News Release

Facing Decades in Prison, Activists of Conscience Confront “Culture of Death”

America, the magazine of the Jesuits in the United States, just published the piece: “The Plowshares Activists are on Trial for Anti-Nuclear Protest. Theologians say the Gospel’s on Their Side.”

In a joint statement, the Plowshares activists, who take their name from the Biblical admonition to turn swords into plowshares — Martha Hennessy (from Vermont, granddaughter of Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day), Elizabeth McAlister (form Baltimore, widow of Philip Berrigan), Clare Grady (from New York State), Patrick O’Neill (from North Carolina), Carmen Trotta (from NYC), Mark Colville (from Connecticut) and Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J. (who is still in jail), all Catholic Workers — said, “Nuclear weapons eviscerate the rule of law, enforce white supremacy, perpetuate endless war…and ensure impunity for all manner of crimes against humanity.”

Their trial is scheduled to begin Monday. Activists from around the country are converging on Brunswick, Georgia for the trial as well as vigils at the Trident nuclear submarine base in Kings Bay, Georgia where the the Plowshares activists were arrested following an April 4, 2018 action to nonviolently disarm nuclear weapons.

The New Haven Independent just interviewed Mark Colville: “Jailed Activist Targets ‘Culture Of Death.’

Co-founder with his wife, Luz Catarineau, of the Amistad Catholic Worker House, Colville is “a graduate of Manhattan College with a major in religion and peace studies, a married man and father, one of whose children is getting married in November. Colville spoke, with quiet earnestness, about a life of voluntary poverty and devotion. He spoke of being witness to the profound ways nuclear weapons help create what he terms ‘a culture of death,’ and all the destructive social byproducts that flow from that.”

Said Colville: “Nuclear weapons have been called the taproot in our civilization. They contribute to the cheapening of life and inform the other forms of violence. [What is new is that] a deep connection is coming to the surface, between climate change and nuclear weapons. What’s of particular interest to me in this [the Kings Bay action] is that the willingness to use nuclear weapons is of a piece with a general willingness to rape the earth by digging for oil when we know we’re killing ourselves in the process. … When we talk about school shootings, we don’t talk about the cheapening of life that permits this.”

When asked: And the defense will be what?

Colville responded: “Three arguments:

“International law at the World Court has found nuclear weapons to be illegal.

“Necessity, where you break a law to prevent a far greater harm.

“Closest to my heart is that the nuclear policy of this country has become a religion, in that it has the ultimate say over life and death. [As someone said:] Holding a gun to the head of the earth. The court has acknowledged the religious nature of our action, yet they seem not to allow us to say so to a jury, and instead are trying to treat us like common criminal trespassers, and that’s a contradiction.”

See statement by Daniel Ellsberg regarding the necessity defense.

See first (July 2018) and second (November 2018, after the Trump administration withdrew from the INF Treaty) declarations in the Plowshares case by Francis Boyle regarding the illegality of nuclear weapons, as well as his piece: “The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence.”

Also, see 1996 opinion “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons” form the International Court of Justice. The then-president of the Court, Mohammed Bedjaoui of Algeria, stated at the time: “Nuclear weapons, the ultimate evil, destabilize humanitarian law, which is the law of the lesser evil. The existence of nuclear weapons is therefore a challenge to the very existence of humanitarian law.” (Reuters in New York Times, July 9, 1996: “World Court Condemns Use of Nuclear Weapons.”)

For material on the Plowshares activists and their coming trial — including video interviews with them, information on events this weekend, including a vigil at the Trident nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay and a “Festival of Hope,” see: KingsBayPlowshares7.org and @kingsbayplow7.

For interviews with the Plowshares activists and other information, contact:
Ellen Barfield, [now in Georgia] ellene4pj at yahoo.com
Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08 at gmail.com
Bill Ofenloch, billcpf at aol.com