Six LANL protestors unite spiritual purpose with political action
When they learned that Occupy members were going to participate in the Hiroshima Day protests at Ashley Pond last summer, some Los Alamos residents were reportedly so apprehensive that they feared for the safety of the ducks, and urged their removal during the event.
An activist posted a sign at the Pond: “Hell No We Won’t Go.”
The National Laboratory at Los Alamos was also anticipating crowds of unruly demonstrators. On the morning of the protests, 30 security forces (SOC teams: “Securing Our Country“) assigned to the task were sequestered at the parking garage on the campus of the laboratory in full riot gear.
During the rush hour of August 6, 2012, a group of some 30 demonstrators arrived at the gates of the Lab and stood peacefully in the crosswalk of the main road to the entrance, carrying signs. When city police directed them to disperse, all but six remained in the road. After the third order to disperse was given, members of the “SOC” team arrived on the scene to assist with arrests.
Now known as the LANL6, the protestors – one young man and five grey-haired women – were tried in the municipal court of Judge Alan Kirk on January 9, 2013 before a packed courtroom. They all stated firmly that their reasons for standing their ground in front of the Lab were spiritual and moral, that they did not wish to be arrested, and that their action was not a crime in comparison with the real crime they protested: the continued production of nuclear weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Pamela Gilchrist, 73, a retired minister of the United Church of Christ, said she believed there was a “higher law” to which she answered.
“I was there so I could make the statement that we should take the resources we consume to manufacture nuclear weapons and use them to address the most critical problem we face, and that is climate change,” she said.
Others referred to human laws that our government has broken, most critically the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Article 6, signed 20 years ago by the United States among 105 other nations, vowing to progressively eliminate all nuclear weapons. Although the U.S. has reduced the arsenal, the proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) facility is intended to create the capacity to assemble more bombs on short notice.
Other treaties have been broken. The Lab is situated on sacred lands belonging to the local Pueblos; although the federal government signed treaties promising to return these lands after the war, those treaties were never honored.
All international treaties become part of the body of laws that rule the United States, according to the Constitution.
Dr. Catherine Euler, former professor of history and women’s studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson, stated that, “radiation is a form of violence against women and children” because their bodies are more sensitive to it; she referred to scientific studies that confirm the effects of low-level radiation on the human genome. She referred to documents she had read at the LANL Library about the testing of animals trapped in cages close to atomic explosions, which were later incinerated so that their ashes could be examined. “They knew in the 1950s,” she said.
“Your children are at risk from radiation,” she said. “I wanted the security officers to know that. Fathers’ exposure can be critical for the later development of cancers in offspring. There’s an immediate threat to the people of Los Alamos, especially workers who go there every day.” She referred to recent studies in Germany and France confirming the health effects of alpha-emitters when internalized in the body, where they continue to bombard neighboring cells.
Janet Greenwald, who lived for many years in Dixon, “directly downwind from the Lab,” wept when she spoke of information she had seen show in birth defects found in children from Espanola. After the Cerro Grande fire of 2003, she said, local people tested their organic crops and found cesium in broccoli, cobalt in plums, and a high degree of cesium in the Embudo water supply.
All six protestors said they were not there to be arrested, that they did not intend to stop traffic, they just wanted to get their message across. They did not believe that the crosswalk of the road was private property.
“Our nation is on a bad track,” noted Cathie Sullivan, one of the six. “I want to resist the militarization of our country.”
The Judge found all six guilty of failure to obey a police officer and obstructing traffic, and fined them each $342, a much lower fine than had been anticipated; they were not found guilty of trespassing.
The six said that they did not wish to pay the fine and might refuse in favor of serving time in jail.
In these disjointed times, when most public officials fail to support the beliefs to which they give lip service, the deep commitment and moral integrity of the LANL6 is a beacon illuminating a different path into the future, where commitment to the common good over-rides personal gain and comfort.
Their courage is an inspiration.
For more info see Support the LANL 6:
Also see: La Jicarita article on LANL6