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Convictions of Sister Megan Rice, and the “Y-12 Three” Overturned

Transform Now Plowshares Members’ Could Be Released Soon

Transform Now Plowshares Y-12 Sister Megan RiceOn May 8th, an appeals court overturned the convictions of Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, members of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, on sabotage crimes relating to their acts of civil disobedience against nuclear war and in favor of peace. They also ordered that they be re-sentenced for a lesser crime of “injuring government property,” which was upheld.

Via the NY Times:

An anti-nuke nun may soon be blessed with freedom.

An appeals court has overturned the sabotage convictions of an 85-year-old nun and two fellow Catholic peace activists who broke into a weapons-grade uranium facility and splashed blood on the walls.

But Sister Megan Rice, locked up in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for the past two years, 66-year-old Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 59, are not totally in the clear yet.

A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision Friday that the three did not injure national security when they cut through several fences and broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in July 2012.

But the court upheld a less serious conviction for injuring government property. “If a defendant blew up a building used to manufacture components for nuclear weapons . . . the government surely could demonstrate an adverse effect on the nation’s ability to attack or defend,” the opinion said. “But vague platitudes about a facility’s ‘crucial role in the national defense’ are not enough to convict a defendant of sabotage.”

The trio, known as the Y-12 three, hung banners, prayed and hammered on the outside wall of the bunker in Oak Ridge to symbolize a Bible passage that refers to the end of war: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares.”

Their aim was to bring the dangers of unimpeded nuclear proliferation to people’s attention.

The Appellate Court’s ruling determined that “Congress never intended to punish individuals whose sole intent was to spread a message of peace, which is far from trying to disrupt nuclear defense systems.”

The government had 14 days (as of May 8, 2015) to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to have the convictions reinstated. I don’t have a lot of faith in the government in general or in their willingness to back down rather than fight to the bitter end to force compliance with their authority, but I have some personal reasons (read below for more on that) to hope they will, since I actually know Sister Meghan and consider her a friend.

Sister Meghan and the others convicted with her are nothing short of political prisoners, who (as the appeals court acknowledged) were given inflated charges based on the political messages they expressed with their protest and the defiance they displayed in the process, as well as the embarrassment the ease with which they carried it out caused to those tasked with guarding America’s war machines. They should be released immediately.

Sister Meghan RiceSister Megan Rice – an Unofficial Saint

Sister Megan Rice, a Catholic nun and long time member of the Catholic Worker movement, is one of the nicest, kindest, most soft-spoken people you would ever meet. She’s also one of the toughest and most morally grounded people you could ever be lucky enough to know. I first met her when she was living in Las Vegas and I was involved in helping to re-establish the local Food Not Bombs group here, back in late 2008. Sister Megan and other members of Las Vegas Catholic Worker were among those that had supported Food Not Bombs Las Vegas when the City of Las Vegas passed laws making it illegal to share food with hungry people, specifically with people who “a reasonable, ordinary person would believe” needed that food. Before that, she spent 40 years as a schoolteacher and relief worker in some of the poorest areas of Africa, until bouts with malaria and typhoid fever forced her to return to the United States.

From the first time I ever met her at a local coffee shop where we held the Las Vegas A-Cafe at that time, Sister Megan was never anything, but pleasant, friendly, and helpful. However, even as apparent as her good nature was, you could see and hear the strength of her character just as easily. She was the kind of genuine person that you respected as soon as you met her. Through involvement with Food Not Bombs and other peace groups, as well as my own personal advocacy, I have often worked with Catholic Worker and other faith-based groups in the Las Vegas area, such as Nevada Desert Experience and Pace e Bene, that are associated with them.

As a result, I had a fair amount of interaction with Sister Megan during her last couple of years in Las Vegas. During that time, my respect and admiration for her never ceased to grow. Her peaceful, yet determined, demeanor was always both inspirational and educational. Talking to her at regular “everyday” events was always a pleasant experience. On the other side of the coin, witnessing how she never let fear of punishment deter her from standing up for the right thing and was always willing to accept the consequences that might come, regardless of how overblown or draconian they might have been, was something that always strengthened my own resolve.

Toward the end of her time in Las Vegas, I attended the trial of the “Creech 14,” who had been arrested for stepping too close to the gate of Creech Air Force Base (where most of the U.S. drones are operated remotely) in order to protest the murders of people in other countries (including women and children) by people just north of Las Vegas. Sister Meghan (as well as the rest of the defendants) never backed down from her principles or recanted their beliefs as unjust, but simply made the argument that their actions were based on a duty to defend innocent people.

It seemed fairly obvious, that even the judge was sympathetic to their arguments, which included testimony from Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark on their behalf. Of course, when you are accused of challenging the government’s war machine, no judge will side against their employer and its biggest source of income, regardless of their potential sympathies for the accused. Especially in what was really a very minor case that was being used as a sort of show trial to discourage future activism against Creech’s drone murders. When I spoke to her after the trial on the phone, instead of being upset (like I was) or even disappointed that they were convicted, she was actually cheerful and talking about moving onto the next fight.

Transform Now Plowshares and the Oakridge Nuclear Facility – Pacifistic Terrorism

From left, Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli. (Photo: Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Not long after that, she left Nevada and shortly thereafter became involved in the biggest and most principled fight that anyone I know personally has ever undertaken. At a time when most people are relaxing in retirement, Sister Megan actually shut down a nuclear weapons manufacturing facility.

Along with Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, of the “Transform Now Plowshares” movement, the (at the time) 82 year old nun entered the Oak Ridge (TN) National Laboratory, hung protest banners, poured blood on the walls, and spray-painted antiwar statements on buildings. The ease with which they entered what was supposed to be a highly secure nuclear weapons facility and the very public nature of it, this particular action not only challenged, but very much embarrassed the U.S. Government.

That public shaming of the United States’ war apparatus and it’s very lax security was their real “crime.” Outside of that, all the three pacifists had committed was trespassing and what would be a stretch to call vandalism, since no actual property was damaged. In spite of that, they were branded as “violent terrorists” by the Federal Government and charged with felony crimes. This was much more a case of saving face over the exposure of just how easy it would be for someone with real harmful intent to walk right onto a base filled with nuclear materials (they actually had to approach a security guard working there and alert him to their presence) than any real danger that they had ever created with their non-violent actions.

Square-bannerAs was the case in previous acts of civil disobedience, rather than back down from her convictions and beg her captors for leniency, Sr. Megan and the others reaffirmed their commitment to direct action and even informed the judge after their conviction that they would resume such activity upon release, stating that the only way to stop them from advocating for peace would be to give them a life sentence. At the time, they were in fact facing what amounted to an actual life sentence (a 30 year maximum), due to their ages.

Although it is still a travesty that she should have spent even a day in jail, the judge fortunately didn’t heed their advice in that respect and sentenced her to 35 months, along with sentencing Boertje-Obed and Walli to 62 months each. As the Daily News detailed earlier this year, Sister Megan has since been confined to a “Brooklyn hellhole,” crammed with 111 other women into an unsanitary, inhumane single room prison unit at the Metropolitan Federal Detention Center in New York City.

In spite of those deplorable conditions, Sister Megan responds with her typical strength and good cheer. Rather than complain, she makes her initial appearance for that interview serene and smiling and speaks of how the patience and endurance the beautiful women she lives with in the prison have become a “constant source of admiration and hope that change is possible.”

SecondSaturdayMay 047That sort of humility, determination, optimism, and caring spirit is what I noticed and admired almost immediately when I met Sister Megan. And it’s what has caused me to take inspiration from her and become determined myself to continue fighting for that change. Throughout my life and especially since I became involved in activist causes, I’ve been very fortunate to meet a variety of amazing and inspiring people that have left permanent impressions on me and helped to shape my character in a positive way. Sister Megan is someone I place among the top of that list. She and her fellow peaceful “terrorists” should be released right now, not so much because she personally needs or would likely ask for that on her own behalf, but rather because those of us out here need people like her standing with us.

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“Justice for Africa” – Photos and Video from LAPD Shooting Protest

Jason Nellis Arrival in Los AngelesCurrently, Jason Nellis, who blogs at “The World as seen by Jazoof” and has also been involved with Nevada Cop Block and other Las Vegas area groups, is in Los Angeles, where protests over the shooting of an unarmed homeless man by the Los Angeles Police are taking place at the LAPD headquarters. These are photos and videos he has taken there. We should have an update with commentary and more details at some point later. (This is a cross-post from CopBlock.org)

If you personally have any video, photos, or experiences to share from the protests (or any previous incidents with the LAPD) you can share them via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. In addition, included at the bottom of this post is a list of California-area Cop Block groups that you could connect with if you want to promote police accountability in your area and help protect your neighbors from police violence.

As you can see in the screenshot included, this latest shooting of an unarmed person by the LAPD is not going unnoticed by the people in the city (Or elsewhere as a matter of fact.):

“As soon as I got to Union Station people around me were playing the video repeatedly. This is kinda surreal.”

Note: Any commentary included with the photos comes from the description included with them by Jason, unless in parenthesis.

Photos:

(CLICK FOR FULL SIZE)

Start of “Justice for Africa” protest rally point then March to LAPD to demand prosecutions of killer cops:
vigil1vigil2vigil3vigil4vigil5vigil6vigil7

Marching to LAPD (Police Set Up a “Bike Line” to Try and Stop March):

March1March2March3March5March4March6March7

At the LAPD’s door:

LAPD HQLAPD HQ2LAPD HQ3LAPD HQ 6LAPD HQ 7LAPD HQ 8LAPD HQ 9LAPD HQ 10LAPD HQ 11

(Chalk Messages at the LAPD Headquarters Protests):

LAPD HQ Chalk1LAPD HQ Chalk2LAPD HQ Chalk3LAPD HQ Chalk4LAPD HQ Chalk5LAPD HQ Chalk6

They taped up the way we came in… but the park side is nice and open… they say we can’t bring cameras in… we’ll see:

LA Park  1LA Park 2LA Park  3LA Park 4LA Park 5LA Park 6LA Park 7

Guess who the native on the crazy trip (Jason) walked up to: (Spoiler: Adam Kokesh)

FUCK, both times I rushed to the nearest outlet to charge my stuff in order to hurry back and record more, girls were arrested. This time the two female friends who I interviewed in a video, after the first one Lissa Bissa who is in earlier videos. One of the last two got taken down and manhandled by 5 cops (I believe in riot gear, they carried it out and can be vaguely seen in this quick shot I got).

LAPD Arrest

Video:

Arrival at “Justice for Africa” Protest

March to LAPD – Bike Cops

“Justice for Africa” Protest – at LAPD HQ


Taped in on one side at LAPD

Additional Resources:

CopBlock Groups Page: Connect with others in your area or start a group/chapter.
Know Your Rights Page: Get tips, tactics and knowledge to help yourself during a police interaction.
CopBlock Network: Support the great folks who make CopBlock.org possible by contributing $1/month to our efforts.
Official CopBlock Press Passes: Personalized press passes created by Nevada Cop Block.

Banner - CopBlock Store - PowerPostCalifornia Cop Block Affiliates

  • Bakersfield, CA Cop Block – Facebook
  • Bay Area Cop Block – Facebook
  • Berkeley Cop Watch – Facebook
  • California Cop Block – Facebook
  • California Cop Watch – Twitter
  • Committee Against Police Brutality San Diego – Facebook / [email protected]
  • Cop Block Clemson – Twitter
  • Cop Block Fresno, CA – Facebook / Ustream
  • Cop Block Imperial Valley – Facebook
  • Cop Block Los Angeles – Facebook / [email protected]
  • Cop Block El Segundo – Facebook
  • Cop Watchers Lake Tahoe – Facebook / Youtube
  • High Desert Cop Block – Facebook / [email protected]
  • IV Cop Watch – Facebook / Twitter / Bambuser
  • Mission Copwatch – website / Twitter / (415) 906.0400 / [email protected]
  • Orange County Cop Block – Facebook / Twitter / [email protected]
  • Redwood Curtain Cop Watch – website / (707) 633-4493 / [email protected]
  • San Diego Cop Block – Facebook
  • Santa Ana Cop Watch – Facebook / [email protected]
  • Stockton Cop Block – Facebook
  • Southbay Cop Block – Facebook
  • United Against Police Terror – San Diego – website / Facebook / [email protected]
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Police Fatality Review of D’Andre Berghardt Jr. Murder Scheduled for Today

dandre-berghardt-murder-videoAt 9:00 AM this morning (March 2, 2015), the Clark County District Attorney’s office will be conducting a “Police Fatality Public Fact Finding Review” for the murder of D’andre Berghardt Jr., who was shot to death by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents on February 14, 2014 after he asked passersby near Red Rock Canyon (just outside Las Vegas) for water and some of them called to report that he may need assistance. Those BLM agents, along with a Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper,  subsequently showed up and instead of offering assistance (or simply leaving him alone if he refused assistance), began to antagonize, pepper spray, taze, and beat Berghardt.

Not surprisingly, Berghardt attempted to get away from the people that were assaulting him and tried unsuccessfully to get into several nearby cars. Unfortunately, when he did finally find a vehicle that he could get into, it ended up being NHP Trooper Lucas Schwarzrock’s SUV. That prompted the two (unnamed) BLM agents to shoot and kill Berghardt, presumably because they were afraid that he would use the rifle that was locked up (according to the BLM’s own official statement) inside the trooper’s passenger seat.

Although a video (which is embedded below), taken by two people that witnessed the incident from their car while stopped on the road, surfaced within a few days of the shooting, there actually should be another video that would show a much better view of what happened that day. Unlike the LVMPD and other Las Vegas area police, Nevada Highway Patrol vehicles have dash cams. That video has never been released, nor has any explanation ever been offered for it not being released. It’ll be interesting to see if that will be included in the presentation or, at the very least, if some sort of excuse for it’s lack of availability will be given.

In spite of it’s Orwellian name, the “Police Fatality Public Fact Finding Review” is, in reality, designed to do anything but provide facts to the public. It was created after the LVMPD and Police Protective Association were unable to have reforms to the old Coroner’s Inquest overturned via lawsuits. The much maligned original Coroner’s Inquest had functioned as a rubber stamp process of automatically justifying police shootings for about 40 years. In spite of the proposed reforms standing up to those legal challenges and being declared constitutional by the Nevada Supreme Court, the entire process was scrapped in favor of this newer version that is even worse and less transparent than the Coroner’s Inquests had ever been.D'andre Berghardt Jr

Basically, the new method of rubber stamping police shootings consists of the District Attorney declaring (every single time) that the killing was justified, then having someone present to the public the police version of events without any cross examination, witness testimony, presentation of evidence, or impartial representation. It essentially is designed in order to facilitate an official, institutionalized coverup, with very little opportunity for the public to question the official story they are being fed. You couldn’t ask for a much better opportunity to hide the truth and bury facts while advancing the official narrative. Nor could you more effectively sow mistrust and hostility within the communities that are effected by these killings, which historically have never resulted in any sort of accountability, regardless of how questionable they have been and whether the victims of the LVMPD’s trigger happy cops were completely innocent and/or unarmed.

Details for Police Fatality Review of D’Andre Berghardt Jr. Murder:

Via www.clarkcountynv.gov

The Police Fatality Public Fact-finding Review into the February 2014 death of D’Andre Berghardt Jr. will be held Monday, March 2, at 9 a.m. in the Clark County Government Center Commission Chambers at 500 S. Grand Central Parkway in downtown Las Vegas. The review will be aired live on Clark County Television (CCTV) and streamed over the County Internet site at www.ClarkCountyNV.gov.

According to reports, Berghardt was shot and killed during a confrontation with law enforcement officers on state Route 159 near the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

The review of this incident will be presided over by Hearing Officer Chip Siegel. Mark Bailus will serve as ombudsman for the review. Both are longtime criminal defense attorneys in the community. Presiding officers and ombudsmen are selected by the county manager from lists approved by the County Commission. The ombudsman represents the public and the deceased’s family in this fact-finding review.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Staudaher will represent the District Attorney’s Office in this proceeding.

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