Thursday, September 29, 2011

House work: Portland Catholic Worker and Catholic Worker houses of today

by Karen Kirkwood

Catholic Worker member Liz La Plante and I started our conversation alone in the spacious front room of the Dorothy Day House in Portland, Oregon beneath a picture of Mother Teresa. Within minutes, community member Chani Geigle-Teller joined us. A cat padded in and climbed into La Plante’s lap as she began to tell her personal history. Just as La Plante said, “I wanted to do full-time service work,” two women poked their heads into the room. She invited them in, introducing them as houseguests. A parish volunteer who had been cooking in the kitchen sauntered in. A knock at the back door brought in two visitors, long-time supporters of the Dorothy Day House.

La Plante finished her story by saying, “The blessings are the personal relationships in the house.” More friends appeared at the front door. As I listened to the chatter in the room, I was reminded of co-founder Dorothy Day’s words about how the Catholic Worker movement developed. She writes in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, “We were just sitting there talking ...”

Within a few minutes, the tranquil room in Portland had filled with people, cats, and the scent of something simmering on the stove.

Day continues, “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” Her words rang true as our group—guests, community members, and visitors—moved to the dining room to share salad and chili.

Today the 200 or so Catholic Worker communities scattered around the United States and other countries are grounded in the belief that every human has God-given dignity, just as co-founders Day and Peter Maurin espoused. According to Jim Allaire, webmaster for, these houses are “beacons of hope in this time of powerlessness.” The movement is significant to the church today, says Allaire, because Catholic Worker communities help “keep an eye on injustice, the poor, and immigration issues.”

Catholic Worker houses also educate young activists on nonviolence. Tom Hastings of Whitefeather Peace Community in Portland, Oregon speaks of the need to maintain Day’s legacy, because often the vision of an innovative leader dies out. “Until nonviolence becomes a social norm,” Hastings says, “the Catholic Worker vision is pertinent in today’s conversation.” He believes many young activists today base their work on anger rather than nonviolence. Older activists need to hand on a robust, workable model of nonviolence.

Community center

At the heart of the Catholic Worker is a concept known as personalism. Father Bill Bichsel of Guadalupe House in Tacoma, Washington describes personalism as responding to God’s active work within you by taking responsibility for what needs to happen, including standing by those in the margins and against those things that cause violence in the world. It is sharing the difficult as well as joyful parts of community.

For several years Guadalupe House helped maintain Bethlehem Farm, a Catholic Worker farm where my husband, children, and I lived for three years in the early 1990s. One of our guests, Frank, showed up once a month or so in a beat-up pickup and stayed only a few days. Sometimes Frank had part-time jobs; sometimes he was on a bender. The farm offered respite for him, and he spent hours on the front porch of our old farmhouse, smoking and drinking coffee.

My husband set aside the farm work and house repairs that needed to be done and sat with him. They talked politics, religion, Frank’s life story. They teased our children and watched the rain fall on the fields. Relationship is paramount in Catholic Worker communities.

Personalism goes hand in hand with community, another essential element of the movement. Usually in a Catholic Worker house, members and guests live together. “We become a part of people, and they become a part of us,” Bichsel says. At Guadalupe House guests are invited through a screening process involving three interviews. Both community members and guests share in household chores.

At the Portland house physical, emotional, and social safety is a priority for the two members and six guests who live there. The house residents meet once a month to discuss issues that arise from living together. Yet the difficulties of community and personalism are the seedbed for rewards.

La Plante and Geigle-Teller have seen their guests transition into housing or find the services they need, and often these guests remain friends with the community, stopping by to visit after moving out.

Kristen, a slender, middle-aged guest in the Dorothy Day House, had left a situation of domestic violence many months before and had been living in various shelters. Once she slept in her storage unit for two nights. A social worker connected her with the Dorothy Day House, where she waited for housing. While there she was finally able to build trust in people thanks to the Catholic Worker, which she described as “a family situation.”

Another core principle of the Catholic Worker movement is nonviolence, both in personal relationships and on a societal level. Catholic Workers seek to end systemic violence. “Peace and justice can only be won through peaceable means,” says Tom Hastings. Whitefeather Peace Community’s main work is organizing nonviolent resistance to war, injustice, and militarism.

Mass action

Catholic Workers share reading, dialogue, and liturgy both in the houses and with the wider neighborhood or parish communities. Whitefeather Peace Community hosts Roundtables, a Catholic Worker tradition of a meal followed by discussion.

One wintry evening in Tacoma, Catholic Workers, house guests, people from the local community, and people from the street sat scattered on old sofas and folding chairs in the basement of Guadalupe House.

During the prayers of the faithful, I sat with my eyes closed, listening. I glanced up, however, when I heard a voice from the doorway. A man in a scruffy trench coat leaned against the doorframe; a baseball cap pulled low hid his face. He spoke in a hesitant voice. “My friend is sick; he’s in the hospital.” Long silence. “That’s all I wanted to say.” Bichsel filled in the “we pray to the Lord.” When I looked up again, the man was gone.

Laurel Dykstra, a community member at Guadalupe House for eight years, sees a connection between contemplation and action on a societal level. “One of the most brilliant aspects of the Catholic Worker vision is the use of public liturgy. Often acts of public resistance are intentionally sacramental in design and nature,” she says.

Recently the members of Guadalupe House have been involved in a local housing issue. A hotel in the neighborhood is home to many low-income people, but developers want to turn it into a luxury hotel. Before each crucial vote by the city council, Catholic Workers and other neighbors gather for an ecumenical service in front of the hotel, drawing attention to this issue and offering support to the residents.

Role playing

Community members and short-term volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some communities are specifically Catholic, such as Casa Juan Diego in Houston, while others are more eclectic. All community members need to be committed to Catholic Worker values.
Most houses have volunteers who help out with special projects for a limited time, such as a building project. Guadalupe House often hosts high school or college groups for a few weeks. They contribute their time and learn about the realities of marginalized people. Community members often receive room, board, and a stipend, depending on the specific house. Many members have jobs to support themselves.

Most communities have a process members must go through to join the community, and many require time commitments. Couples with children can commit long term. In Houston Mark and Louise Zwick raised their children and grandchildren at Casa Juan Diego, although the families lived in separate housing.

La Plante and Geigle-Teller decided to join the Catholic Worker movement for different reasons. La Plante felt drawn to Day’s model of hospitality. A trained chef especially interested in providing hospitality through her passion for cooking, she concentrates on the household while Geigle-Teller focuses on activism, helping to organize vigils, protests, and actions in Portland.

Look on the bright side

Catholic Workers live on the edges of society, and in doing so they confront many complications.

Each house or farm must find its own funding, which often creates stability issues. At press time, for example, the Dorothy Day House in Portland was planning to close in October 2011. As with most nonprofit service organizations, communities fight a constant battle for funds and supplies to carry out their mission. Some communities choose to follow Day’s lead and eschew 501(c)3 nonprofit status because they believe their work is an act of conscience, and they wish to carry out their activities without government regulation. Others have decided to file for nonprofit status in order to increase their services.

Another complication is the difficulty of the work. Because community members are constantly confronted with the overwhelming needs of the poor, they must be vigilant against despair. Mark Zwick keeps from getting cynical by “reflecting on the lives of immigrants and how they beat all odds to get here.”

Most communities balance prayer and work as Day instructed. Day spoke of a revolution of the heart, saying, “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” La Plante, a practicing Catholic, says, “I couldn’t do this without my faith. It is crucial.”

The health problems of the guests especially challenge her because she can often find no solutions to ongoing circumstances. “You just have to keep going,” La Plante says.

Many houses contend with a high turnover rate of community members. Kyla Fiffon, a 22-year-old who is biking around the country visiting Catholic Worker communities, believes the problem is a result of the stressful work more than the temperament of the communities.

Another member points out that for people who want to join service communities, opportunities abound, some with good stipends and health insurance, which most Catholic Worker communities don’t offer.

As in most human attempts at righting wrongs, the vision calls, but the implementation is inadequate. Dykstra believes questions of right livelihood and sustainability are under-addressed in Catholic Worker communities.

In her experience, “the [Catholic Worker] movement has dealt with poverty by proximity—being near individuals and communities that are impoverished—but has failed to engage deeply with questions of economics at a personal and communal level.” When community members confront the breadth and depth of inequality in the world, questions boil to the surface but often go unanswered.

Energy, time, and funds are limited. Every house, according to Bichsel of Tacoma, has a tension between dedication to the works of mercy and the works of justice.

True value

Despite the difficulties, the movement thrives. The overall number of houses is growing, according to Allaire. And even when people leave the movement, a part of it stays with them. Allaire recalls Dorothy Day’s fondness for the many Catholic Worker “graduates,” people “who have had a permanent shift in values and bring their Catholic Worker experience into their work.”

Fiffon sees more young people interested in the movement, especially those who have discovered what some call “the new monastacism.” They are “rooting themselves in Catholic Worker history” to learn from the model, she says.

Members of the Jeanie Wylie House, a resistance community in Detroit, reported on their blog that at a recent Midwest Catholic Worker gathering “it was impossible not to notice the abundance of youthful energy.” More than half the 200 participants were in their 20s. “And by the showing of young parents and babies, it appears to be for the long haul.”

The movement stays true to many of the tenets set down by Day and Maurin, but as time passes, priorities shift. Many houses now emphasize farming or gardening as integral to their mission. New social issues arise over the years. Resistance planning, according to the members of the Jeanie Wylie House, is focused not only on new weapons, such as the United States’ use of drones in overseas conflicts, but also on the policies of agribusiness corporations such as Monsanto.

Immigration issues have come to the forefront as well. Casa Juan Diego in Houston specifically serves undocumented immigrants. The house provides many types of outreach, including English classes, medical services, and hospitality. The Zwicks recently published a book, Mercy Without Borders: The Catholic Worker and Immigration(Paulist Press), filled with the stories of immigrants who have passed through their doors in the last 30 years.

The Catholic Worker movement has traveled a bumpy road, but the vision of Day and Maurin continues today in houses and farms around the world. The words of Bichsel may sum up the aims of its many members and graduates: “I just want to be a sign of hope and continue to be faithful.”

This article appeared in the November 2011 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 76, No. 11, pages 22-25).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Human Chain Will Protest Guantanamo, Bagram on January 11, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC--Join a rally in Washington, DC and help create a human chain of more than 2,000 people, representing the individuals still detained without charge or fair trial at Guantánamo and Bagram, from the White House to the Capitol.  A coalition of justice groups will gather on the Empire’s capitol on January 11, 2012 to protest unconstitutional detainment and torture at US military prisons.

We will raise our voices and demand:

Close Guantánamo & end abuses at Bagram
End indefinite detention and unfair military commissions
Charge and fairly try detainees or release them
Ensure accountability for torture: investigate, prosecute and provide
remedy for victims
Close the “torture loophole” in Appendix M of the Army Field Manual
Fight Islamophobia

With few exceptions, the Bush detention regime has been more deeply institutionalized by the Obama administration, and the failure to close Guantánamo is but one in a string of unkept promises. While the media has largely abandoned the issue, a bipartisan consensus is emerging to commit permanently to terrible policies. We need to speak out with a new determination to reach policy-makers, the media, and the public. Buses will be coming to Washington DC from cities throughout the Eastern United States.

For more information, e-mail: or or

Sponsored By: Amnesty International USA, Witness Against TortureCenter for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, No More Guantánamos, Pax Christi, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC), Catholic Worker, War Resisters League, World Can’t Wait, Code Pink,War Criminals Watch, School of the America’s Watch (SOAW), Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV), September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows,

Cherith Brook Offers the Festival of Shelters

Cherith Brook Catholic Worker

KANSAS CITY, MO--Emulating an ancient Hebrew tradition, the Cherith Brook Catholic Worker Community, Kansas City, MO, will be celebrating the Festival of Shelters this year Sunday, October 16 and Monday, October 17.  This is a time that their community spends remembering all who have experienced need and reflecting on the ways in which God has provided. The community sets up shelters to represent the various types of homelessness, share in stories with friends and spend time on the streets learning more fully what life is like for the homeless.

The Festival will begin Sunday at 4pm when those gathered will hear the stories of some of our friends and celebrate the ways in which God has provided for us. The program will last until about 5:15pm at which point a group will set out for night on the streets. 

Everyone is invited to join us the gathering, and, if interested, to share in the experience of time on the streets.  Gathering times are:
Sun 6pm- Mon 6am OR
Sun 6pm- Mon 6am OR
Mon 6am-Mon 6pm

At 6pm on Monday the time on the street will end to share in a meal and reflect on the time. Those interested in joining Cherith Brook for time on the streets should let them know by October 10.

The Festival of Shelters is an ancient Hebrew festival that calls for remembrance of those who thirst and hunger and are homeless or enslaved.

Cherith Brook Catholic Worker
3308 E. 12th St.
Kansas City, MO 64127


THE NATION--October, 2011, is shaping up to make history as the month with the most pervasive and simultaneous acts of resistance that the U.S. has ever seen.  Catholic Workers will be joining in acts of resistance in all four corners as well as the center of the United States.  

Actions that resist war and injustice are scheduled in Washington, DC. Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, New York City, and Portland.  Plus, new resistance and occupation actions are springing up daily.  

Some the sustained actions have already begun.  Check the individual web sites for specific details.  

Below are links to some:

National Catholic Worker Gathering Resistance
Creech Air Force Base
Las Vegas

SOA Watch Resistance Action
US Southern Command Center
Miami Florida

October 2011!
A sustained occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC to resist war and economic injustice.

Occupy Wall Street!
A sustained, non-violent occupation of Liberty Park on Wall Street, New York City

Occupy Chicago
A sustained, non-violent picket in front of the Federal Reserve, Chicago

Occupy Portland
A sustained, non-violent occupation at Waterfront near SW Ankeny and Naito Parkway, Portland

Occupy Boston
Facebook Page only:

Los Angeles
A sustained, non-violent occupation at Pershing Square, Los Angeles

And every place else!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Milwaukee Catholic Workers Protest Military Training on Catholic Campuses

In the name of Dorothy Day and Franz Jagerstatter

MILWAUKEE, WI--Several Catholic Workers in the Milwaukee area have held witness at Marquette University, September 22-23, to resist military training on that and other Catholic University campuses.  Before the Inaugural Mass for Father Pilarz S.J. new President of Marquette University.  The time and place of each witness was: 3pm-3:30pm in front of Gesu church,1145 W. Wisconsin, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011; and before the Inauguration of Father Pilarz S.J., 23rd President of Marquette University, 9:30am-10:00am in front of the Al McGuire Center 770 N. 12th St.Friday, Sept. 23, 2011

The message of the witness is simple and direct: “Be faithful to the gospel and no longer host Departments of Military Science.”

The inherent evil of these training programs is insidious and even worse than standard ROTC programs.  (See:

More information about the Marquette witness specifically, including a Petition to Marquette is at:

General information about military training and military science on campuses may be read at:

They have also been leafleting the campus with a brochure against Military Training and Military Science of Catholic campuses.

Dorothy Day addressed the military on campus as well and insisted that these programs were far more of a threat to humanity than was the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

From Joe Radoszewski and Bob Graf for
Breaking the Silence

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

London CW Reports on Dale Farm Eviction

LONDON--A Catholic Worker and several people associated with the London Catholic Worker were present on Monday for the peaceful resistance of the eviction of Dale Farm. After a tense stand off the second court hearing to take place that day passed an injunction that the eviction should be stopped until a hearing on Friday as Basildon Council had not made clear which structures could be destroyed. There was great rejoicing but the future is not at all certain.

The Area, now home to about 50 families (the number varies as the Travelers count families as multi generational not just nuclear) was a scrap yard for vehicles, which the Travelers bought and cleaned up and where they have built a community over 10 years where they look after and out for one another. The sick and elderly have been able to access health services and the children have been going to school. Basildon Council the local authority have refused to grant planning permission for the site on the grounds that it is "Green Belt" protected land, despite the fact that the council itself put hard core down and used the scrap yard.

A varied group of supporters some of whom have been camping at Dale Farm for weeks to build up understanding, and plan defenses grew on Sunday and on Monday by 8 am when the council planned to evict dale Farm and remove caravans and structures, many strong and imaginative defenses were in place. Lock-ons to the gate that shut across the entrance at 11.30 pm Sunday night, and underneath cars pulled across the road and all round the perimeter were activated. The atmosphere was tense. There are people at Dale farm with respiratory diseases who need nebulisers which run on electricity which would be cut off when the eviction began, someone suffering from cancer (see photo for how homes of the most vulnerable were marked) and a mother with a tiny baby as well as children and old people.

In a nearby field were metal structures holding numbers of bailiffs, huge machines, diggers etc, police to back them up and security.There were crowds of press and media on the approach road. Travelers seeing the supporters locked on to barricades expressed great concern because many had suffered previous violent evictions. We tried to reassure them that it was less likely that the bailiffs would be so violent as the world was watching through the press, our own media and legal observers. What ever happens things will never be the same again people have said.

Travelers have suffered centuries of prejudice and ill treatment in England and have survived in part by keeping to themselves. It has been amazing to see their pleasure to find out that so many from the settled community will go to such lengths to support them. The supporters have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know people and taste Traveler culture. The people at Dale Farm are mostly of Irish descent and Catholic, rosaries are hung on barricades alongside anarchist slogans.

This story was submitted by London Catholic Worker Zelda Jeffers

Dale Farm web page:

Below is a response to the postponed eviction and the injunction
 Dale Farm Solidarity statement on Basildon’s botching of the eviction
Posted on September 20, 2011 by dalefarmsupport Basildon Council must take this time to fulfill its responsibility to find and approve a legal and culturally suitable site for the Dale Farm community. Dale Farm residents and supporters urge Basildon to take up the offer made by the Homes and Communities Agency for land and funding in the Basildon area. It is imperative that the Council engages in a meaningful and appropriate way with residents in fulfilling the injunction. A leaked source has revealed that the Council intends to communicate with the residents via email. The Council is aware of the fact that due to limited opportunities for schooling for most Travelers, a large proportion of the Dale Farm residents are illiterate, and have virtually no access to email. Once again, Basildon Council is putting its over-eagerness to evict Dale Farm over following due process.  
It’s clear that Tony Balls’ (leader of the Council) obsession with bulldozing Dale Farm has got in the way of common sense. Basildon Council’s incompetence stems directly from their intolerance of the Traveler community, and their refusal to work with the residents to locate alternative sites. They were so determined to drive the Dale Farm community from the Basildon area, that they didn’t follow the rules and procedures that they claim to hold in such high esteem. The judge expressed the widely held concern that the eviction would go beyond what was lawful. We urge Basildon Council to take this opportunity to negotiate an alternative site for the Dale Farm community that is legal and culturally appropriate. On the date of yesterday’s attempted eviction, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance noted the “rising tide” of intolerance and bigotry against Travelers, Roma and Gypsies, and have advised that providing adequate sites is crucial to avoiding racism. They urged local government to give legal status to sites “once the situation has been tolerated for a long period of time by the public authorities.” We hope Basildon will achieve a sense of perspective.  
More information from Dale Farm Solidarity 
The eviction plans, fought for ten years in numerous legal battles, have been widely condemned, including by the United Nations, Amnesty International and an all party parliamentary group. The plans are considered a breach of multiple rights of the families involved including the failure of authorities to find the community appropriate alternative accommodation. 
Kathryn Flynn, mother of three and resident at Dale Farm for ten years said “I’m moving on to my uncle’s yard on the other side for tonight because I don’t want my children to go through this. (there is another part to Dale Farm that does have planning permission) I’m scared of what the bailiffs will do. They smash up our trailers – our homes. I don’t want my children to be in danger, so we’re moving them. But we’ve got nowhere to go after Monday. We don’t know what’s going to happen to us. Our children went to school for the last day on Friday.  I don’t know what to tell them about tomorrow.” 
Fears of the conduct of bailiffs are not unfounded. Video footage showing the bailiffs aggressively removing Travelers from their homes and destroying their possessions were highlighted by the Judge in the 2008 legal case [1]. On Saturday 17 September the Council admitted that it was aware that Constant and Co were using the word ‘pikey’, classed as a racist term of abuse since 2007, to attract people to the company’s website [2]. 
Activists and residents have been preparing defenses to hold the site. Many have a sense of wider responsibility to defend the rights of Travelers who have been consistently discriminated against for centuries. John McCarthy, a Dale Farm resident for ten years said: “I’m standing here for the rights of Travelers. I’m here baring my heart to the press every day because this has got to change. My children can’t go through what we went through. We’re treated worse than any other community. They think it’s ok to break up a whole community and to throw us all on the roadside. To tell us we can’t come into shops, to pick on our kids, to treat us like we’re hardly human. We need to stand up against this prejudice. We need the right to live in peace. It’s not much to ask, to be allowed to live on an old scrap yard as a community.”

UK Witness Day of Action at Arms Bazaar in London

LONDON--Tuesday 13th September: the first day of the arms fair and the Stop the Arms Fair day of action. What a day it was! The morning started with a dawn banner drop opposite the ExCeL Centre, then saw a critical mass cycle protest and blockades of entrances to the arms fair. An Anglican priest was allowed through the entrance after claiming he was there to perform the official exorcism but soon after was swiftly ejected!

250 people took part in CAAT's colourful protest outside parliament: a supermarket queue to buy tear gas and bombs was set up to mock the very serious business taking place at the arms fair. Many of those present lobbied their MPs, calling on them to sign the cross-party Early Day Motion calling for an end to arms sales to authoritarian regimes.

The protest provided a launch pad for lots of mobile protests on the DLR and more obstruction of the entrances to the arms fair. Others went on to General Atomics, who make Reaper drones, to perform 'remote controlled killer robots' street theatre. One group blockaded the HQ of the arms industry's lobby group - Aerospace Defence & Security. Yet another group filled the air with bubbles outside Tate Modern to declare "Bubbles not Bombs".

At 5pm, activists came back together for large 'die-in' outside the BAE offices on Carlton Terraces, filling the whole street until 6pm. It was a powerful moment when people started dropping to the ground and silence fell.

In the evening, the National Gallery hosted DSEi's official reception. But protesters were there first, refusing to leave as the gallery closed and eventually being forcibly removed even from the steps. A huge banner that read "NATIONAL GALLERY LOVES ARMS DEALERS" was unfurled and crowds gathered to witness a spontaneous die-in outside the gallery.

Protesters were able to stay crowded around each entrance shouting and chanting as arms dealers were escorted by scores of police into the reception. We spotted Geoff Hoon (with an escort of eight policemen) and Richard Paniguian (head of government arms sales unit UKTI DSO) among those entering. One delegation turned on its heels when it saw the protest.
The huge diversity of actions that took place meant that although the arms fair went ahead, its first day went a lot less smoothly than the industry would have liked! CAAT will keep up the pressure on the organisers - Clarion events and the government - to ensure that the arms fair does not return to London in 2013.

Read more about the day of action:

Open Door Vigils for Troy Davis

ATLANTA, GA--Members of Atlanta’s Open Door Community, an intentional community in the Catholic Worker tradition joined others on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol, Atlanta, and along the sidewalk in front of it during a vigil for Troy Anthony Davis a little over an hour before his scheduled 7 p.m. execution.


Brad Lyttle Sentence to One-Year Probation for Y12 Action

KNOXVILLE, TN--If Brad and the judge were going to have a difference of opinion, it wasn’t going to be over Brad’s lack of courtesy. “Mr. Lyttle, can you hear me?” Judge Bruce Guyton asked, as he does of every defendant at the beginning of proceedings. “I certainly can, your honor,” replied Brad cheerfully. And then he thanked the judge for releasing his passport allowing him to travel to Afghanistan and Canada while he was on supervised release, for being kind and open-minded, for assigning the public defender to assist him in his self-representation. Then turning to the Assistant District Attorney, Melissa Kirby, he offered his congratulations on her marriage.

The government made no recommendation about Brad’s sentence, preferring to defer to the judgement of the court. Brad’s history and points placed him in the range to receive a sentence of 1-7 months.

Brad’s elocution called to mind the recent commemorations of September 11, the moving pictures of the catastrophic destruction wrought in New York—“buildings collapsed, people bereaved, in search of loved ones. Over two thousand people in New York alone. I was deeply moved.”

Then Brad cited the testimony of the Manager of Y12 during the trial; Ted Sherry declined to say how powerful the W76 warhead, currently being refurbished at Y12, was, but Brad filled in the gap—if it were exploded in lower Manhattan, “it would all be wiped out, probably every human, and a large number of people in Brooklyn. Every borough of New York City would be on fire. One thousand times the destructive power of Hiroshima.” Brad went on to note that Mr. Sherry did acknowledge the US possesses more than 5,000 of those bombs. Noting Russia maintains a similar arsenal and “untold others” held by other nations, Brad said, “The machine is in place for total destruction of the entire human race. We’re not talking about cities that can be rebuilt; we’re talking about wiping out the human race. Y12 contributes to this machine through the work of refurbishing nuclear warheads. This is reality.”

Then Brad got to the heart of his argument, noting the judge would not permit a jury to hear it. He gave the judge and the prosecutor a copy of his paper, “The Flaw of Deterrence,” which applies the science of probability assessment to the argument of deterrence. “The probability approaches certainty over time.” The fact that it is impossible to know when is tantamount to playing Russian roulette with a revolver that holds an unknown number of bullets. “To play once is irrational,” Brad noted. “And this is the situation with nuclear weapons.”

Coming to a close, Brad said, “Our action was completely justified and necessary to keep the human species from destroying itself. I hope you will take that into consideration; the jury had no chance to hear it.”

After the morning session, the judge summoned Brad’s assigned counsel, Kim Tollison, to chambers for a chat. Kim subsequently spent twenty minutes locked in the conference room with Brad. The upshot was the judge indicated he would not put Brad in prison if Brad would promise not to do it again. But Brad would make no such promise.

Instead, citing his age and health concerns, Brad allowed as how he has no plans at the current time to engage in similar actions at Y12. We held our breath waiting to see if the judge would  push for a promise.

Instead, the judge declared a sentence of one year probation, the first month to be served on home confinement. Drug tests were waived. And with that, court was adjourned. In the gallery, the audience danced little celebratory dances.


Steve Baggarly also Given Eight Months

KNOXVILLE, TN--The purpose of the hearing, September 19, 2011, was to sentence Steve Baggarly for his July 2010 trespass at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex, but when the Judge turned to ask Steve if he had anything to say, Steve delivered a message that was part indictment of the bomb plant and part map of the path to hope.

He began with the simple fact that Y12 enriched the uranium for the Little Boy bomb and produced the thermonuclear secondary for every nuclear weapon in the US arsenal. He illustrated the true nature of the bomb with a recollection of the story of a Hiroshima survivor, Kozu Itagaki, who reported: “Victims of the blast seemed like ghosts, without a vestige of clothing, their sex unclear, tottering toward the park, their skin hanging down like potato skins. They climbed toward the top of the hill, supposing they would find relief, but the next morning they were found dead at the top of the hill.” Itagaki-san spent the next days collecting corpses, interrupted in that work by a young boy who approached begging for water. “We saw the signs of jaundice, dehydration, his hair falling out. We agreed that if we gave him water, he would die. We told him to sit under the tree, and we would bring him water later. When we looked over, we saw that he had put his head into sewage and drank there and died. Now that I am a parent, I realize how hard he was crying in his heart for his mother and his father, and I regret that I did not give him water to drink.”

The weapons being produced by the United States today have the power of thousands of Hiroshima bombs, Steve said, and he cited the Congress, the White House, the courts and the American people for a conspiracy and daily rehearsal of the end of the world. “If we do not repent of this idolatry,” Steve said, “we will not even have a chance to regret it.” He quoted Jimmy Carter’s assessment that a nuclear exchange would unleash the entire firepower of World War 2 every second. “Survivors,” Carter said, and Steve repeated, “will live in despair, in a world that has committed suicide.”

“To require children to live in a world threatened by nuclear weapons is an unspeakable evil,” Steve told the court, “and the United States has a moral responsibility to make sure it never happens. If we have any hope for a nuclear weapons free future, the United States must lead, acting with the relentlessness of the Manhattan Project, a nuclear disarmament race.

“We must depart from the Gods of metal,” Steve said, “Depart from evil and seek good, and only then will we see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

The Judge read the formalities, noting Steve’s several convictions, most recently in March 2010, making him a Category 4 offender, in the 6-12 month range according to the sentencing guidelines. He then sentenced Steve to 8 months in federal prison—he has served four months already. The judge did not levy a fine, and declined to order probation following his release.
Court adjourned, and we bid Steve blessings of peace as he was led in shackles out of the courtroom. Moments later, we enlisted the help of the US Assistant District Attorney to amend the Judge’s order to recommend Steve’s assignment to the federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia.

Steve will be held in Blount County jail where he is cell mates with Mike Walli. It is not clear how long they will be in Tennessee or where they will be moved to when they are moved, but we have scheduled visitation for Saturday morning.


A visit to London’s Arms Fair

by Chris Cole

On, September 13, 2011, the morning of the opening of the DSEi (Defence & Security Equipment International) arms fair in London, I left early from my bed, grateful for the hospitality of Giuseppe Conlon House, and made my way to the centre of London. At Tower Hill station there was a large queue of business men (they were all men) buying tickets to the Excel Centre where the fair is being held. I mingled with them and asked some of them – with BAE Systems badges on the lapels – whether they were buying or selling. It turned out that they were from Saudi Arabia and their minder did not want me to talk to them – or them to talk to me.I reminded him we were not in Saudi and democracy meant that we could happily converse with each other.

The Excel Centre is in the east end of London – what used to be called the docklands – not far from the other London Catholic Worker –Dorothy Day House. I had vigiled and prayed the night before with about 150 locals from East London Against the Arms Fair outside the centre. Many of the elder ones at the vigil would be able to recall the devastation and loss of life visited upon the docks and surrounding areas by German bombing in the Second World War. None of us wanted such devastation and death rained on others with weapons traded at the arms fair.

Alighting at the station exit for the arms fair there was intense security and I looked around in vain for other protestors – there had been a call out to meet together on the platform at 10.00am. As there was seemingly no one else there I mingled with the crowds of business men and made my way up to the entrance of the fair. There were large glossy display boards all around extolling the virtues of various weapons systems and arms companies. The closer I got to the entrance the heavier the security was getting and it was clear I would not get into the fair itself. Weighing up my option I got out a spray can from my bag and quickly sprayed “DSEi Kills” and “Stop the Arms Trade” on two of the glossy arms displays before being quickly grabbed by the police. I did not however, go quietly. I spoke loud and clearly to the long line of arms dealers shuffling slowing towards the entrance –urging them to reconsider their actions and speaking about the misery and death their mornings work will surely bring. I run out of words pretty quick and end by asking them repeatedly, to simply go home to their families and to think about what they were doing. All of them avoided eye contact.

I spent a few hours in the cells and have been charged with criminal damage and have a plea hearing date next month. There were many other actions against the arms fair that day and in the days following. Investigators from human rights groups who did manage to gain entry into the fair found cluster bombs and torture equipment on sale despite specific promises from the organisation that such equipment was banned.

Arms fairs such as DSEi – are the public face of the arms trade – the mere visible tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of the work goes on hidden beneath the surface, outside of the spotlight. Our task as Christian peacemakers is to expose this rotten underbelly which is responsible each and every day for visiting yet more death and destruction upon the world – especially upon the poor.

Photos : 

Chris Cole

Ciaron O'Reilly
London CW

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mike Walli Given Eight Months

KNOXVILLE, TN--Mike Walli appeared in federal court in Knoxville on Monday, September 19, 2011 to face sentencing for his May 2011 conviction on charges of trespass at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN in July 2010. Mike has been in custody, held mostly in Ocilla, GA, since the trial in May.

The procedure began with Judge Bruce Guyton asking Mike if he could hear him. Mike did not answer, but his attorney, Chris Irwin, spoke up to say that Mike had chosen to remain silent before the court, but he (Chris) having just spent an hour in conversation with Mike, was certain Mike could hear and understand.

After formalities—have both sides read the sentencing memorandum?—Chris Irwin began by asking the court for a moment of silence for Jackie Hudson. The judge granted the request, and silence was observed.

Chris then reviewed for the judge a bit of Mike’s history; his service in Vietnam and the effects of that combat experience, his spiritual awakening and conversion to Christianity, and his dedication to a life of service in communities, feeding the hungry, painting windows, mowing grass, assisting with prisoner reintegration, providing hospitality for the homeless, and more. “This,” said Chris, “along with his acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, is Mike’s response to the horrific events he witnessed in war.”

When Chris finished, the judge reviewed Mike’s record; he is in a higher category than any of the defendants to date, and was recommended by the presentencing memorandum for a term of 6-12 months. The judge declared a sentence of 8 months; no supervised release, no fine, and a $25 special fee.

With that, Mike rose in shackles. Blessings were exchanged with the audience, and we watched him leave. Anticipating that Mike will remain in Blount County Jail (who knows?) until the weekend, we have made arrangements to visit on Saturday.

Tomorrow: Steve Baggarly and Brad Lyttle are scheduled for sentencing on Tuesday. OREPA members will gather in solidarity with Brad and Steve’s wife, Kim, at 8:00pm at the Riverside community in South Knoxville this evening. This morning, Steve and Kim were able to visit in Blount County jail in a “special circumstances” arrangement since Kim had traveled from Norfolk, VA.


Australian Catholic Workers Flash Mob Military Event

Catholic Workers from the Peter Maurin Catholic Worker Farm in Queensland, Australia surprised onlookers on September 3, 2011, when they broke out in song and dance at Army Open Day.  Army Open Day was a military promotional event held at the annual Brisbane Arts Festival.  A YouTube of their protest of war and the glorification of war in family entertainment is below.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Next Step in Stopping New KC Nuke Weapons Plant

KANSAS CITY, MO-- Don’t call it surrender. It’s a “strategic withdrawal,” longtime peace activist Rachel MacNair told supporters Sept. 1.

Rachel MacNair
Following a decision to end what appeared to be a lengthy and costly legal battle to push for a citywide vote on construction of a major new nuclear weapons facility, MacNair told fellow activists: “Let us do be clear on this. We are now in better shape than we’ve ever been before.”

With the tone of someone who wanted to preempt discouragement in the ranks, she cited a growth in general public awareness as one of the most important gains that has come from the legal initiative.

For more than three years, peace activists here have had one primary goal: stopping construction on what is to be the first new nuclear weapons plant in 33 years. With the decision to admit short-term defeat on what a cadre of overlapping peace groups here had hoped to be their most successful shot yet at thwarting completion of the new plant, they say they have entered into a new time of discernment.

It’s a period in which the activists are being called to digest the fact that the hope they had placed in a legal initiative, a people’s referendum of sorts, had been overwhelmed by powerful political, business and national security interests.

Yet, MacNair’s tone was defiant.

“Our ability to make clear that this plant is controversial has shot up not only with public and press, but with the powers that be that are instrumental in building and financing it,” she wrote. “They’ve had to expend huge amounts of money and energy into defending something they thought was settled. They’ll know we mean business when we keep at it, too.”

For the past 69 years, Kansas City has been the home of a sprawling facility that makes nonnuclear parts for the nation’s nuclear arsenal. The aging facility is set to be replaced beginning next year with a new plant, located 19 miles south of downtown Kansas City and estimated to cost a total of $1.2 billion over 20 years. Construction is being subsidized by the city with $815 million in municipal bonds.

Two years ago, when a lawsuit questioning the environmental impact of the new facility failed, activists began to take their protest to the street. After more than a year of vigils near an old soybean field -- the site of the future plant, now bustling with construction activities -- they decided to push forward with acts of nonviolent resistance.

When the bulldozers appeared a year ago to plow down the soybean plants to make way for a sprawling, 1.5-million-square-foot complex, some 100 activists blocked one of the machines. Fourteen were arrested.

Last May another group followed suit, with members of Catholic Worker communities from across the nation gathering for the occasion. Fifty-three more joined the number taken into custody after acts of civil disobedience.

Those acts were soon followed by a decision to gather signatures locally to get an initiative on the fall municipal ballot that would have forced the operator of the site to suspend nuclear work in favor of green energy production.

The Kansas City Peace Planters, a coalition of some 150 local organizers, over several weeks obtained more than 4,000 signatures; 3,572 were required for placement on the ballot.

The success of the signature campaign seemed to catch city officials by surprise and quickly led to city legal maneuverings aimed at stopping the initiative from getting to the ballot, including delaying action on the proposed referendum to the last possible moment.

The city council denied placement of the initiative on the ballot Aug. 26, saying that while the activists’ petition may have enough signatures to merit placement on the ballot, it “conflicts with the constitutional power of the federal government to provide for the national defense.”

Following the council’s refusal, activists said they would fight the decision in court. Business and political interests then mounted a counteroffensive. A team of lawyers representing the nuclear plant’s operating and construction companies joined the city’s attorney and were expected to argue together that the peace group’s initiative would have to be taken to federal court.

On Aug. 30, facing the prospects of a series of costly court cases, the peace activists officially decided they would drop their initiative.

MacNair, one of the local peace groups’ main organizers and the person who headed up the ballot campaign, told NCR that the decision is actually part of a “growing enthusiasm” for their struggle.

“Attention to the construction of this nuclear facility has been growing,” said MacNair, who holds a doctorate in psychology and focuses her work on the study of the psychology of peace. “Why would we want to let them keep us in the courtroom? We have better things to do than that. We want to get things in shape so we can really stop this plant, and focus on converting it to green energy use.”

Long-term struggle

For many, the fight between the protestors and the city raises old questions as to what social movements can accomplish when they’re opposed by powerful government and private industry forces.

Ed Ford, the only member of the Kansas City Council to vote against blocking the activists’ ballot measure, put it this way: “What you have is the old ‘How can we fight city hall, especially when it’s backed by the military-industrial complex?’ ”

Activists join hands in front of a bulldozer at the construction site for the new Kansas City Plant in an Aug. 16, 2010, act of civil disobedience. Fourteen were arrested for the action, which stopped construction for about an hour.Facing an alignment of city and federal interests, the struggle of the activists to call attention to the new plant is like a “David versus Goliath epic,” said Ford, who is Catholic and over the past few years has been the lone council vote against approving the arrangement for construction of the new facility.

“You had all the resources of City Hall, the federal government and private industry against what seem to be ‘the meek who will eventually inherit the earth,’ ” he said. “It looks like that was just not going to happen yet.”
While that dynamic might cause some to wonder if the Kansas City activists have any realistic hope of success, one expert who has written extensively on nuclear disarmament and nonviolent social movements said it just reflects the long-term nature of these kinds of campaigns.

“It’s obvious that things don’t turn around right away, and then you can just declare victory in the fight against nuclear weapons,” said David Cortright, director of policy studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

“These things have a cumulative effect,” he said. “We don’t know when things might shift, but multiple factors enter into play, and it’s always possible for there to be a very gradual change.”

Cortright, who was involved in a successful campaign during the 1980s to halt the construction of launch sites for nuclear missiles in western Utah, said his own experience there shows that social movements similar to Kansas City’s build over time.

With plans to build a system of some 4,600 shelters for 200 MX missiles, a Utah government Web site estimates that at least some 12,000 construction workers would have been hired for the derailed project.
Despite the promise of that economic boost, Cortright said, their campaign was successful because it focused on the ecological dangers of the weapons systems.

“Eventually, people in Utah said, ‘We just don’t need jobs that much,’ ” Cortright said. “But that was only after several years of long discussion and many education visits by lots of organizations.
“It takes a lot of organizing and a lot of education at the local level with these kinds of situations to begin to build a base where you can have some voice and some legitimacy.”

Continuing hope

The promise of jobs has also been key to local support for construction of the Kansas City site. The original proposal for its construction said it would employ a “minimum of 2,100 workers,” including those working at the current plant.

But, activists say, that figure doesn’t take into account the number of jobs the new facility might be able to generate were it focused on sustainable technology production instead of nuclear work.

To support their claim, they published in July a study undertaken on their behalf by two economists at the University of Texas at Dallas on “maximizing job creation” at the new site. In the report, Professors Teresa D. Nelson and Lloyd J. Dumas conclude that “investing in the declining market for nuclear weapons through the new [plant] is by far a poorer generator of jobs” than other alternatives, such as wind or solar energy production.

The Peace Planters say that, despite their withdrawal of the current ballot measure, they plan to continue focusing on raising attention for possible alternative uses of the nuclear site.

They’ve announced plans for two more petition drives, these focused on ensuring the city does not approve any more bond measures for the new plant’s construction and on finding money for the cleanup of the old site, which the administrator of the General Services Administration admitted in April held detectable levels of an unidentified carcinogen.

While the failed ballot measure may have been seen as unconstitutional, activists say these new measures will be focused solely on the city’s involvement in the project, and will be much harder to block from the ballot. They have until late November to gather the required signatures for both petitions to be considered for an April 5 ballot.

Jane Stoever, another of the group’s organizers, pointed to the more than 4,000 signatures on the first ballot campaign and to the continued protest actions at the construction site. “I am astonished at how quickly this has grown,” said Stoever, whose arrest in July 2010 outside the current nuclear facility was one of the first tied to construction of the new site. “Awareness has already been spread through this process.”

For Cortright, that awareness reflects a decades-long effort to finally abolish nuclear weapons.

“There are gains and losses, ups and downs,” he said. “But overall, at least over the last couple of decades ... there’s been growing skepticism toward the need for more nuclear weapons.”

“That’s the result of many seemingly small campaigns. It’s the cumulative impact of a worldwide concern.”