Reported by KAY MATTHEWS, photos and audio by ERIC SHULTZ
In a filled-to-capacity courtroom on January 9 Los Alamos Municipal Judge Alan Kirk found the LANL 6 guilty on two counts of “criminal activity”: obstruction of a public thoroughfare and refusal to obey an officer (they were found not guilty of a third count of trespass).
The six activists had participated in an August 6, 2012 protest march commemorating the United States dropping the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and were arrested after refusing to move from a crosswalk near the entrance to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) at the intersection of Diamond Drive and West Jemez Road. Judge Kirk imposed a fine of $100 per count on each defendant (plus other costs and fees) and one-year probation contingent on their not being arrested in Los Alamos County during that time frame.
Prior to the trial the defendants had agreed among themselves they would not pay a fine if it was imposed. The court allows thirty days for fines to be paid, so if at the end of that time the defendants maintain their position they will have to serve time in jail (Cathie Sullivan discusses this in her audio comments). They also have 15 days in which to appeal the Municipal Court decision, but have not yet made the decision to do so (Summer Abbott discusses this option in his audio comments).
There is a long history of protests and arrests at the gates of LANL, and in this 2012 case the defendants were assigned a bench trial instead of a jury trial in Magistrate Court. Some speculate that the various agencies involved in the arrest—the Los Alamos Police Department (LAPD), LANL, and the Department of Energy (DOE)—got the hearing moved to Municipal Court to try to keep publicity in check. But in front of a packed courtroom defense attorney Jeff Haas—a longtime civil rights lawyer who defended Black Panther members in Chicago—asked all six defendants to explain why they were in the street on August 6. Judge Kirk—a former Los Alamos police chief—listened to the testimony.
The stories they told were grounded in their longtime commitments to social and environmental justice, education, and what they see as a “higher law” that governs the end of nuclear proliferation. Here is a sampling of what they had to say:
Pamela Gilchrist, a former Church of Christ minister who has worked for 30 years for nuclear disarmament: “I was there to make a statement about the most important issue facing us today, global climate disruption. . . . They [the police] were doing their job, I was doing mine.”
Dr. Catherine (Wind) Euler, a former professor who has conducted extensive research on the effects of low-level radiation: “The Lab and the nuclear industry and bureaucrats have billions of dollars; we only have our voices.” When asked if she had gone to the demonstration to “get arrested” she replied that no, she didn’t want to get arrested but wanted to “speak truth to power” and that she would “accept the consequences of doing that.”
Janet Greenwald, a former Dixon resident who witnessed the fallout of radionuclides and toxic chemicals from the Cerro Grande Fire over her downwind community: She explained how on the “spur of the moment” she decided to stay in the crosswalk with the other five protestors because she thought about “all the babies” born with the damaging effects of radiation.
Benjamin (Summer) Abbott, a PhD candidate in American Studies at UNM and member of Food Not Bombs, Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, and (un)Occupy Albuquerque: “The U.S. military has killed at least tens of thousands of people over the last few decades. . . .I believe in the higher law that allows beings to live free of oppression.” He spoke about the fact that the U.S. government illegally took indigenous land to build LANL in the 1940s and continues to exploit the surrounding “colonized” Hispano and Pueblo communities.
Barbara Grothus, an activist who was raised in Los Alamos, attended her first protest at Ashley Pond in 1969, and now lives in Albuquerque: When asked if she thought what she did was “unlawful” she responded, “Who’s lawful and who’s not is a question for me,” citing the use of torture, drone strikes, and other U.S. military activities. She spoke about her father, Ed Grothus, who worked at LANL for 20 years as his “consciousness evolved” during the Vietnam War to become an anti-nuclear activist for 40 years [he ran the infamous “Black Hole” in Los Alamos during many of those years].
Cathie Sullivan, a longtime anti-nuclear activist who has worked with the Los Alamos Study Group and Nuclear Watch New Mexico: “The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed by the United States in 1970, yet for 42 years our government has disregarded its intent” with the manufacture of new nuclear weapons. . . . “I didn’t go [to the protest] to get arrested, I went to show my solidarity with people of conscience.”
While the testimony of the defendants was heartfelt and often profound, there were also moments of levity. Pam Gilchrist got some big laughs from the gallery when she described climbing over a twenty-foot fence with 200 other women to protest a cruise missile site. Wind Euler, when asked if she had purposely blocked traffic while standing in the intersection replied, “I wasn’t very effective at stopping any traffic. The 30 SOC [private security guards working for LANL who were standing in the street] were much more effective.” And Barbara Grothus told the court about that first protest at Ashley Pond. Apparently some of the local people, not used to any kind of protest activity in their community, were concerned about the safety of the ducks at the pond. So she and her high school friends came dressed as ducks carrying signs that read, “Hell no, we won’t go.”
La Jicarita will keep readers posted about the fate of the LANL 6.
Audio Files: After the trial, three of the LANL 6 spoke with La Jicarita‘s Eric Shultz outside the courthouse:
To hear personal statements by five of the LANL 6 recorded 1-6-13, click here.