News Release

Barr Prosecuting Pacifists: Activists Face Prison for Action at Huge Nuclear Weapons Base

On April 4, 2018, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, seven activists — following the Biblical edict to “beat swords into plowshares” — used bolt cutters to enter one of the largest nuclear weapons bases in the world at the Kings Bay Trident submarine base in Georgia.

On Monday, the first of the defendants, Elizabeth McAlister, a long time peace activist who founded Jonah House in Baltimore with her late husband Phil Berrigan, is scheduled to be sentenced. For public access to audio of this hearing, dial 1-888-684-8852, enter the call access code 2296092 and enter the security code 1234.

The support group for the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 states that the Catholic Worker activists, after entering the nuclear weapons facility “then split into three groups and prayed, prayerfully and symbolically poured blood, spray-painted messages of disarming nuclear weapons and to love one another. They hammered on parts of a shrine to nuclear missiles, hung banners quoting Dr. King, ‘the ultimate logic of racism is genocide’ and another naming the ominicidal logic of Trident. The seven waited to be arrested.”

A year ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Prize winners wrote to Attorney General William Barr asking the charges against the activists be dropped. Instead, at their trial in October, the prosecution and judge prevented the activists from mounting a series of defenses, including presenting a justification or necessity defense with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg testifying on their behalf — or invoking international law. The prosecution and judge even effectively kept the reality of the nuclear weapons at the base from the jury. The activists were convicted on October 24.

The group states that the defendants “asked for home confinement during this time of COVID-19, as entering prison could be a death sentence. Their request was denied by the prosecution. Elizabeth McAlister, at 80 years old, the eldest of the KBP7 defendants, was notified that her court date was changed from May 28 to June 8. She is to be sentenced by video while she stays at her home in Connecticut. McAlister will probably not face additional prison time because she served over 17 months before trial.

“Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker Movement, was granted an adjournment and given a new date on June 29, 3:30 p.m. in Brunswick, Georgia.

“Patrick O’Neill, Clare Grady, Mark Colville, Carmen Trotta, and Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J. (who has been detained in jails in Camden County and Glynn County for more than 25 months) also asked for an adjournment and were given June 29 and 30 as their new dates to appear with no times specified yet. They were not told whether they’ll be allowed to be sentenced in person in open court or whether they’ll have to travel to Brunswick to be sentenced remotely by video once they get there. …

“As they wait for sentencing, each of the defendants and their families continue to serve as their communities’ human needs grow exponentially during this COVID-19 pandemic. The defendants call for the release of people in prisons, in federal and state prisons, county and city jails, especially the elderly, the infirm and all non-violent offenders.”

Interviews are available with:

MARK COLVILLE, markcolville9761 at gmail.com
One of the seven Plowshares activists, Colville is co-founder of the Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven with his wife Luz Catarineau. In late December, the New Haven Register wrote: “For their sustained, compassionate approach to building and supporting their community and for their lived opposition to war and violence, the Colvilles are the New Haven Register’s Persons of the Year.”

More information and interviews with other Plowshares activists are available via the group’s extensive website and via the media team:

Bill Ofenloch, billcpf at aol.com, @kingsbayplow7
Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08 at gmail.com