News Release

84-Year-Old Nun Among Activists Sentenced While “Real Crime” of Nuclear Arms Ramps Up


The Washington Post reports: “Three peace activists who intruded onto a nuclear weapons site in July 2012 were sentenced Tuesday to 35 months or 62 months in prison by a federal judge, three weeks after he ordered them to pay $53,000 in restitution for damaging the site’s security systems and defacing a storage facility that contains the United States’s stockpile of weapons-grade uranium.

“‘If all that energy and passion was devoted to changing the laws, perhaps real change would’ve occurred by today,’ said U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar, after praising the three for their consciences and good works. The judge, who imposed sentences that were lower than what the government requested, said that perhaps the threat of significant jail time ‘will lead people back to the political process I fear they’ve given up on.’

“Catholic nun Megan Rice, 84, received a sentence of two years and 11 months. Vietnam veteran and self-described Catholic layman Michael Walli, 65, of Washington, D.C., and house painter Gregory Boertje-Obed, 58, of Duluth, Minn., each received five years and two months. Each prison sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release. They have all reserved the right to appeal their sentences.

“The activists have each served 8 1/2 months in prison while awaiting sentencing. Walli and Boertje-Obed have served prison time for similar crimes that they characterize as symbolic disarmament actions and civil resistance against a far greater crime: the maintenance of a stockpile of immoral and costly weapons that violate international law.

“The three activists, who call themselves ‘Transform Now Plowshares,’ were convicted in May of intending to harm national security and damaging more than $1,000 in government property at the Y-12 National Security Complex, a nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn., 30 minutes west of Knoxville.” See the Washington Post‘s video interview of Sister Rice.

PAUL MAGNO, pmagno at
ELLEN BARFIELD, ellene4pj at
Magno, Hutchison and Barfield are fellow activists from the Transform Now Plowshares Support Group and have been in regular contact with the jailed activists. Magno is himself a past Plowshares activist and spent 20 months in prison following an action in 1984. He said in a statement today: “Judge Thapar has tried to strike a compromise that reflects the nature of this nonviolent action but satisfies the government’s demand that Megan, Michael and Greg’s sentence send a deterrent message to the wider community. For now, their bodies remain in prison. But their voices are free, reminding us that the central issue of this action and trial have not been resolved — as long as the government continues to produce thermonuclear weapons of mass destruction in Oak Ridge or anywhere, people are required to resist.”

Barfield, a veteran who has been jailed for protesting U.S. military policy, said: “The U.S., as well as other nations, agreed to as of the 1970s to disarm,” referencing the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. And not only are they not taking weapons apart, they “are now turning around and creating new, more efficient ones,” Barfield said. see: “Anti-Nuke Activists Get Years Behind Bars While ‘Real Crime’ Continues.”