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!