Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Protesters Stall Plant Construction: 14 Arrested in Civil Disobedience Action against New Weapons Facility

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Protesters Stall Plant Construction: 14 Arrested in Civil Disobedience Action against New Weapons Facility

Article excerpt

KANSAS CITY, MO. * Singing choruses of "We shall not be moved" while scattering sunflower seeds, 14 Catholic activists were arrested here Aug. 16 after blocking a dump truck on the site of a proposed nuclear weapons manufacturing facility.

The acts of civil disobedience came at the end of a three-day conference that drew peace activists here from around the nation. The efforts were aimed at building resistance to the construction of the weapons plant, which will replace an existing plant here.

The new plant, which will make non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons, is set to be the nation's first new major nuclear weapons production facility in 32 years.

Before their arrest, the protestors walked onto a soybean field being plowed by several earth-moving vehicles as part of the plant building preparation effort. The group, walking in single file, held hands; some carried large signs. They approached and surrounded one of the vehicles, forcing the driver to stop her work, and eventually leading 20 other vehicles to halt theirs as well.

After about a 45-minute shutdown, police arrived, announcing the protesters had two minutes to leave the privately owned grounds. The flurry of activity stopped all work at the site for over an hour.

In a statement to the press before they began their action, the activists called the new facility a "crime against peace" and a "crime against humanity."

This is the second time that people have been arrested for civil disobedience protesting the plant in recent months. On Aug. 6 a local activist, Jane Stoever, was sentenced to eight hours of community service for having blocked the entrance to the current facility, known simply as the Kansas City Plant (NCR, Aug. 20). Her action took place in June.

Currently a part of the Bannister Federal Complex, located about 13 miles south of the city's downtown area, the Kansas City Plant is responsible for the production and assembly of approximately 85 percent of the nonnuclear components for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The plant is due to be relocated in 2012 to the "more modern facility."

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy, has said the new facility will carry an estimated price tag of $673 million for construction and $1.2 billion over the next 20 years.

Coming from 15 states and three countries by bus, train, airplane and caravan, antinuclear activists gathered here to attend the weekend conference in a local Methodist church, leading up to the civil disobedience.

Recalling her 30 years working at the current site of the nuclear weapons facility, Barbara Rice told those in attendance that she had lost count of how many of her colleagues had died of cancer after 110 passed away.

While she said she couldn't prove that the deaths were related to chemical exposure at the current facility, Rice remembered one instance when a pipe burst at the plant and her supervisors told her to "go home immediately and destroy her clothes. …

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