Three peace activists will face sentencing in a federal court today including an 84 year-old nun. They will find out if they will spend the next nine years in a federal prison for trespassing on the grounds of a nuclear power plant in July of 2012. Two other catholic members join the nun in today’s sentencing.
The protesters had to cut through three chain link fences to get to the bunker that houses the nation’s main supply of bomb-grade uranium. The protesters then painted the walls blood-red and wrote messages on the side of the bunker. One message read, “The fruit of justice is peace.” Even though the protesters had set off several alarms they managed to continue for at least two hours before security arrived on the scene.
When the security guards did arrive, they saw the protesters hanging banners and singing hymns. When approached by security they offered to “break bread” with them and even offered them bibles and candles to join the protest. Security then took the protesters in to custody to hand them over to local authorities. Those arrested where Megan Rice, a catholic nun, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli.
All three peace activists face sentencing from a federal judge this afternoon for trespassing and vandalism on government property. However, how is it three catholic peace protesters were allowed to spend over two hours at the “Fort Knox of uranium” without being caught?
Officials claim that there was never any danger since the material in the bunker is so heavily protected that the protesters never had a chance of reaching it. Even so, this still raises very serious questions over the security of the site; the head of the Department of Energy wrote a harsh report of the security failures of the facility and later fired the contractor responsible for security of the site.
However, there are some government officials that are praising the activists for exposing the security’s weakness of the location. Albeit, federal prosecutors plan to show no leniency to the three today in court, they plan to seek the maximum penalty of nine years. Attorneys for the three protesters said Rice, Walli and Boetje-Obed did this to bring national attention to America’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, something they view as illegal under international law.
On May 8, 2013 all three protesters went to trial for the first time. In court Rice stated how stunned she was that it was so easy for them to gain entry to the secure zone. She also stated that it surprised her that they had to shut the whole plant down over it. On that day in court they were found guilty of sabotage, trespassing and damaging federal property. The federal government has recommended nine-year sentences for all three.
The sentencing hearing for the three peace activists turned protesters began three weeks ago and hundreds of supporters gathered both inside and outside the court-house. Those who were not inside watched the hearing on a live video feed. Friends of the three activists testified to their good nature and how the three have dedicated their lives to helping the poor and pursuing peace all over the world. That hearing was eventually shut down due to snow, however, not before the district judge imposed a $53,000 fine on all three. That hearing is expected to conclude today.
By Adam Stier