Plowshares Go to Prison
The 7 Plowshares activists who were found guilty of damage at Kings Bay, (Georgia USA) nuclear base back in 2018 are being sentenced, Liz Mc Alister was first. Fr. Steve Kelly second.
Plowshares activist Fr Steve Kelly was sentenced today to 32 months in prison for his part in the protest action in Kings Bay Nuclear submarine base, Georgia in USA, on 4-5 April 2018.
He is the second defendant to be sentenced - already Liz McAlister had received a 3 year sentence for her part in the same action: declaring Trident weapons a crime.
Neither Steve nor Liz will be too perturbed by the ridiculously long sentences as they both have been in prison awaiting trial In effect Liz was sentenced to "time served" - to be followed by "supervision"! (she is 80 years of age); Steve(59) may have to serve 3 months and will probably refuse supervision.
Liz's daughter, Frida Berrigan, made a statement of love and support at the sentencing of her mother. It is not just a beautiful, heart-rending tribute from a daughter, it is also a brilliant defence of non-violent action and a powerful indictment of the system of oppression and inequity which her mother Elizabeth fought against non-violently throughout her life. Everything is there: George Floyd's murder, jogger Ahmaud Armery's murder, Martin Luther King's inspirational targetting of racism-militarism-materialism, the $720+ billion spend on the military during a pandemic, poverty, the brokenness of every fiber of the social safety net: because her Mom has wed her anti-racist philosophy with her anti-nuclear analysis.
For her, "Black Lives Matter" and "Trident is a Crime" may be one and the same.
Steve Kelly, a priest coming from the same faith base as Liz, had a character witness, Dennis Apel, who made a similarly resounding statement to the court.
"I am no stranger to the typical U.S. courtroom where the 'law' is treated as God while justice takes a back seat" he said "where even the most fundamental morals are ignored for the sake of upholding the system designed to maintain idolatry to the Pentagon; where witnesses are sworn in with the admonition 'to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God' and then [are] essentially gagged in front of a jury of their peers through motions In Limine, denied the ability to speak the truth about why they did what they did, the horrors they are confronting and the spirituality behind their actions. ... In what kind of system could a person with the spirituality, conviction and love of Godís children that Fr. Steve Kelly has, be dismissed as a criminal and left to languish for two and a half years in a county jail, while his basic message is expunged in the courtroom; the message that the most horrific and abominable weapons designed by human technology... are allowed to exist and proliferate.
"Fr. Steve Kelly is a man of deep faith who speaks truth to power and accepts the consequences. That is his character. Any other assessment of his character is false. I know this because I have known Steve for decades. He has spent more than 10 years of his life behind bars, giving up the warm embrace and camaraderie of loved ones as well as the comforts of a truly-accessible easy life, to instead speak the truth that God sees nuclear weapons as an abomination. I defy anyone in this courtroom to make a case for a God who embraces weapons of indiscriminate destruction and human misery. Itís not complicated. We who accept nuclear weapons are wrong, wrong, wrong. Fr. Steve just says that with his life and body. That is his character. He has taken up his cross to follow Jesus, pure and simple. We dismiss that fact at our own peril. ..."
All of this seems a long distance from the days when Cardinal Spellman visited the US troops in Vietnam in December 1966 and told them that what America expected was total victory.
Or maybe not. Pope Paul VI rebuked Spellman for his warmongering. Also the same Cardinal Spellman condemned the Berrigan brothers, Philip and Dan for their anti-war activity,
And just by coincidence, Liz McAlister is Philip Berrigan's wife and Frida Berrigan is their daughter
Five more Kings Bay Plowshare defendants await sentencing.
Meanwhile Colm Roddy and Dave Donnellan are pleading Not Guilty to criminal damage in Shannon airport (4 years ago) in a jury trial in Dublin Circuit Court at Constitution Hill court house. The trial continues next week.