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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and we were able to establish that no one told us we were trespassing, no one told us our permission to demonstrate was withdrawn (there was a permit), and traffic flow continued throughout the events of the day.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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Los Alamos Burns: Just Say Now

12:57 pm in Uncategorized by bgrothus

I grew up in Los Alamos and spend a lot of time there now, taking care of my mother.  I was meaning to write about the big fires: then (2000) and now (2011).  There are some interesting contrasts between the events.  But I simply don’t have the time to spend on it.

Nevertheless, there is a story that I wish someone with the resources and skills could write.   Basic facts about the 2011 fire:  it was the largest fire in the history of the state of New Mexico, and for the first day it consumed one acre every 76 seconds.  A fire moving that fast across the landscape does not consume everything, until it reaches a canyon, at which point it is sufficiently contained that it does burn, baby.  It burns.

Frijoles Canyon in Bandalier National Monument is such a place.  In 2011, it burned.  Fire is always a bit capricious, and there are some areas in the canyon that managed to escape the conflagration.  One such area happened to contain a farm with 9200 pot plants, 10 feet tall, essentially ready to harvest.  The official estimate of the value of the crop (easily disputable, but let’s take them at their estimate) is $9.2 million.  It has been reported that the farmers fought the fire; they burned a perimeter around the crop to protect it.  If they had done this burn anytime before the fire was rapidly advancing, they would have been discovered, and they were not.  This was a huge, fast-moving fire. They were absolutely brave in protecting that crop.  The crop was saved, the farmers survived, and afterward, they got out.

The farm was discovered by fly-over surveillance after the fire, partly because there was some kind of a tarp visible amidst the green island where unburned forest  remained as before, visually protecting the crop. The surrounding area is absolutely black, “like black paint” covering every surface, as one person described it to me.

The authorities report that they observed 2 men, who returned to the site after the fire, and they were able to escape a sudden, multi-agency law-enforcement net.  The canyon walls are reported to slant at 45 degrees, making it a steep hike in and out.  At the site was some kind of a dugout shelter, a watering system, a rifle, a bottle of hot sauce and insecticide, with directions printed in Spanish.  This leads them to believe (I know) that the farmers are part of the “Mexican drug cartel.”

This is the first time a pot farm has been discovered in a National Forest in New Mexico.  It was a substantial off-grid enterprise with few employees.  It was a very big cash crop, even by half.  It may not be the first year the area was farmed.  I am sure they are now reexamining past overhead footage.

I have talked to a variety of people about this story, and I am sure it would be compelling if someone could devote more time to it.  When the National Lab was no longer “at risk,” the national media went away.  But there is a story here.  Just say Now.