Fifteen anti-nuke protestors tried for 2019 trespass on the Kansas City Plant
On 2019-05-27, Memorial Day in the US, 17 people crossed a property line at the Kansas City, Missouri, National Security Campus, which makes about 85 percent of the non-nuclear parts for US nuclear weapons. They were arrested and charged with trespassing. Fifteen of the 17 were tried November 1 in Municipal Court of Kansas City, Missouri.
- This article began as is an unofficial transcript of most of that trial based on notes by Jane Stoever with additions from others. The Municipal Court of Kansas City, Missouri, is not a court of record, and no official transcript is available.
- It is on Wikiversity to invite comments about the issues raised in notes or additional section(s) at the end of this article or on the associated “Discuss” page. All additions not written from a neutral point of view citing credible sources may be reverted.
The defendants tried November 1 came from the Kansas City area. The other two of the 17 arrested 2019-05-27 were from Europe and did not return for this trial. Questions came from Prosecuting Attorney Brianna Zavadil (BZ) or Defense Attorney Henry Stoever (HS) or Judge Martina Peterson (JMP).
Approximate Transcript edit
Opening statement by Prosecuting Attorney Brianna Zavadil (BZ) edit
BZ: The prosecution will establish that on May 27, 2019, the defendants did knowingly trespass on private property located at 14510 Botts Rd., the National Nuclear Security Campus administered by Honeywell, and refused to leave when given verbal orders to do so. This constitutes a violation of Kansas City, Missouri ordinance 71305070.
The prosecution first calls Alex Williams.
Prosecution witness Alex Williams (AW) edit
BZ: Mr. Williams, please state your name and your affiliation with the National Nuclear Security Campus (NSC).
AW: I'm Alex Williams, I'm a police Lieutenant with the "protective force unit" at Botts Rd. I'm an employee of Honeywell, which administers the NSC for the US government. I report to Bill Birkner.
BZ: And did you witness trespassing on NSC property on May 27th of this year?
AW: I did by 17 individuals, 15 of whom are the defendants I see in this room at this moment.
BZ: And is that property visibly posted “No Trespassing”?
AW: It is.
HS: To confirm, the accompanying photo shows you with two other officers and demonstrators at 14510 Botts Road?
AW: Uh, yes.
BZ: The prosecution now calls Kansas City Police Sergeant Lloyd Hope.
Prosecution witness Lloyd Hope (LH) edit
BZ: Please state your name and your position with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department (KCPD).
LH: My name is Officer Lloyd Hope. I've been an officer with the KCPD and a Sergeant there for the last 20 years.
BZ: And did you witness trespassing on NSC property on May 27th of this year?
LH: I did by the 15 defendants in court here now. My officers and I handcuffed and issued citations to each of these defendants for trespassing.
HS: The defense stipulates that the 15 defendants here now were present at the National Security Campus on that date and did cross the line onto NSC property, as stated by Mr. Hope. I have no questions of this witness.
BZ: The prosecution now calls Leslie Cornell (sp), also a police officer with 30 years with KCPD.
Prosecution witness Leslie Cornell (LC) edit
BZ: Please state your name and your position with the KCPD.
LC: I'm Leslie Cornell. I've been a police officer with the KCPD for 30 years.
BZ: And did you witness trespassing on NSC property on May 27th of this year?
LH: I did by the 15 defendants in court here now. I was one of several KCPD officers who with Sergeant Lloyd Hope, who saw the defendants trespassing on NSC property, issued verbal warnings that they were violating the law, and gave them an opportunity to leave. When they refused to do so, we handcuffed them and issued them each a citation for trespassing.
HS: No questions, your honor.
BZ: The prosecution rests, your honor.
Opening statement by defense attorney Henry Stoever (HS) edit
It would be a grave injustice to merely treat this as a simple trespass case. It would be false and misleading to ignore the context in which the defendants acted.
Underpinning our laws, our Constitution, our court system, and procedure is the demand for justice. A new nation was founded with justice and liberty for all.
Our oath as an attorney, as a judge, as a prosecutor, calls us to do justice in our work.
Saint Augustine said in effect: “What are kingdoms/governments without justice? They are just gangs of bandits.” The great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and other philosophers.
Gerard Manley Hopkins states in effect: The just person justices, keeps grace, acts in God’s eye.”
The defendants will state that nuclear weapons and their parts trespass every moment onto our lives, our future. Nuclear weapons are instruments of fear, which steal from all humans, especially those with great needs, for the weapons and the parts are weapons of mass destruction. These WMDs do not provide security, but they fuel the arms race. It is a death spiral, and defendants’ conduct was not unlawful, given the circumstances, their defenses, and their claims of right.
What are we going to do about this? Defendants demand justice, with courage, faith, with the fact that we are on the eve of destruction. Defendants acted in the spirit of the law, and we must pay attention.
I now call defendant Jim Hannah.
Jim Hannah (JH), defendant edit
HS: Jim, can you tell the Court a little about yourself?
JH: I’m Jim Hannah. I was a full-time minister in the Community of Christ for 27 years, and now am an active volunteer.
HS: Does the Community of Christ have anything to say about peace?
JH: The logo of our church shows the lion and the lamb, with a little child, a biblical image. We’re a traditional peace church, very much focused on peace and justice. The “theme” of the Community of Christ is peace and justice, trying to work those out.
HS: You’ve invited to your church some famous speakers on peace and nonviolence, right?
JH: Yes, we’ve had Richard Rhodes speak, a pre-eminent authority on nuclear weapons, the author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, a Pulitzer Prize book. And we’ve had John Dear speak and will have him come again soon, a Jesuit priest and civil resister who has written 20 books on peace and nonviolence.
HS: How’d you participate in the events on Memorial Day?
JH: I’ve participated for 8 or 9 years in the annual witness for peace on Memorial Day.
HS: Did you speak at Highway 130 and Prospect?
JH: I was asked to lead the processional from Highway 130 and Prospect to the driveway entry into the National Security Campus, a walk of about 1 mile. I spoke at the beginning of the walk. I was carrying a sign that, on one side, showed the Earth floating in space, and on the other side, had an image of nuclear annihilation. We can make a change. We are trying to abolish war and its weapons and demonstrate that peace works, if we give peace a chance!
HS: At the entry to the National Security Campus, did you speak there?
JH: Yes. I explained I would cross the line by walking backwards, to show my opposition to the plant, to turn my back on nuclear weapons. I spoke about the death and destruction symbolized by the new plant. And in some ways, I wanted to represent Lu Mountenay, who could not be there—she planned to be there, but died recently.
HS: Can you explain what happened after you crossed the line?
JH: We were handcuffed with zip ties, not the regular handcuffs, and we each received a ticket. We make a point before our actions, agreeing that we will try to be nonviolent not only in deed but also in thought and word.
HS: What were some of your thoughts?
JH: I consider myself a nuclear abolitionist in the spirit of my Quaker ancestors, who were slavery abolitionists. My great-grandfather was a Quaker minister in the village of Salem, Iowa, sometimes referred to as “The Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad” for its active role in helping slaves escape to freedom. Part of my family lore is the night a runaway slave knocked on the door to ask my family to take in his infant daughter because he feared the baby could not survive the journey. My family raised the girl as their own in a time when that was considered illegal in the eyes of some. But they were on the right side of history, as I hope to be. I see nuclear weapons as not just homicide, genocide, and suicide, but in reality “omnicide”—killing everything. We have in the U.S. the equivalent of 80,000 Hiroshimas. The Great Trespass is what happens on the other side of the line, where the government employs thousands, squandering nearly a billion dollars a year on weapons of mass deception and destruction. When the new plant was being built, six or seven years ago, I went out there almost every Monday morning and held a sign, “Is It Good for the Grand-Kids?” It was important to me. I don’t want to slip into despair. Thinking about nuclear weapons can be overwhelming. So I take action. And some day, we in the human race are going to realize these weapons are immoral, illegal, and an unconscionable waste of resources that could enhance life rather than destroy it. Just this week, with a Quaker group, I visited Rep. Cleaver’s office, and for years I’ve taken pictures and written reflections to try to change this country’s views on nuclear weapons. We’ve got to eliminate these weapons before they eliminate us.
HS: Do you have anything further to say to the judge?
JH: I feel we are supposed to affirm life. These weapons are just the opposite. They affirm death.
HS: Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister asks this question: “The greatest war we are facing at the present time is the war within ourselves: Shall we destroy the planet or shall we defend it?” Jim, has a nuclear war already started?
JH: I’m 72. All my life has been lived under the cloud of nuclear weapons, so yes, I feel nuclear war has been waged all of my life. Remember “duck and cover” drills at school? I don’t want to live in the constant dread of nuclear annihilation, and even more so, I don’t want our grandchildren to live that way. There’s a line from Deuteronomy: “I set before you life and death. Choose life!” I am trying to choose life this day.
HS: These two videos are from the day and the time of the action, right?
HS: And your words at the action are the heart and soul of your life, right?
BZ: Objection! The video is cumulative, he already testified to it.
JMP: Objection overruled.
BZ: Did you see signs saying no trespassing?
JH: I didn’t.
BZ: Did you see the purple line?
BZ: Did you recognize it as the property line, and that you trespassed?
JH: I recognize that it breaks the law of Kansas City to cross it. At one time, slavery was the law, and my ancestors broke the law. I believe there’s a higher law concerning these destructive weapons. I’m willing to accept the consequence of crossing the line. I hope the outcome of our crossing the line will help reverse the hands of the nuclear Doomsday Clock, ticking away at two minutes to midnight—the closest it’s ever been. Concerning trespass, there’s a time to speak up, and there’s a time to act up!
BZ: No questions, your honor.
HS: The Defense next calls defendant Ann Suellentrop.
Ann Suellentrop (AS), defendant edit
HS: Ann, please tell us a little about yourself and your background as it pertains to peace and the May 27 action.
AS: I am a follower of the Catholic Worker and have been a student of nonviolence my entire adult life. I have had a keen, life-long interest in the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and social justice causes. I have been in a study group on Gospel nonviolence taught by Peg Burns for the past 5 years at Keeler Women’s Center and have come to believe deeply in God as non-violent Love, whom Jesus made visible.
I have been a pediatric nurse in Kansas City since 1975 and have a master’s degree in this area from KU Medical Center. I have worked at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission Medical Center with mothers and babies since 2001.
For the past 12 years, I have diligently studied all the elements of nuclear weapons. I have lobbied against them locally and in Washington, DC, teaching others about them and protesting them. I am a board member of PeaceWorks-Kansas City. I am also a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. I first became involved in opposing the construction of the new Kansas City nuclear weapons parts plant in 2008. I was part of a federal lawsuit against the new plant. I am a member of a national network of grassroots organizations near nuclear weapons production sites, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. I lobby in Washington, DC, every spring with ANA against nuclear weapons and for nuclear waste cleanup. During ANA’s fall meetings, I have visited nearly every major site of U.S. nuclear weapons production and nuclear waste storage. I have also participated in events surrounding the U.N.’s NPT meeting every 5 years (the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) in New York.
In 2018, I traveled to Germany to protest U.S. nuclear weapons stationed at Buchel Air Force Base through NATO. About 20 U.S. nuclear weapons are there. The German pilots would fly German Tornado jets and drop the nuclear bombs if ordered by President Trump. We broke into the base to protest those weapons.
HS: Are you involved with ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons?
HS: Thirty-three countries have ratified the ICAN treaty. Once 50 countries ratify it, it will become international law.
JMP: Accepted. But this discussion deals with things so far away. Bring it back closer to home (to the Kansas City area).
AS: I am involved with the ICAN movement. In July 2017, the non-nuclear nations of the world decided the NPT was not getting rid of nuclear weapons as it was supposed to, so 122 countries voted for ICAN, also known as the Ban Treaty. With 33 signatories at this point, we are 2/3 of the way there.
HS: Can you tell us anything about the old plant, the Kansas City Plant, at Bannister Federal Complex?
AS: There are 2,400 toxins at Bannister Federal Complex.
HS: Where did you get that information?
AS: From federal government sites online.
HS: Why, on May 27, did you go on the one-mile walk to the entry to the new plant?
AS: I have a passion for children and babies. This is a group particularly vulnerable to toxins.
HS: But why did you make that walk?
AS: I wanted to gum up the works. Many people don’t pay attention to our visits to Congress, our letters to editors. I must stand up for the world’s mothers, babies, and children.
HS: What did you do to get a measure on the city ballot a few years ago?
JMP: I allow it, but you should not speak to specifics of the ballot measure.
AS: I was part of the effort (which took four separate attempts) to gather 5,000 signatures to get a measure on the Kansas City ballot to limit the city’s funding of nuclear weapons produced here.
HS: On May 27, were your actions all nonviolent? Was there any scuffling?
AS: Absolutely not! We were all nonviolent. There was a friendly interchange with the police.
HS: Ann, has a nuclear war already started?
AS: Our country’s first nuclear reactor was made in Chicago; the waste from that continues to be deadly. Tests of nuclear weapons left behind a “background dose” of uranium; we are all suffering from it. As I was growing up, I was eating it, breathing it.
HS: Have you been to Hanford, Washington?
AS: Yes. That is the most toxic area in the United States. That is where nuclear waste is buried from the making of nuclear weapons, and the ground and water are contaminated.
HS: What about contamination in the Saint Louis area? Do you know about that?
AS: There is an underground fire in a regular dump and it’s approaching a nearby nuclear waste dump from the Mallinkrodt Company. It processed fuel for the first nuclear weapons, and the cancer rate is higher in the area of the nuclear waste dump than in the general population. Making nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity!
An enormous amount of money is wasted on nuclear weapons. There are 500 diseases we don’t know how to cure, and the funds now used for nuclear weapons could be used to find a cure for those diseases. Also, the other greatest threat to our survival is the climate crisis. There’s a new book on it, Warheads to Windmills, available at nuclearban.us. It says we could use the resources wasted on nuclear weapons to solve the climate crisis and create good, sustainable jobs.
HS: I have this quote from Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister: “The greatest war we are facing at the present time is the war within ourselves: Shall we destroy the planet or shall we defend it?”
AS: Focusing on the war within ourselves, I think the fundamental problem is fear. Where there’s fear, there’s no room for love. Where nuclear weapons are, there is fear. We cannot wrestle with this problem ourselves. We have to work together. Our actions are in defense of this planet.
HS: Let me come back to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the NPT. Are you familiar with it?
HS: The treaty is already accepted as Exhibit 13 for this trial.
(Note: The defense then played a video of some of Ann's comments on May 27.)
BZ: No questions, your honor.
HS: The Defense next calls defendant Louis Rodemann.
Christian Brother Louis Rodemann (LR) edit
(After Brother Louis was called to the witness stand and took his seat there, he offered the judge a small piece of paper.)
LR to JMP: I will soon be 80 years old. Please come to my birthday party! Here’s an invitation.
JMP, smiling, taking the piece of paper: I’m sorry. I can’t come—Certain functions I’m not allowed to attend.
(Supporters in courtroom chuckled at Louis’s overture.)
HS: Please, Brother Louis, share with the court who you are and why you are here.
LR: My name is Louis Rodemann. For over 60 years I have been a member of a religious community in the Catholic Church called Congregation of Christian Brothers. The particular charism, or trademark, of this group is working for the poor. We spend our lives for the poor. For most of my adult life I have worked for, advocated on behalf of, and lived with the poor. That’s the calling I’ve received. The poor number in the tens of thousands in the United States, in the hundreds of millions globally.
Since the United States dropped the first nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, scientists have used the symbol of the “nuclear clock.” Depending on how immanent a global crisis or tension becomes, we are told we are “X” minutes to midnight: someone somewhere launching the next nuclear bomb. One of the co-defendants said at the rally before this trial that the nuclear clock, the Doomsday Clock, is two minutes to midnight, as close to midnight as it’s ever been.
It is my proposition that in reality for multiple millions around the world, the clock has already struck midnight. Their poverty is degrading to such an extent that their lives are inhumane.
Consider all the components in the nuclear weapons proliferation: the trillions of dollars spent; the vast amounts of natural resources wasted; the energy, talent, and creativity drained from the human potential of the workforce employed; the hopes and dreams of the millions of poor that they and their children will someday be able to live a humanly dignified life slashed.
Now, even before nuclear weapons are used, they are devastating to the poor.
HS: Dwight D. Eisenhower had a phrase about the military-industrial complex.
LR: Yes, he said …
JMP: I’ll allow it to be read if that is a reason leading you to do what you did.
LR: I offer an excerpt from a reflection by Dwight D. Eisenhower after he had retired from war and politics:
- Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. … This is not a way of life in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
I propose that it is a grave matter of moral madness that we plan a future so ingrained in nuclear weapons.
Pope Francis is joined by religious leaders of all faiths all over the world in condemning the very existence of nuclear weapons.
Imagine what could be done to alleviate the social needs of the world if the equivalent amount of money were diverted away from nuclear weapons.
HS: The statute about protecting property uses the word “unlawful” concerning trespass. What do you think of the use of that word?
LR: It’s a technical issue. What I did was unlawful. But conscience takes precedence.
(Note: The court played the video of Louis’s talk May 27.)
BZ: No questions, your honor.
HS: The Defense next calls defendant Spencer Graves.
Spencer Graves (SG), defendant edit
HS: Spencer, please tell the court about your background and why you’re here today.
SG: I was raised on a farm in Cheyenne County, Kansas, 4 miles from Nebraska and 22 miles from Colorado. A cousin once said there were only two Democrats in that entire county. On the 28th of January in 1967, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to obey all lawful orders from duly appointed officers. The official oath did not include the word “lawful,” but I knew it had to be there. I served 6 years in the US Air Force during the Vietnam war. I am no longer on active duty, but I have never forsworn that oath. I am here today pursuant to that oath.
Henry earlier mentioned the US Army Field Manual, citing the Nuremberg principle that following a superior officer’s orders does not justify committing a war crime. Around 1965, when I was a Cadet in Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of Colorado, a Major told me the Principle of Nuremberg was NOT a valid principle under international law, because the Nuremberg trials were trials of the vanquished by the victors. I knew instantly that he was wrong, and subsequent history has provided examples, such as the convictions of Lieutenant Calley for the Massacre at My Lai in Vietnam and Sergeant England’s conviction over Abu Ghraib.
I'm licensed as a Professional Engineer in Missouri. I have a PhD in statistics. I'm a compulsive fact checker. I've studied the research literature in many different fields, including the long-term impact of alternative approaches to conflict. My research in this latter area led me to found EffectiveDefense.org.
HS: Spencer, were your beliefs affected by Ellsberg’s book?
SG: Yes! Ellsberg says he was a nuclear war planner for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he was advising US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on how to handle that crisis. He says the world is extremely lucky that that crisis did not end in a nuclear war. If it had, it would likely have lofted enough soot into the stratosphere to cause a nuclear winter lasting several years, during which 98 percent of humanity would starve to death if they did not die of something else sooner.
I understand that the single greatest threat to the national security of the United States is our own nuclear arsenal!
HS: At the National Security Campus on May 27, did you hear the warning not to cross the purple line?
HS: You crossed the line?
HS: The municipal statute against trespass uses the word “unlawful.” Can you comment on that?
SG: If you break into a house on fire and carry out somebody who would otherwise have died, you can’t be convicted of trespassing.
HS: Has a nuclear war already started?
SG: Well, Daniel Ellsberg's Doomsday Machine book identifies events in which every president since Harry Truman has overtly or covertly threatened the use of nuclear weapons, with the possible exception of Gerald Ford.
HS: Let me read this quote from Joan Chittister: “The greatest war we are facing at the present time is the war within ourselves: Shall we destroy the planet or shall we defend it?” Spencer, were part of your actions defense of the planet?
SG: Yes! I'm a statistician. I have several publications describing innovative methods for estimating the probability distributions of lifetimes, like the time to a nuclear war and the extinction of civilization. On August 1 of this year, I gave a talk at the Joint Statistical Meetings entitled “Time to nuclear Armageddon.” A narrative and a video of that talk are already in a Wikiversity article by that title and will be part of the published proceedings of that conference.
When I spoke May 27 during our rally, before crossing the line, I said I had estimated a 10 percent chance of a nuclear war in the next 40 years.
HS: The court can see Spencer speaking at the rally in this video (the video was shown).
HS: The Defense next calls defendant “Sunny” Jordan Hamrick.
“Sunny” Jordan Hamrick (SH), defendant edit
HS: Sunny, please tell the court your name and some background on you as to what led to your crossing the purple line at the National Security Campus on May 27.
SH: I’m Jordan Hamrick, and I go by the name of Sunny. I’m part of a Catholic-based community, Jerusalem Farm, on Garfield Avenue in Kansas City. We work in close cooperation with those who live in our neighborhood. We help them repair their homes, and we have a weekly supper for anyone who wishes to join us for that.
HS: What do you recall about your activities May 27 before crossing the purple line?
SH: During part of the rally, I sang “Eve of Destruction.” I spoke briefly before we crossed the line—I said I had a loaf of bread that my partner had made and hoped I would be able to share it with the guards.
HS: Do you recall the warning a guard for the National Security Campus gave the line-crossers?
SH: Officer Williams, in his warning, mentioned that the guards were there for protection. I interrupted him to ask who was being protected, what was being protected. In reality, he was there to protect the facility, not people, and the Kansas City police were there to do the same.
HS: Did the officers accept the bread?
SH: No, they didn’t let me bring the bread across the line to share. They were kind but did not want me to try to share the bread with them.
HS: How did you come to know about nuclear weapons?
SH: I learned a lot going to Washington, D.C., with Ann Suellentrop to attend sessions and lobbying with the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. We are far in excess, as a country, in regard to our nuclear arsenal.
HS: Is there a sense in which these weapons are illegal, because the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty says we will seek to eliminate nuclear weapons?
SH: Yes. And when the law becomes a line around a nuclear weapon facility, that law becomes illegal. It took people sitting in at lunch counters against illegal rules, doing sit-ins to bring justice. By crossing the property line May 27 and being here on trial today, we are part of decision-making today.
HS: Were your actions nonviolent May 27?
SH: We came tooled with tools of courage and of yeast in bread.
HS: I’d like to have the videos shown with Sunny on May 27 reading the poem “The Us” and singing “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.”
BZ: Objection! It isn’t necessary to show a poem.
BZ: Mr. Hamrick, do you agree the Honeywell site contains dangerous materials and needs to be guarded?
SH: (Instead of having guards keeping people like us off the premises) It would be best to get lots of people together to decide the best way to dismantle nuclear weapons.
BZ: No further questions, your honor.
HS: The Defense next calls defendant Jordan Schiele.
Jordan Schiele (JS), defendant edit
HS: Jordan, please give your name and some information about yourself leading up to your line-crossing May 27.
JS: In 2012, my wife, Jessie, and I started Jerusalem Farm on Garfield Ave. in Kansas City, Missouri. We have four cornerstones: prayer, community, service, and simplicity. In our neighborhood, many seniors, families, and others with low incomes live in substandard housing. We help them address their home repair needs.
HS: Do you do spiritual retreat work?
JS: Yes. We welcome about 300 people a year to come for about a week, join us in prayer, and help us do work in the community. We are all volunteers; we take no remuneration for our services. We have five children, three of whom we’re fostering. My children show up in the videos from our May 27 peace witness, and they took part in the die-in, where we read the names of some who have died from toxins at Bannister Federal Complex, where the nuclear weapons plant used to be, and we read their illnesses and their age at diagnosis, and then we laid on the ground in the die-in. A big motivating factor for me in deciding to cross the line was our kids, and setting an example.
(The "die-in" video was shown.)
HS: Did your faith play a role in your decision to do civil resistance at the nuclear weapons plant?
JS: I’m in formation to be a deacon in the Catholic Church. I try my best to “obey the governing authorities” as St. Paul urges in his letter to the Romans. I didn’t take it lightly to cross the line. It’s important to follow authority. But not all laws are created to uphold human dignity and justice. Today we carried a sign, “Invest in housing, not weapons.” We could put a roof on every single house in Kansas City in exchange for money we gave the new plant through Kansas City bonds and tax abatements.
My faith is the main identity I carry. During the Rite of Candidacy for those of us wanting to be deacons, June 22, Bishop Johnston gave the homily, and I’d like to quote him.
JMP: The quotation is allowed.
JS: Bishop Johnston said, “It’s important to realize when you follow Jesus, there is a certain amount of risk, danger if you take him seriously, because Jesus came into this world to supplant the kingdom, the kingdom of the world, and inaugurate the new kingdom, the kingdom of God.”
Indiscriminate killing of civilians, including children, is morally unacceptable. The theory of deterrence is based on the fact that we would use the nuclear weapons. And nuclear weapons are proliferating.
I don’t view the law about line-crossing as a just law that I was held to. Sometimes there are laws that need to be broken to witness for justice.
BZ: No questions, your honor.
HS: The Defense next calls defendant Joseph Wun.
Joseph Wun (JW), defendant edit
HS: Joseph, you and three other defendants here today live at Jerusalem Farm. Could you speak to the court about your background?
JW: I’ve been part of the Jerusalem Farm community for several years, and I now manage the composting work. I do the same home-repair work as Jordan Schiele described. Earlier, I was part of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I’ve dedicated my life to Gospel nonviolence. I’m interested in the work of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and I view nuclear war as the greatest threat to public health. I’ve been in the Kansas City area for four years and am a member of the PeaceWorks-KC Board of Directors. I visited the Peace Park in Hiroshima in 2011. Part of my formation in nonviolence was visiting Hiroshima and reading Hiroshima, by John Hersey —- so outrageous, the destruction and suffering.
HS: Do you recall what you may have said May 27 before crossing the line?
JW: I read a poem by Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet, about the human spirit. In “Keeping Quiet,” Neruda imagines a moment of such stillness and slowness that “those … who prepare victories with no survivors would put on clean clothes and walk with their brothers in the shade toward a world without war and its weapons.”
HS: I’ve been asking the defendants about this quote from Joan Chittister: “The greatest war we are facing at the present time is the war within ourselves: Shall we destroy the planet or shall we defend it?” Joseph, do you believe a nuclear war has already begun?
JW: It began the moment the first bomb was detonated on this continent. It goes on. It can be stopped.
HS: The Defense next calls defendant Daniel Karam.
Daniel Karam (DK), defendant edit
HS: Daniel, please explain your background and why you decided to cross the property line at the National Security Campus.
DK: I’m Daniel David Karam, a student of philosophy and ministry. I spent two years in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s in close association with the Peace Park across from the White House, demonstrating there. I’ve circled the Pentagon with Philip Berrigan, Liz McAlister and others of the Jonah House in Baltimore. I’ve had my own demonstration on the Capitol grounds and have gathered signatures from all over the World. I was in Washington in 1993 while an initiative, Proposition One, was being circulated by the proponents of Peace Park and Rainbow Warriors, calling for the transformation of war-time industry into peaceful projects. Proposition One was endorsed by the voters of Washington, D.C., and has been submitted by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton to the U.S. House of Representatives year after year since 1993. To the best of my knowledge, Proposition One has never reached the floor to be voted on. Also, I once ran for the State House of Representatives in Michigan with the slogan “War Against Greed,” and I did not do too bad.
HS: Have you attended vigils and rallies at Bannister Federal Complex, the site of the former nuclear weapon parts plant, and at the new plant, the National Security Campus?
DK: Yes, repeatedly, and the new plant is about one mile from my home in Grandview. And I’m thankful for this opportunity today to express my views.
HS: What does the term “justice” mean to you?
DK: I’m very interested in the idea of justice. The idea that there are people profiting from developing weapons of mass destruction bothers me. The only result of these weapons can be total devastation. We, the American people and perhaps the whole Human Race have been lucky. We have come close to many Nuclear Weapons exchanges through accidents and bad decisions. Scripture passages foretell a possible Nuclear holocaust, including the description of the Judgment of Babylon, whose smoke could be seen all over the world.
HS: Why did you choose to cross the line May 27?
DK: I chose to engage in Civil Disobedience May 27 partly because of a friend, a PeaceWorks companion, Lu Mountenay. We were not that close but there were feelings of recognition that I would say many if not all of us fellow defendants share. She wanted to be part of this demonstration as she has been many times in the past. But she could not. She passed away last Easter from cancer. Lu is an example of love and genuine care. What is sacrificed will not be wasted—Lu’s life is a testimony.
BZ: No questions, your honor.
HS: The Defense next calls defendant Bennette Dibben.
Bennette Dibben (BD), defendant edit
HS: Bennette, please explain your background and why you are a defendant here.
BD: When it comes to peace and justice, I’m an activist. I protested at Monsanto Headquarters in Saint Louis (against the cancer-causing Roundup). And I’ve tried to stand up for Native Americans’ rights. In Iowa, I joined fellow “water protectors” to help prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from going through an Iowa farmer’s property. We used the slogan, “No Eminent Domain for Private Gain.” I’m a big activist when it comes to the environment. I’ve called and written letters and e-mails to Sen. Roy Blunt on the environmental impact chemical agriculture has, and I’ve said life shouldn’t be patented. Also, I went to Washington, D.C., and talked directly with Sen. Blunt to ask that he take action to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
A fellow activist whom we don’t have anymore, her spirit gave me the courage to cross the line. Lu Mountenay said she was like a dandelion, considered by some an irritating weed. She said, “Here me roar! No more nukes!” I hope more of us will become like an irritating weed.
HS: Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister asks this question in a set of daily readings: “The greatest war we are facing at the present time is the war within ourselves: Shall we destroy the planet or shall we defend it?” Bennette, has a nuclear war already started?
BD: When you see our young men and women dying, it makes me want to know what the “just cause” is. Is it war or oil? And about the whales—there’s no such thing as cleanup of oil spills. I think the planet may be better without us. Native Americans have a saying: We don’t inherit the earth. We borrow it from future generations.
BZ: No questions, your honor.
HS: The Defense next calls defendant Ron Faust.
Ron Faust (RF), defendant edit
HS: Ron, please talk about who you are and what brings you to this trial today.
RF: I’m a retired Christian Church, Disciples of Christ minister. I got my doctorate at Drew University in Madison, NJ, and my ministry and counseling degree from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. I’ve studied and read a lot. I came down to the realization that the concept of peace sweeps across biblical data. Whenever there’s a force, things that get into people’s way, there’s also an obligation to do something about it.
HS: Ron, have you written some books?
RF: My wife, Toni, and I wrote a book Grand Parenting; we have a concern about the future and want to keep us all from going down the MAD road of Mutually Assured Destruction. Crossing the line for us is civil disobedience, not trespassing; it’s throwing out a life-line for our grandchildren’s future. Also, I’ve written a lot of poetry about PeaceWorks events, and recently, I wrote A Room Full of Shadows—documenting 10 years of the peace movement, a contribution for the future. On June 8, Toni and I celebrated 50 years of marriage. My book Five Faces of Love (by pseudonym Mac Keyes) explores core values such as love, justice, and peace.
HS: Do you have other thoughts to share with the court?
RF: We need to get beyond law and see the spirit that gives life. Law is there to keep order. But there’s a higher law. It would be inappropriate for me not to cross the line at the nuclear weapons plant. Human beings are vulnerable. We have been irresponsible in allowing nuclear weapons despite having no way to contain radioactivity.
I was exercising my First Amendment rights to point out a real potential crime of mass extermination. We were nonviolent and did not harm the property.
The peace movement, sometimes as small as 17 nonviolent line-crossers, is the fourth line of defense against the three government branches, which all favor a high degree of militarism. The peace movement raises an “alert” to ask what we are doing to prevent a moral catastrophe for our future. It is democracy without militarism.
BZ: No questions, your honor.
HS: The Defense next calls defendant Georgia Walker.
Georgia Walker (GW), defendant edit
HS: Georgia, please give the court your name, Georgia, and tell us a little about your background, leading up to why you’ve come to this courtroom today.
GW: I’m Georgia Walker, a sociologist by training. I have four degrees. I’m an ordained priest, ordained in apostolic succession, part of the Association of Roman Catholic Womenpriests.
I’m also part of a group of people who assist about 2,000 people a year as they’re coming out of jail. In seven years, less than 3 percent of those we help have gone back to jail. I accompany women if they come to trial. Our premise in our work is restorative justice, not punitive practices.
HS: Can you tell us about your citation for the May 27 action?
GW (holding up her citation): This citation says I’m being cited for trespassing in a cemetery and knowingly remaining there. Well, there actually was a die-in near the road right before we crossed the line. The truth is, it’s not a cemetery yet but is producing weapons that will cause people to go to the cemetery. Honeywell doesn’t own that property—an agency of Kansas City does.
We’re 17 political activists acting out of our deeply held beliefs that sometimes you’ve got to pass over artificial boundaries and resist illegitimate laws and illegitimate applications of laws. At the entry to the plant, the National Security Campus, you stand at the threshold of the epitome of evil.
I had two aunts who worked at the IRS. Honeywell rented a building at Bannister Federal Complex, where the old nuclear weapons plant was, and the building the IRS used was dangerous. My aunts died due to toxins at the site. About Honeywell—not only are they producing something that could destroy the planet, but it destroys the workers. I pray for those working at the new plant now.
And you have me on trial?
What a waste of money. I’m not harming anyone.
We are all created with a divine spark of life in our souls, and that forms the basis for our consciousness. We at all times have the capacity to grow and develop an awareness of that goodness within us. Some call it our heart or our innermost truth or our innate nature as creatures created in the image of God. In community with others, my conscience said our action was not wrong.
JMP: Overruled. I’ll let her talk about conscience, but in a limited way.
GW: It’s hard to limit God.
Mahatma Gandhi argued that “there is a higher court of justice and that is the court of conscience. … It supersedes all other courts.”
We have to examine what the law is. The prohibition against trespass is designed to protect people and property. I wonder how many times in the course of a year, how many times is all of that police power brought together to take care of 17 citizens?
I’ve been to the Honeywell site at Bannister Federal Complex. I’ve witnessed pictures of things that happened to people from the contaminants. I’ve been to Los Alamos and seen pictures. We are holding the whole world hostage with these weapons, including countries that don’t have the ability to make these nuclear weapons.
It’s the height of hubris to think that that monolith, the National Security Campus, has to be protected.
We are being trespassed upon by these nuclear weapons. We are no longer assured this day, given our nuclear status.
My conscience tells me that resistance to the production and proliferation of nuclear weapons is a cause we must all support! In so doing we are expressing the highest respect for the law.
BZ: No questions, your honor.
HS: The Defense next calls defendant Jane Peckham Stoever.
Jane Peckham Stoever (JPS) edit
HS: Jane, can you tell the court who you are?
JPS: I am Jane Peckham Stoever, the daughter of a doctor and a nurse. While I was growing up, whenever our neighbors needed help, they came knocking on our door. After high school, at 18, I entered a Catholic religious order, the Sisters of Loretto, and stayed for 10½ years. As an English teacher in a Catholic girls’ high school, I got to teach our black and white students the incredible writings of black authors, including Martin Luther King and Gwendolyn Brooks. After I left the sisters, I became a support person for Holy Family Catholic Worker House here in Kansas City.
HS: How long have you been working against nuclear weapons?
JPS: Our peace and justice community in Kansas City became aware of the government’s plan to build a new nuclear weapons parts plant in KC around 2008. In 2010, I and three men blocked an entry to the Kansas City Plant, at Bannister Federal Complex. We did that to call attention to employees’ illnesses from toxins used to produce nuclear weapon parts. PeaceWorks leaders held town hall meetings where employees shared information about their illnesses and gave advice about getting reimbursement under the EEOICPA—the Energy Employees’ Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. NBC Action News, Channel 41, asked local people to send in word about people sick or dead from the toxins, and the list in April 2011 totaled 154 dead and about 250 ill. PeaceWorks poured a lot of effort into trying to help sick workers and their families get reimbursement.
HS: Why did you cross the property line at the new plant, the National Security Campus, on May 27?
JPS: I crossed the property line at the National Security Campus because the production of parts for nuclear weapons in our back yard (8 miles from our home) poses a danger to our planet and all its inhabitants. The National Security Campus makes or procures 85 percent of the non-nuclear weapons for the US nuclear arsenal. Currently, the government wants to jump-start production of more plutonium pits for the weapons, and if approved, the National Security Campus would start making the covers or holders for the plutonium pits.
HS: Did a certain friend of yours help influence your decision to cross the line?
JPS: I was much moved by the intention of Lu Mountenay to cross the line again. At earlier peace witnesses, she brought sunflowers and sunflower seeds to the National Security Campus site. She taught us sunflowers can heal the earth from radioactive poisoning—sunflowers are planted at Chernobyl. Lu was suffering from a recurrence of cancer and knew she was near death, but at the PeaceWorks-KC Board of Directors meeting April 8, she wrote on my sign-up sheet that she would cross the property line May 27. Henry and I visited her in the hospital on April 20, the day before Easter, which was the day she died. We could not understand some of what she said, but we clearly heard her say this: “Peace works!” She loved to say that. Lu was cremated, and the family agreed I could carry some of her ashes across the property line at the nuclear weapons plant, which I did.
HS: What have you learned from studying the federal budget?
JPS: This year, 2019, is the first year the budget request exceeds $1 billion for the following year for the National Security Campus and the KC site office for the National Nuclear Security Administration. The atrocity of that budget flies in the face of all the human needs our country ignores. People in our cities, including KC, suffer from hunger, from homelessness, from lack of health care and education, from gunshot wounds and homicides. We need to convert funds for nuclear weapons to funds to meet the human needs that cry to heaven for solutions!
BZ: No questions, your honor.
Closing statement by Prosecuting Attorney Brianna Zavadil edit
BZ: The Prosecution has established, and the Defense has stipulated, that the defendants here today did knowingly and unlawfully trespass on the National Security Campus at 14510 Botts Rd., Kansas City, Missouri. Furthermore, they refused to leave when advised that they would be arrested and cited for trespassing if they did not leave. They have in essence admitted their guilt and should receive the maximum punishment the law allows.
Closing statement by Defense Attorney Henry Stoever edit
All of Civilization has already been convicted to death by this nuclear arms race with no let-up, with further modernization of weapons and threats. We all are under a “death watch,” awaiting the execution of persons on earth. Nuclear war has already begun with the planning, making, and deployment of these weapons of mass destruction. We have already suffered the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons; the theft of vital resources used for this deadly pursuit, in effect robbing the poor and needy; there have already been deaths in the mining of uranium, deaths in the processing of minerals into nuclear weapons parts, and illnesses created by this industry. We are being trespassed upon each day, for our future is under threat, clear and present, and so persons of conscience must take one small step.
One my favorite works of art is by Rodin, The Burghers of Calais, a French port city across from Dover, England. England’s King John intended to cross the English Channel and destroy Calais and its inhabitants. Calais’ city leaders, six in all, with ropes around their necks and bodies, went out to the advancing King John and made an offer – take our very lives, but spare our city Calais and its inhabitants. That is precisely what is happening here—17 line-crossers placed their bodies in jeopardy. They sounded the alarm, they confronted the evil, they acted for a higher good than merely a trespass according to a city ordinance. They hope to touch our minds, hearts, souls, morals, ethics, so that we save ourselves from ourselves.
The US Constitution has a dead hand in these matters, where it has deferred war-making and extinction to the commander-in-chief or to military personnel in the field in this nuclear age.
Where is our demand for justice? Who is doing justice? Who acts in the spirit of the law? Clearly these defendants lack the mens rea, the intent to commit a crime, and their limited action was not unlawful, given the context and circumstances, their defenses and claims of right, and imminent peril.
We pray the Prayer of Saint Francis: Make me an Instrument of Your Peace, Where there is Hatred, Injury, Doubt, Despair, Darkness, Sadness, Let me sow Love, Pardon, Faith, Hope, Light, and Joy.
And we pray the Lord’s Prayer: Give us this Day (no longer assured due to nuclear weapons), and Forgive our Trespasses (which they do not deny), As we forgive those who trespass against us (every moment our lives suffer the ravages of this nuclear arms race and their terror intrudes into our lives – a trespass on us). Deliver us from Evil (surely these Weapons of Mass Destruction are a clear and present evil). For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory for ever and ever (God be willing that we reverse that evil and that we abolish all nuclear weapons).
(The bailiff then played the video of the group singing, "We shall overcome", May 27, even though the defense attorney had just agreed with the judge that given the late hour, it was not necessary to play that video.)
Court’s decision edit
BZ: The defendants have all admitted they trespassed May 27. There were verbal warnings and signs saying no trespassing. Concerning the claim of necessity, that does not apply here. The Supreme Court said “necessity” is based on a real emergency. The Supreme Court said that for nuclear waste sites, courts do not allow claims of necessity for trespass.
JMP to the defendants: I applaud you. You have a passion. You had a reason.
But I have to follow the directions of the laws, and I have to treat everybody the same. I respect that sometimes an agency is not lawful. But I can’t allow one group to trespass and another not to. Further, the police didn’t just come out for 17 people. There were a lot of people there. The police can’t guarantee some of those others won’t cause a problem.
I’m going to assign guilt for the trespass.
Those with prior convictions will have longer community service. Even though I understand your reason for the trespass, those with no prior convictions will be assigned 10 hours of community service. Those with a prior conviction—Ron Faust and Jane Stoever—will have 20 hours of community service. Those with more prior convictions—Jim Hannah, Louis Rodemann, and Georgia Walker—will have 50 hours of community service. Finally, you must stay away from the property for a year.
All will be assigned the $80 community service supervision costs (you can ask for that to be waived), plus the $168.50 for Municipal Court fees for a year of probation and court costs (you can pay the $168.50 in installments). You have suspended imposition of sentence—with nothing on your record—if you do the community service and pay the fines. You have suspended execution of sentence if you are not going to pay the fines and do the community service and, instead, will appeal your case to a higher court.
Are there any questions? … Court is dismissed.
(Note: The defendants rose and began talking with each other.)
DK (Daniel Karam), raising his hand: I feel that a guilty verdict is a mark against my character and against my name, and I want to know about an appeal.
(Notes: The bailiff explained to the defendants the difference between an SIS, suspended imposition of sentence, and SES, suspended execution of sentence, with possible appeal to a Jackson County court with a jury, and the defendants came back to court for a final sentencing Nov. 8. All except Daniel Karam accepted the SIS, and he is pursuing an appeal through the SES process. A 19-page brief Henry Stoever submitted to the judge Oct 23, a week before the trial, is online at www.PeaceWorksKC.org. Also, at the end of the trial Nov. 1, the judge’s bailiff misunderstood that Henry said “We Shall Overcome,” on a video from May 27, did not need to be played. The bailiff indeed played it by mistake, to the delight of all in the courtroom.)
List of Defense Exhibits edit
2. Attorney Henry Stoever's statement, “Why I (We) will risk arrest at the National Security Campus (for making nuclear weapons parts) in Kansas City on May 27, 2019,” a two pages document, sent by e-mail to Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department (KCPD) and security officer on May 8, 2019.
4. The Constitution of the United States, presented in Convention on September 17th, 1787, to be transmitted to the State Legislatures on September 25, 1787, and all states ratified the Constitution by May 29, 1790.
5. Amendments to the Constitution of the United States (the First ten Amendments, the Bill of Rights, was ratified effective December 15, 1791). Defendants may also make reference to the Civil War Amendments, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
6. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dex`cember 10, 1948.
7. The Nuremberg principles.
9. The United Nation's Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, supported by 122 nations, July 7, 2017.
10. More information on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, ratified by 33 nations, require 50 nations to ratify it to become binding International Law.
11. George Shultz; William Perry; Henry Kissinger; Sam Nunn (4 January 2007). "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons". The Wall Street Journal. Wikidata Q78511305. ISSN 0099-9660. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB116787515251566636.
12. William Broad; David E. Sanger (21 September 2014). "U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms". The New York Times. Wikidata Q78512157. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 28 December 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/us/us-ramping-up-major-renewal-in-nuclear-arms.html. , includes discussion of the Kansas City National [Nuclear] Security Campus.
- [Space reserved for commentary on the issues raised by this trial, written from a neutral point of view citing credible source. Non-neutral commentary may be rewritten or deleted. Comments without citations may be moved to the “Discuss” page associated with this article.]
The audio from a 30-minute stage play based on this 4-hour trial is available with the episode description of the March 3, 2020, edition of Radio Active Magazine on kkfi.org.
- Deuteronomium, Torah (in Biblical Hebrew), Wikidata Q42614 30:19
- The Wikipedia article on The Burghers of Calais says that, “In 1346, England's Edward III ... laid siege to Calais ..., [then] offered to spare the people of the city if six of its leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed.”