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Adventures with the Nuclear Monster

3:16 pm in Uncategorized by bgrothus

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.

Pam Gilchrist before a crowd

Pam Gilchrist, another member of the Los Alamos National Labs 6, at the 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and we were able to establish that no one told us we were trespassing, no one told us our permission to demonstrate was withdrawn (there was a permit), and traffic flow continued throughout the events of the day.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.

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Countdown to Jail?

11:59 am in Uncategorized by bgrothus

When I was in high school, opposed to the Vietnam “war” and impressionable, I read Emma Goldman and discovered Peacemakers.  I believed in anarchism and embraced civil disobedience.

I modified my thinking over time, but I remain politically active and call myself progressive.  Among the more difficult of my struggles personally has been the line I’ve walked between art and politics, not because they don’t go together but because I never fully committed my life to art.  But that’s another story.

Politically, I have become increasingly disillusioned, and I embrace OWS, in my case (un)Occupy, as one of the few movements in my lifetime in the US that addresses the broad and disparate crises of our failing economy (and capitalism), the horrors of climate change and perhaps most important, exercises a methodology of equality and inclusion.  It has inspired young people who are smart, tech-savy and committed to change and the future.

I was arrested with (un)Occupy in Albuquerque in October 2011, defending our space.  In August 2012, I was arrested in Los Alamos at the annual anti-nuclear event that commemorates the bombing of Hiroshima.  I did this in part to honor my father, who died in 2009 and was the most visible anti-nuclear activist in Los Alamos for decades.  It was easy to be arrested.

What is not so easy is the aftermath.  There were 6 of us arrested that day, and we are in solidarity about our reasons for being there and our unity going forward.  We are in a different court than those who have been arrested since 1999 in Los Alamos.  Our trial will be held in municipal court, the judge is the former police chief.  We were taken into custody by a private security force and turned over to the local authorities.  All of the witnesses against us are police, who may have relationships with the judge.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory was run by the University of California until 2005 or so.  At that time, a public/private partnership was demanded (in part due to hyped up post-9/11 security incidents), and UC partnered with Bechtel to win the contract.  From my perspective, the arrangement has been a disaster.  The workers at the Lab despise Bechtel, the yearly cost of running the lab (to taxpayers) has gone from under $30 million to $100 million, and the fabric of the community has been damaged by the short-term contracts and job insecurity that seem to be the SOP of the corporatocracy.

The cost of maintaining the nuclear arsenal continues to climb, and of course the weapons themselves are unusable no matter what, unless we want a truly ruined planet.  Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was the brilliant strategy that got us to this point, and we continue to operate from that basic framework today.  To that end we destroyed communities and homelands in the Pacific with testing, we poisoned communities, lands, water and air from Nevada to New Mexico and beyond.  The LANL 6 stand against all of this.

The work of the Laboratory could be useful if we harnessed all the brainpower for climate change, for example.  It is not hard to fight for a better future, and I have no regret for going to Los Alamos that day.  I am proud to stand with others who believe the same.  We are fortunate to have lawyers who have supported resisters throughout their careers.  They have been volunteering their expertise and have given us their time unstintingly.

On January 9 we will be on trial in Los Alamos.  The charges for each of us carry possible fines of up to $1500 and maximum jail time of 179 days.  (We are denied a jury if the possible sentence is less than 180 days/6 months.)

I have some kind of a platform here, and I wonder how to make the best use of it.  We are dreamers here,  I think.  My father used to say, “Do good.”  How do I best do good next week?  What say you, esteemed community of FDL?


(Un)Occupy Albuquerque: Arrested

4:08 pm in Uncategorized by bgrothus

On Tuesday, our permit  for “Camp Coyote” at the University of New Mexico, where our Occupation has been located, was not renewed by the President of UNM.  When I read that the camp would be closed down at 10 PM, I knew I would be in jail by the end of the day.

We held our GA, as scheduled, on Tuesday at 6 PM.  I had watched the Livestream of Chicago arrests (thank you, FDL!) on Saturday night, and I proposed that we follow their model of resisters (those willing to risk arrest) in the center with supporters surrounding us or on the sidewalk.  We came to consensus on this, and afterward, we broke into groups to plan our actions.  We excluded the media from the meeting of those who were considering arrest.  I was one of 2 people in the “arrestables” group who were committed from the start.  The rest of the group was on the fence, but we all wrote the phone numbers for our (collective) lawyer and another contact on our wrists and gave our names and contacts to our lawyer.  We discussed our strategies, whether to go limp or go willingly.  By the time we sat on the grass linking arms, there were 17 of us.  As the crowd built and with support all around us, numerous members of the crowd joined us.  It was awesome!  The youngest in the group was 18, I don’t know the age of the oldest, but I guess 65 or older.  By the end of the night, the number of arrested was about 30.

We heard the police would use “chemical dispersant,” and we had bandannas ready and water bottles filled with milk in our circle.  We knew there were multiple paddy wagons and more than 100 police.  It took one hour after 10 PM for the police to determine which agency (UNM police, State police or APD) had jurisdiction.  (Apparently they did not think about that ahead of time.)  Our lawyer and legal assistants kept us informed about what the police were doing.

When the police moved into position to begin the arrests, it was clear they were not suited up to use chemicals.  That was a relief.  The lawyer had informed them we would not resist.  Everyone chanted, “Cops are the 99%.” Read the rest of this entry →