From Art Laffin
It was a long fruitful day of truth-telling in Kansas City Municipal Court for 27 peacemakers, mostly Catholic Workers, arrested last May 2nd at the site of the new Kansas City nuclear weapons plant. Those arrested were part of a larger nonviolent witness, including 26 others who were also arrested, calling for the transformation of the Bomb parts plant currently being constructed. Ruth O’Neill and Henry Stoever, who were exceptional throughout the trial, represented all but two of the defendants: Greg Boertje-Obed and I went pro-se.
The day began with nine people pleading guilty and receiving the following sentence: 1 year probation, 25 hours community service and court costs.
This was followed by a trial for 16 people before Judge Ardie Bland. The city prosecutor called three witnesses: a police officer, a supervisor from J.E. Dunn Construction Co., and Jim Cross, the senior VP who works for Centerpoint Properties, a real estate developer who claims his company is the owner of the construction site. However the real owner of the site, many contend, is a municipal entity called Planned Industrial Expansion Authority (PIEA). Following their testimony, and cross examination by the defense, which sought to clarify legal questions of trespass, establish true ownership of the plant site, and invite Mr. Cross to consider the moral implications of building a new bomb plant, the city prosecutor rested.
A motion for judgment of acquittal offered by the defense was presented and quickly denied.
The defense case consisted of six people testifying. Eric Garbison, Ron Faust, Chrissy Kirchoffer, Dan Wilson, Jerica Arents and Josh Armfield. Each gave eloquent testimony about their faith and why the new plant should not be built from a human, economic, environmental, legal and moral perspective. The defense rested and closing statements were offered. Our motion for acquittal was renewed and denied again by the judge. The judge then took a short recess.
Upon his return to the bench, the judge dismissed charges against Gina Cook and Amy Nee as the city witnesses could not identify them. He then began by applauding us for our convictions stating that this country is great because of people like us who stood for change. He also said that as a man of faith he admired the faith aspect of our testimony and witness. He then proceeded to find us guilty. He then stated that anyone who was part of the Catholic Worker, and didn’t have jobs, would be given a sentence of community service. And people who had jobs would be given a fine plus community service. This part of the sentence would be amended. Greg and Eric told the judge they would not accept or cooperate with fines and community service and requested jail time instead. When all was said and done the following sentences were rendered: 16 people were given one year probation, one year stay away order from the plant, 10 days suspended jail sentence and 50 hours community service. Greg and and Eric movingly told the judge why they would prefer jail over the sentence he pronounced and Greg appealed to him to speak out against nuclear weapons. They were both given 7 day jail sentences. Deo Gratias for their life-giving witness!!!
The truth was once again proclaimed loud and clear in a court in the heartland of the U.S. Yet once again we were found guilty. Another deeply held conviction!!! I thank God for everyone who witnessed today in court, especially those who spoke for the first time. Meanwhile, the structure of the new bomb plant has neared completion. And the nonviolent campaign to stop it full construction continues!
With deep gratitude to all who have been praying for those of us in court today as well as for the judge and the prosecutor! We keep our yes on the prize and hold on!