all life and creation. We call for an end to all war and the elimination of all weapons–from guns, to killer drones, to nuclear weapons. We call, too, for an end to corporate domination, justice for the poor and all immigrants, and for the conversion of our war-based economy to one centered on serving the common good, alleviating poverty and protecting the environment.
Ashes will be blessed and distributed. Please Join us.
For more info contact Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker: 202-360-6416 or
Published in: on February 24, 2014 at 8:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Summaries of the Pre-Sentencing Statements Made by the Transform Now Plowshares

Summary Notes of Michael Walli’s Pre-Sentencing Statement

  • Stated that he was offended by the fact that the Nazi regime had a legal right to exist and that either by silence or overt support Catholics consented to it.
  • Quoted St. Thomas Aquinas: “Laws that do not serve the common good are unjust.”
  • Quoted St. Augustine: “An unjust law is no law at all.”
  • Stated that he acted in accordance with Jesus. Jesus’ declaration, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” was a call to action.
  • Stated that his actions at Y-12 did not constitute a violation of law, but rather his obedience to God’s law. “I am a citizen of heaven. We engaged in our lawful, missionary work at Y-12. I committed no crime. I have no remorse.”
  • Stated that he was acting in support of the rule of law. “I am the face of tomorrow. The face of total demilitarization and vindication of the prophets.”
  • In response to a comment made during the hearing by U.S. District Attorney Jeff Theodore, he stated that we both have something in common in admiring Rosa Parks as he commended him for sitting on the same seat of the bus that Rosa Parks was arrested in during a visit he made to Michigan where the bus was on display.

    *  Read the TNP action indictment.

Summary Notes of Greg Boertje-Obed’s Pre-Sentencing Statement

  • Read an excerpt of Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech re: why he opposed the Vietnam war.
  • Read an excerpt from Dan Berrigan’s poem: “Hymn To A New Humanity.”
  • Stated that people around the world see that the U.S. is breaking the law. Three new Bomb plants are being built, including at Oak Ridge, which will maintain nuclear weapons for over 80 years. If the U.S. were to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it “would promote respect for the law.”

Summary Notes of Sr. Megan Rice’s Pre-Sentencing Statement

  • One of the great problems is that people don’t know the 70 year history of nuclear weapons and the secrecy that surrounds nuclear policy. Encouraged the Judge and everyone in court to read the book Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen.
  • Spoke of how every single day and all of life is a miracle and how the Bomb is a threat to that miracle.
  • Referred to the book A Beautiful Mind and how many of the best minds today agree that there is an alternative to nuclear weapons.
  • Spoke of a “cloud of deception” surrounding the economic extortion going on at Y-12 and that this was never mentioned at the first sentencing hearing regarding the restitution the TNP were ordered to pay.
  • Acknowledged the support the TNP have received from all over the world and showed the court a signed card from the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers that was recently sent to her by Kathy Kelly.
  • Appealed to the judge not to show leniency toward her and that it would be an honor to spend the rest of her life in prison.
  • Spoke of the injustice she has witnessed first-hand in the for-profit detention complex and the dehumanizing jail conditions.
  • Spoke of the connections between the rich controlling the wealth and resources at the expense of the poor and how the military budget constitutes a theft from the poor.
  • Cited an Appellate Court’s overturning the conviction of the Plowshares Eight and Appellate Judge Spaeth’s opinion regarding the catastrophic danger posed by nuclear weapons.
  • Referred to German Judge Ulf Panzer who was arrested for opposing the deployment of Pershing II nuclear missiles at the U.S. air base in Mutlangen in 1987 and lawyers and jurists worldwide who declared nuclear weapons to be illegal.
  • Judge granted her request to sing the song “Sacred the Land.” All present in the main courtroom and the overflow courtroom joined in singing the song.
Published in: on February 23, 2014 at 1:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Report of Sentencing of Transform Now Plowshares to Prison Terms Ranging From Nearly Three Years to Over 5 Years

Dear Friends,
In this May 6, 2013, file photo, of the Transform Now Plowshares, from left, Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed arrive for their trial in Knoxville, Tenn. Michael Patrick, Knoxville News Sentinel/AP

In this May 6, 2013, file photo, of the Transform Now Plowshares, from left, Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed arrive for their trial in Knoxville, Tenn. Michael Patrick, Knoxville News Sentinel/AP

I have just returned from the sentencing hearing of our three Transform Now Plowshares (TNP) friends in Knoxville, Tennessee who were given prison terms ranging from 35 months to 62 months, three years supervised release and nearly $53,000 in restitution. From the Festival of Hope the night before the sentencing (see below reflection) to the witness Mike Walli, Greg Boertje-Obed and Sr. Megan Rice offered in court at their sentencing, this was a deeply inspiring hope-filled time despite the heavy sentences that were given. The spirit of community, the loving welcome and special hospitality offered by friends of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA), and the speaking of truth by our three friends in the empire’s court was, for me, an infusion of hope!

This was Part II of the sentencing of the TNP that began on January 28 but was suspended due to a snow storm and continued to February 18. The bulk of the hearing, which began at 1:30 p.m. and lasted to nearly 6:00 p.m., included legal arguments by attorneys for the TNP and the government about how to apply the federal sentencing guidelines. Greg and the defense lawyers urged a significant downward departure from the guidelines referring to previous plowshares cases of Sicken and Platte where judges had done so. But Mr. Theodore said that because these cases were in another district they did not apply. The heart of the hearing though occurred late in the afternoon when our three friends, looking pale and thin, dressed in black striped jail uniforms and wearing leg shackles and handcuffs (it should be noted that the court ordered one hand to be uncuffed during the hearing), but full of the Holy Spirit, addressed the court. They did not hold back and gave eloquent stirring statements (see Summary of Pre-Sentencing Statements below). It was truly a sacred time and an extraordinary moment of grace for all present. The truth, so powerfully spoken by Mike, Greg and Megan in court, not only amplified the moral and legal justification for their action but also exposed, once again, the crime and sin of nuclear weapons and how the U.S. is blatantly violating God’s law, international law and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The legal exchanges that occurred between the judge and prosecutor about how long a prison sentence was warranted to deter the TNP who, they said, had no remorse for their action and utter disregard for the law, was absurd and illustrated how the law is used to sanction weapons of mass murder. It was a another reminder of how the law, as Phil Berrigan used to say, is the real obstacle to justice.
Judge Thapar received some 16,000 letters from TNP supporters encouraging leniency for our three friends. He acknowledged receiving these letters and affirmed the good works and the intentions of the three. Ultimately though, he could not grasp or accept the truth our three friends offered: that in an empire that legalizes nuclear weapons and thereby imperils all life earth, nonviolent resistance is not only necessary but a duty under God’s law and international law to help bring about disarmament and nuclear abolition. Instead Judge Thapar asserted: “If all that energy and passion was devoted to changing the laws, perhaps real change would’ve occurred by today.”  He said repeatedly that as a judge, he has  to judge the actions and not viewpoints of the defendants and that he was not in a position to judge what God’s will is. He also quoted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stevens several times saying that “no person is above the law.” While declaring that he could not give the three a sentence of time served (eight months), he also said that he could not go along with U.S. District Attorney Jeff Theodore strong recommendation that the three, who Theodore described as “incorrigible” and “habitual offenders,” should be sentenced under the strict federal guidelines. Theodore also remarked that he was a Catholic himself and that while he respected the three, they are not above the law. Seeking to reconcile the sentencing guidelines with the character and personal history of the three, Judge Thapar said the guidelines do not distinguish saboteurs who truly mean harm from peace protesters who intend change. In the end, Judge Thapar, showing that he understood that the TNP were indeed peace activists, rightfully chose a sentence that was below the federal sentencing guidelines. But let’s be clear: Michael, Greg and Sr. Megan should never have been arrested, tried, convicted and given a prison sentence in the first place. And, clearly they should have been granted a sentence of time served. For their action at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex at Oak Ridge was in accordance with God’s law and international law. They acted to prevent a crime, not to commit a crime. Thus, the real crime of nuclear war preparations at the Y-12 facility, the so-called “Fort Knox of Highly Enriched Uranium” continues and the truth-tellers are locked up!

Let us all continue to keep our eyes on the prize as we strive to create the Beloved Community and a nonviolent disarmed world. And let us be filled with the same joy and hope of our three imprisoned friends. As Mike, Greg and Sr. Megan were taken out of the courtroom in chains our gathered community sang: “Rejoice in the Lord Always.”

With gratitude, Art

Published in: on February 21, 2014 at 9:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

January 28th Pentagon Solidarity Vigil For Transform Now Plowshares Sentencing–Sentencing Postponed Until February 18th

 Dear Friends,

Eleven supporters of the Transform Now Plowshares (TNP) braved chilling temperatures (under 10 degrees) during a Pentagon vigil earlier this morning from 7:00-9:00 a.m. to be in prayerful solidarity with Mike Walli, Sr. Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed of the TNP who are being sentenced today in Knoxville, Tennessee. During the vigil, which was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker (DDCW), signs were held thanking the TNP for their action and calling for a world without nuclear weapons and war, where all swords are hammered into plowshares and where we practice love for enemies. Also a sign previously made by Mike Walli, a member of the DDCW, stating that nuclear weapons are immoral, illegal and unpatriotic, was prominently displayed. The vigil also included a reading of the TNP action statement  several times, the TNP war crimes indictment of the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex and U.S. government, a reflection by me (see below), and an of offering scripture readings, songs and a closing prayer. Ultimately, we were able to witness to hundreds of military and civilian workers as well as many others walking to the bus or metro and inform them about the TNP action and sentencing.

We give thanks for the prophetic witness of Mike, Sr. Megan and Greg who by their actions at Y-12, in court and in jail, remind us all of our responsibility to nonviolently resist government nuclear war preparations and to work for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

Pete Seeger–legendary folk singer who died yesterday at age 94—Presente! Thank you for the song of your life!

With gratitude,  Art

Reflection by Art Laffin at Pentagon Solidarity Vigil for Transform Now Plowshares

We thank God for the miracle of this day, for the miracle of life and for the precious gift of community. Mindful of the long tradition of faith and nonviolent resistance that we are part of, we call into our presence today the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and who are now advocating for us. We thank God for their spirit present among us. We also pray in repentance for the nuclear sin and remember all victims–past and present–of the Nuclear Age and of our warmaking empire.
Mike Walli (member of the DDCW), Sr. Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed have been jailed since their jury trial conviction last May and face a maximum 30 year prison sentence for their Transform Now Plowshares action at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on July 28, 2012.  They are being sentenced this morning in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Numerous people have written to trial Judge Amul Thapar appealing for leniency in stark contrast to the U.S. District Attorney who, in filing its response to defense motions for downward departures in the sentencing guidelines, requested Judge Thapar to sentence the three within the sentencing guidelines, ignoring the nonviolence nature of their action, disposing of them, instead, as though they were armed terrorist saboteurs.
Let’s be clear: Sister Megan, Greg, and Michael have committed no crime. Rather they acted to prevent a crime. They should be commended for their action not condemned.
In a letter I wrote to Judge Thapar on January 15 (Dr. King’s Birthday) concerning their upcoming sentencing I stated the following:
“I have known these three people for many years. All three have committed their exemplary lives to following the nonviolent example of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dorothy Day. They have done extraordinary work helping the poor in the respective communities where they live. They are people of honesty, humility and integrity who have selflessly worked for the common good. The action they took at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex should be viewed in this light. Their action was not to call attention to themselves but rather to expose an imminent threat which endangers human survival and to demonstrate the urgent need to eradicate this colossal threat.
In Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, The Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser, (selected as one of the New York Times “most notable books “of 2013), Schlosser asserts that nuclear weapons “are a collective death wish, barley suppressed. Every one of them is an accident waiting to happen, a potential act of mass murder. They are out there, waiting, soulless and mechanical, sustained by our denial—and they work.” Comprehending the magnitude of this perilous nuclear reality, Sr. Megan, Gregory and Michael engaged in a conscientious action to say Yes to the God of life and love and No to this collective death wish which nuclear weapons undeniably represent. While the three have been found guilty of several serious crimes, their intention was not to commit a crime but rather to uphold God’s law and those international laws and treaties which prohibit the use and threatened use of weapons of mass murder.
It is tragic and alarming that the government has characterized the actions and crimes for which the three have been convicted as “violent” and “terrorism.” Nothing could be further from the truth! It is a matter of public record that there was no evidence of intent on the part of Sr. Megan, Gregory and Michael to harm anyone. I share the strong concern that you, Judge Thapar, raised during the trial that Congress would pass a law which does not allow you to distinguish between acts carried out by peace activists and those carried out by terrorists. These three people are courageous peacemakers who, by their prophetic actions, remind all of us of the moral responsibility we each have to beat all the swords of our time into plowshares and to abolish war.

As you, judge Thapar, prepare to sentence Sr. Megan, Gregory and Michael, please know I and many others will be praying for you. I pray that you will use your judicial discretion and grant a downward departure from the high sentencing guidelines for the charges they were convicted, including even a sentence of time served.”

So let’s pray today for the Judge Thapar and for the U.S. District Attorney, that they listen to their conscience and be open to the truth, and not be blinded and feel trapped by law’s and sentencing guidelines. And let us pray for the defendants and all who are attending the sentencing today. We ask God’s blessing on our three friends to be sentenced as they continue to witness in court to the same spirit of truth and love that compelled to act at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex.

The Transform Now Plowshares action stands as a timeless testimony to making God’s dream for the human family a reality: a world where people love one another–a world without exploitation, violence, weapons and war. As we witness at the Pentagon, the center of warmaking on our planet,  we invite all Pentagon personnel, weapons manufacturer’s, politicians, all who comprise nuclear national security state, and all people everywhere to transform their minds and hearts and heed the prophetic call to beat all the swords of our time into plowshares and to abolish war!

Published in: on February 15, 2014 at 9:03 pm  Comments (1)  


JANUARY 28, 2014
I am honored to be character witness for Michael Walli. For most of the last 20 years, Michael and I have been community members and friends at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington DC, one of the hundreds of Catholic worker communities throughout the world. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin founded the movement 80 years ago seeking to build up the kingdom of God and the teachings of Jesus, the nonviolent son of God and transform our violence ravaged creation into a home for all dwelling in peace and justice.
Our work may be described as having two thrusts: 1) the works of mercy and 2) the work to oppose and abolish all violence. At the house in DC, we daily join others for prayer, we offer hospitality to five mothers and their children in need of a home, we beg for food, share it with our neighbors and prepare a feast to serve to some of the many homeless people in DC. We uphold the consistent life ethic declaring the sacredness of all life – opposing war, abortion, and the death penalty.  Each Monday, we vigil at the Pentagon in repentance for the crime of war, encouraging brothers and sisters in the military to put down their guns and refuse to kill, and encouraging others to refuse to pay taxes for war.  On Fridays we vigil at the White House with the same message and once a month we go to the CIA to protest drones.  This is truly the life and work of Michael Walli.
Michael Walli, the beloved member of Dorothy Day house and servant of God is a man of deep faith in the God of love, and each morning he and I join the Assisi Community nearby for reflection on the word of God.
The following is a testament from that community about Michael…
To whom it may concern:

We are honored to attest to the character of defendant Michael Walli, who will be sentenced soon for his participation in a nonviolent witness against nuclear weapons at Oak Ridge, Tennessee on July 28, 2012.

Early each morning, for many years, Michael Walli has joined our small community in Washington DC for 30 minutes of prayer to begin the day. In that time together on a regular basis we have come to know him very well.
His way of life and witness in our neighborhood, our city, and beyond is an unwavering example of active nonviolence. He is a gentle, kind, and generous person regularly helping other people in a myriad of thoughtful ways.   He is well known in our neighborhood and very much appreciated for picking up litter and for the beautiful garden he attends so faithfully. He is always willing to help others and is particularly good to people who have special needs.
Michael is a man of deep faith and a role model for many people. His way of life is completely consistent with his belief in the Gospel. He is a living example of the peace and nonviolence that he so ardently hopes will flourish in the world and a person of impeccable character.

Marie Dennis
Assisi Community
Washington, DC

Michael is also the 2013 recipient of the Peacemaker of the Year award from the Roman Catholic Peace Group Pax Christi Metro DC – Baltimore who write about Michael “with profound admiration and gratitude for his decades of peacemaking and service to others and the Gospel.”
One of the women who live at DDH is from Ethiopia and is learning English. Recently she asked the meaning of the word generosity and my immediate answer was Michael Walli. With a smile of understanding and in her broken English she described Michael’s tireless service to our large family and even mentioning how so many and our neighborhood ask and receive Michael’s assistance daily.
For example, during the recent snowstorm I looked outside to see a neighbor shoveling our stairs and sidewalk. When I went outside to thank him, Lewis reported that he couldn’t help thinking of all the times Michael had shoveled for him and knowing that Michael is in jail wanted to repay the favor. Michael truly fits the description Catholic Worker. He is serious about both his faith and work.  Everything Michael does is consistent with the teaching of Jesus and the church.
Michael reminds us that Jesus commanded us to love everyone, to put down our swords, our weapons, warning us that those who live by the sword will die by the sword and to say yes to life and no to death dealing.
Michael knows that Dorothy Day condemned the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in September 1945, and about nuclear weapons she said “If we wouldn’t put people and gas chambers why would we fling them on people?” She called nuclear weapons gas chambers without walls.
Michael knows that Dr. Martin Luther King condemned nuclear weapons in 1959 and later warned us that our choice today is between nonviolence and nonexistence, or, said another way; our choice is between nonviolent co-existence or violent co-annihilation.
Michael knows that in 1965 the Roman Catholic Bishops during the second Vatican Council condemned nuclear weapons saying “any act of war aimed indiscriminately at entire cities and their population is a crime against God and merits unequivocal condemnation”.
Michael knows that Pope Paul VI called the US bombing of Hiroshima “a butchery of untold magnitude”.
Elie Wiesel, the only member of his family to survive the Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers wrote the book Night partly to honor the dead but also to warn the living that it could happen again. Moshe the Beadle, a character in the book, reminds me of Michael Walli. Like Michael, Moshe loved and served God and the community, especially the poor. As the story goes, one day Moshe, a foreign Jew is expelled from Hungary into Poland and becomes a witness to the slaughter of the other Jewish deportees by the Gestapo. Miraculously surviving, Moshe returned to the town in Hungary and went from one Jewish house to another telling people what he had seen, begging people to listen to his warning so they could prepare themselves while there was still time. But the people didn’t listen and even declared that Moshe had gone mad.
Because they didn’t listen, the Jews were rounded up, shipped to concentration camps, and most were turned to ashes in the ovens of the Nazis.  Today, all of us in this court room hope that we would have listened to Moshe’s warning and if we were not ourselves targets of the Nazis extermination plan, we hope that we would have cut the fences surrounding the concentration camps and freed the terrified prisoners. I am certain that our Moshe, Michael Walli and his friends, would be the ones to cut through the fences to free us if we were the prisoners at Auschwitz. Gas chambers and ovens have become nuclear weapons, and those gas chambers without walls are being readied for use at Y12. The whole world has been turned into a concentration camp. Humanity is trapped by these omnicidal weapons and incineration is our fate unless we transform. Michael Walli is trying to save our lives. Your life, Judge Thapar. Your life, Mr. Theodore. And all our lives.
Please listen to him. Let’s not make the mistake of not listening to him.
Published in: on February 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment