First of all, a huge thank-you to all of our internet supporters here and around the twitter-verse for your support yesterday. You are all fantastic, and we knew you had our backs. You went beyond the call, honestly, and I am truly humbled by your personal attentions to our trial.
There was tremendous community support at the courthouse. The entry to the courtroom was packed, and the police got folding chairs for people to sit in while we waited for the courtroom to open. There were many people with white hair, and the provision of chairs was quite considerate on their part.
The police told us to shut off our phones, and no electronics were allowed to be on in the courtroom. Unlike in Albuquerque, they screened for weapons and did not take phones, backpacks or food away from anyone who came in. I believe a knife for cutting fruit was actually allowed. That was impressive. The atmosphere was convivial, with all participants and court officials/police.
The courtroom is in a new complex in Los Alamos, and it seats 56 people, not counting officials, lawyers and defendants. There were at least 70 supporters, so there was overflow outside the courtroom. The judge said people could rotate in and out, as long as it did not disrupt the proceedings. The audience was rapt, and there were no disruptions of any kind.
The prosecution consisted of police witnesses and a videotape taken on August 6. It was straight-forward, and we were able to establish that no one told us we were trespassing, no one told us our permission to demonstrate was withdrawn (there was a permit), and traffic flow continued throughout the events of the day. We established that there was a ratio of more than 6:1 of those arrested to the numbers of police and corporate security in evidence. It was also clear that several warnings were given that we were subject to arrest if we did not move from the crosswalk, and there was no resistance to arrest. The final warning was only seconds before the first arrest.
I was honestly surprised we were able to put on our complete testimonies about why we were there including our histories of opposing “the nuclear business,” as my father called it. The testimonies were compelling. Most of us had lengthy histories here and in England protesting nuclear weapons/energy.
Pam has beautiful white hair and a record of arrests for her anti-nuclear activism. The prosecutor asked her go through her history, perhaps thinking he would show that she was a “repeat offender,” but after listening to just the second in her litany, he gave up on that tack.
“It was dramatic,” she said. “There were 1000 women, and 200 of us climbed over a 20 foot wall. We were put into buses and eventually released.” She was establishing a pattern of being released without charges, and that was enough for him.
Wind talked about the dangers of low-level radiation and the harm of long-term exposures to it. She talked about the transmission of it across the placenta and her concerns about the documented contamination of air, land and water around the labs and downwind/downstream, as well as to the workers. She has a history of research on this issue, and her testimony was excellent. The prosecutor tried to cross her on her “illegal” actions August 6, but she was resistant to his questions, and he was down for the count and failed to cross the next two witnesses.
Janet testified next. She also has a long history of resistance. She talked about living downwind of Los Alamos after the Cerro Grande fire in 2001. She reported on the contamination of tested foods in her community, Dixon, “the organic breadbasket of New Mexico.” She had the room in tears when she told about her son and daughter in law (living in Dixon) who got pregnant with twins after the fire. They lost one baby during the pregnancy and at the hospital in Espanola (also downwind of Los Alamos) were forced to look at photos of deformed babies born or lost in similar circumstances. Despite dire warnings, they continued the pregnancy to term, and the baby was born without known problems.
Summer talked about his research at UNM, where he is a graduate student. He mentioned reading “Nuclear Borderlands,” about the theft of pueblo land for the Manhattan Project. He was forceful about the issues of colonization and his history with (un)Occupy.
I talked about my history in Los Alamos, about my father’s legacy and probably rambled on about various other things, maybe off-topic to the nuclear issue. The prosecutor wanted to cross me on raising my arms with my hands making Vs at my arrest, as if I was making a statement of “victory” as opposed to demonstrating about peace. I think at some point I talked about the idea that breaking the law in this case was essentially meaningless when our President kills US citizens with drones without trials, and that the banks have gotten away with incredible crimes, also unpunished. The people have no power, so of course the law is enforced against us.
Finally Cathy talked about her history of working against the nuclear machine, and she (like Pam, 73 years old) mentioned the idea of “white skin privilege,” which really drove the prosecutor over the edge. He mocked her, as he had tried to mock our lack of notice of signs posted about “lab property” (in re: the trespassing charge), saying that people should know they were on lab property if they “could read.”
In closing, our lawyer talked about the issue of global climate disruption and the real and present security risk created by climate change, how it impacts increasingly scarce resources like water. (Climate change was mentioned during our testimony as a compelling crisis that requires the attention of scientists, not to mention the tremendous costs of “the nuclear business” in relation to the (ostensible) scarce resource of money for such things as Social Security and Medicare.)
The judge ended up throwing out the trespassing charge but found us guilty on the other charges of refusing to obey and obstructing traffic. The prosecutor asked for the maximum fines ($500 per charge), though he did not believe we should be incarcerated despite the “priors” we had. The judge gave us fines of $100 per charge plus court costs for each and a charge for setting up the probation paperwork. He gave us a year of probation.
Our lawyer said we would not pay the fines, and the judge was unwavering on the fact that we have 30 days to pay, and until then, no other action. We have discussed whether to appeal, but our general feeling is that we want to be done with this, and we are still refusing to pay the fines and costs. There is a sense that the year of probation is excessive, but we are not especially concerned about that. I suppose I am most at risk of arrest since I am in Los Alamos a lot, but I have never been arrested there nor had any likely reason to be arrested otherwise. Clearly the probation is to discourage us from action on August 6 this year, and I don’t think they will try to put us in jail in re: probation if we don’t pay the fines. I suppose they could do something like that, but I believe they want to avoid the spectacle of jail.
What happens next is uncertain. They were happy to let us have our full day in court, it would seem. We educated a few people yesterday, maybe the judge, police and prosecutor. Perhaps there is some benefit from the press coverage. Apparently this was the first trial denied a jury in the history of anti-nuclear protests in Los Alamos. It was also a trial of no record, so the only “evidence” of it is what we or others report.
I was a little surprised that they did not make examples of us, a small group. When the numbers of arrested go up, they have less interest in prosecuting. Perhaps more people will risk arrest in the future.
As for the monster, it lives. And we live as well, to fight another day.
update: I forgot to mention that the police were a bit obsessed about the “disruption and destruction” that OWS was “known for.” We could not really get much out about this because the Police Chief has a current health problem and was taken off the witness list. He might have been the point of contact between the FBI/Homeland Security and Bechtel’s private security, all of which would have had this manufactured consent regarding OWS.
Photo by (un)Occupy Albuquerque.