War Resisters League Commends Kings Bay Plowshares

Carmen Trotta 

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Written by Ellen Barfield with support from Joanne Sheehan

WRL thanks and honors the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, three of whom (Carmen Trotta, Martha Hennessy, and Clare Grady) were sentenced last week for their bold Trident disarmament action at the Kings Bay nuclear submarine base in south Georgia. Several of the Kings Bay Plowshares are WRL members and have participated in WRL organized nonviolent actions. All are war tax resisters. 

50 years to the day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on April 4, 2018, over two and a half years ago, the seven cut a lock and entered the base where nuclear-armed US submarines are home-ported, in a plowshares action which included pouring blood, posting an indictment which charged the US government for crimes against peace, posting crime scene tape and hanging banners, one of which said, "The Ultimate Logic of Trident is Omnicide", and damaging Trident D5 monuments. Plowshares actions seek to enact the prophecy in the Biblical book of Isaiah that nations will beat swords into plowshares and study war no more.

The KBP7 were convicted on all four charges, three felonies and a misdemeanor, on October 24th, 2019, by a jury one member of which asked late in the trial if it is really known that the Kings Bay Base houses nuclear weapons. While of course the defendants themselves spoke eloquently at trial about the horrendous weapons at Kings Bay, the prosecution made a motion, which the judge upheld, denying the invited expert witnesses any chance to provide facts about the US nuclear complex and Kings Bay specifically. The military witnesses would "neither confirm nor deny" the presence of any nukes, as policy demands.

The Covid 19 pandemic delayed sentencing and led four of the six so-far sentenced to reluctantly waive their right to be sentenced face to face in open court, but instead remotely with supporters able to listen in by telephone, while 2 were sentenced in a courtroom with some supporters present but socially distanced in October during a fairly low level of Covid infection.

Elizabeth McAlister was sentenced by remote video in June to time served for the over 17 months she served after arrest, to pay restitution together with her co-defendants of the over $33, 500 damages the government claims, and 3 years supervised probation. Father Steve Kelly was sentenced in court on October 15th to 33 months, which he has already largely served, having remained in the Glynn County, Georgia, jail since the arrest, and restitution and supervised probation, and Patrick O'Neill on October 16th in court was sentenced to 14 months, restitution and probation. Clare Grady remotely on November 12th got 12 months and 1 day with restitution and probation, and Martha Hennessy on November 13 got 10 months, restitution and probation. All of these sentences are moderately lower than the prison time recommended in sentencing guidelines. Mark Colville sought another postponement, still demanding face to face sentencing, and was rescheduled to December 18.

Carmen, a long time WRL member who has served on the WRL National Committee and the Disarmament Task Force, was remotely sentenced earlier on November 12th to 14 months, restitution and probation, and his time too was a downward departure from the time recommended by sentencing guidelines. He will self-report to the federal prison he gets assigned to 30 days from the sentencing. 

His character witness Bud Courtney spoke movingly about Carmen's long years at the St. Joseph House Catholic Worker in lower Manhattan, whereas the longest resident he is seen as the inspirational elder and revered by his colleagues as they serve 150 people a day. Kathy Kelly with Voices for CreativeNonviolence talked about working for 25 years with Carmen organizing for Afghanistan and Yemen. Carmen's corporate attorney brother Louis acknowledged their different viewpoints but appreciated his brother's idealism and constant concern for good and right. 

Carmen in his powerful sentencing statement related his realization of US war crimes after reading Dr. King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech, and mentioned his first arrest was to protest the Iowa National Guard deploying to Honduras to build roads to facilitate access to Nicaragua during the contra war. He decried the destruction of the Iraqi water system and the sanctions preventing chlorine imports, and the current ongoing distress in Iraq, and that 45% of Yemeni children are stunted for life by malnourishment the US-supplied war has caused.

Poignantly last year at trial Carmen remembered as a child knowing about nuclear bombs, and on the school playground in Brooklyn seeing planes approaching Kennedy Airport opening their wheel wells in preparation for landing, and wondering if they would drop bombs. In response to the demand that he pay for the damages he and his colleagues caused at Kings Bay, he vehemently stated, "That military base is a genocidal criminal conspiracy, and I will not pay restitution!"

This case saw the typically tone-deaf insistence of prosecutors and judges in US courts that trespass and property damage are law-breaking and must be punished, while they ignore international law and the Nuremberg principles, and the exciting new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which has been ratified by 50 nations and will take effect on January 22nd. War Resisters League is deeply grateful to members and friends like these 7 courageous truth-tellers, who shined a very necessary light on the so often forgotten existential threat to all of humanity.


Press releases, sentencing and character witness statements, are at www.kingsbayplowshares7.org