Serious Resistance is Serious Business--The story of Helen Woodson
Anyone have any more info on Helen Woodson? This is all the info we could find on her. Please help printing and distributing this pamphlet.
Helen Woodson #03231-045 FMC Carswell, PO Box 27137, Admin Max Unit, Fort Worth, TX 76127. Serving 27 years for robbing a bank and then setting the money on fire while reading out a statement denouncing greed, capitalism and the destruction of the environment.
As a result of a federal appeals court ruling, Helen Woodson was released on
parole on June 14. She had been in custody since the November, 1984, Silo
Pruning Hooks action, when she and three others used a pneumatic jackhammer
and hand tools to disarm a Minuteman II nuclear missile silo east of Kansas
City. Woodson's seventeen year sentence for that action is the longest ever
given in the United States for an act of anti-nuclear nonviolent direct
This past spring, the appeals court overturned a lower court ruling, and
re-affirmed the government's position that it could release Helen Woodson on
parole. Woodson had filed a civil suit asking to be held in prison until the
expiration of her sentence, and then unconditionally released.
Three days after her release, Woodson walked into a Chicago bank, produced a
starter's pistol and asked the teller to empty all the cash drawers. When
patrons began to catch wind that something was amiss, Woodson announced she
had no intention to harm anyone, and asked everyone in the bank to please sit
down and hear her statement.
After receiving about $25,000 in cash, Woodson piled it in the middle of the
floor, doused it with lighter fluid, and ignited it. She made a statement
elaborating on her belief that money is the root of all evil.
Cash now ashes, Woodson asked the patrons to leave the bank with her. If
police were waiting, she would surrender peacefully; if not, she intended to
walk on to other planned actions. Police were waiting, and Woodson was taken
back into custody.
At her arraignment the next day, June 18, Woodson declined the services of
the public defender, and represented herself. The magistrate decided that
before he would take any action in the case, he was ordering a psychiatric
evaluation to determine Woodson's competence to defend herself. He ordered
it completed within thirty days. At press time, Woodson is being held at MCC
Chicago, but could be moved at any time for the psychiatric evaluation.
Letters of support can be sent to Helen Woodson, c/o C. Dixon, 3559 Hwy. G,
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965.
from the Nuclear Resister no. 89,
Jun 23, '92.
1. I'm curious how folks feel about this? When I heard about it, I was
pretty shocked. First of all, that's a lot of $ to burn! Second, I don't
necessarily think $ per se is the ROOT of all evil, whatever evil is (as you
define it.) And last, but not least, I believe it is a violent act to hold
folks at gunpoint (even if it's a toy pistol) to make a point. There's got
to be a better way. Now, if Helen Woodson wanted primarily to be locked up,
(which sounds apparent, anyway) she certainly achieved her mission. But why
involve innocent bank tellers and customers? (I'm curious...does anyone know
the name/location of the bank?)
2. I found the report quite disturbing and was puzzled about it being in this
conference. What she did must have been terrifying for the people in the
bank. If this is nonviolence, let me off the boat. On the other hand, it's
important to know what has happened to one of the people who was deeply
involved in the Plowshares movement.
I sent a copy of the report to Dan Berrigan, who knows Helen Woodson. I hope
he can visit her, or arrange for someone else to see her, as probably she
needs any kind of care she can get. But I have more sympathy for the people
who had the bad luck to be in the bank that day.
Jim Forest, Peace Media Service, Holland
3. I believe that, sad to say, Helen's action exemplifies what a lot of US
nonviolent direct action has turned into. Activists must discuss currently
popular styles of action critically, rather than in an awed way, if we don't
want our movement to become one of the curios of history.
I only wish more nonviolent activists were online, so this and similar
problems could get the most thorough airing possible. In fairness to Helen,
I'll urge Jack Cohn-Joppa (nukeresister) to upload Helen's defense of her
action as soon as it becomes available.
4. This is very interesting to me personally, in addition to the
political/emotional/nonviolence points mentioned in the responses so far. In
1971, as I neared the last days of my two and a half years in federal prisons
(for disregard of the military draft system in the U.S.), I considered what
peace actions I might take next. One thing that occurred to my mind, but
which I decided relatively easily not to do, was to go to the military base
not far from the prison, and do something along the lines of sit in as a one
person blockade at the gate, or (shocking thought to me) immolate myself
there! This was not my style and it still is not, though some people felt my
draft defiance was tantamount to it - I thought they were overdramatizing.
The point here is that even non-destructive (or so I like to think) me got
some thought of fire as the end of my "time" came. In Helen's case she had
done some physical destruction as part of her "crime" years ago, perhaps that
meant that she was more inclined to pursue the near-release thoughts.
We'lI try to remember the political/emotional content of the thoughts that
accompanied the ideas: something about an outcry needed to bring to people's
attention that the ills still existed, and that the fact that I was to be
released was incidental, that every moment of mine was to continue the
witness, the alarm.
We continue the witness, the outcry, the alarm in many ways. And among those
ways for me is the struggle to express the very strongest feelings, including
feelings of pain and anger, in ways which bring us further along in peaceable
struggle. The day before my release, as I returned to the restriction cells
where my peaceably bad behavior had led to my confinement for most of my
term, Officer G. asked me how it had been, the years of imprisonment. I said
there had been a lot. I chose to summarize by saying that at times my
feelings, including anger, had seemed to overflow their banks, and become
directed at the people, including the officials [actually I had behaved
peaceably enough throughout]. I did a "radical" thing in that context, and
touched him on his grey-uniformed arm lightly, and said something about my
having gotten past that "overflow", and that if I had hurt him in any way I
hoped for repair. And that was all. At least I'd like to think that was
all. Would you believe that I now and then have prison dreams? It's so.
What dreams did Helen have, and does she have now? And what dreams those
people have, those with whom she shared her fears and feelings in that way
which we readers sense is hurtful?
Joe Maizlish, Los Angeles
by Helen Woodson
A news report on the recovery efforts at the World Trade Centers cautioned people to prepare for the "ghastly possibility that their loved ones were simply vaporized." The U.S. government knows all about that, having pioneered the mass vaporization of civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Another report discussed the plans recently discovered in Afghanistan to target American farmland with biological agents. The U.S. government knows all about that, its Army having developed that technology in the 1950s to cause mass famine in the Soviet Union and China.
As experienced by its victims, all war is terrorism, and accordingly, the U.S. government is the foremost terrorist organization in the world. And it is a leader in domestic terrorism as well through abortion, capital punishment and environmental destruction.
The U.S. government is at war. I am not, and I cannot stand by and have this terrorism waged in my name. My life and conscience belong to God and not to Caesar. Therefore as a matter of religious faith, I cannot abide by any terms of supervised release. Furthermore, as long as war, environmental destruction, abortion, and capital punishment are legal, I must, as a matter of conscience, act again outside the law whenever I am released.
"They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks." -Isaiah 2:4
"I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse: therefore choose life so that you and your children may live." -Deuteronomy 30:19
[Helen Woodson is serving an 18 year sentence for her part in the November, 1984 Silo Pruning Hooks disarmament action.]
On November 25, Helen Woodson completed the prison sentence resulting from her 1993 actions against corporate pollution and the lust for money. Those actions occurred shortly after her release on parole from an 18-year sentence for the November, 1984 Silo Pruning Hooks disarmament action at Minuteman nuclear missile silo N-4 in Missouri. Woodson was informed that a probation revocation hearing would be held at the prison, where she continued to be held under the original sentence. She prepared a following statement for the occasion (see The Inside Line).
Woodson wrote, amused, that "although there was no change in my status when I officially 'rolled over' from the bank sentence to the Pruning Hooks at midnight November 25, the medical department thought I'd been released, canceled my prescriptions and archived my files..."
Letters of support can be sent to Helen Woodson, #03231-045, FMC Carswell, Max Unit, P.O. Box 27137, Ft. Worth, TX 76127.
Woodson's only surviving Silo Pruning Hooks co-defendant, Fr. Carl Kabat, is also now serving a one year sentence for violating probation from their 1894 jackhammer disarmament action. Letters can be sent to Rev. Carl Kabat, #03230-045, FCI Greenville, P.O. Box 5000, Greenville, IL 62246.
In a recent letter to our North American group, Helen outlines what she is imprisoned for:
Helen is second from left
"I have consecutive sentences totalling 27 years for 3 seperate actions:
1)robbing a federal reserve bank and burning $26,000 on the lobby floor after distributing a statement denouncing the materialism and obsession with wealth and power that caused environmental destruction, wars and various other social ills. For this, I was convicted of robbery by force.
2)Mailing warning letters with .38 caliber bullets affixed to various government and corporate officials including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, CEOs of Steppan Chemical Co. and National Lead CO, director of EPA and chairman of Federal Reserve Board. Letters said that their actions were like bullets fired into the heart of creation. For this, I was convicted of threatening communication and being a felon in possession of ammunition.
3)disarmament of a Minuteman II missile silo with a jackhammer. For this, I was convicted of sabotage, destruction of government property and conspiracy.
I'd prefer you list actions 1,2,3, state the total sentences as 27 years and say that im starting my 19th year.
September 4th Letter from Helen Woodson
The Government in Washington DC has taken a new tack in my case. They have ordered that an evaluation be made to determine the "suitability" of my release at the eventual end of my sentence. They are proposing that I be permanently detained as a threat to national security. An attorney told me that the US is now being ruled by "King George" and that no one in government is willing to stop him. It is even possible to have activists labeled "dangerous and insane" and confined in psychiatric hospitals as was done in the former Soviet Union and is reported to be common in China today.
During the eighteen and a half years that I have been imprisoned for anti-war and environmental actions, I have never sought personal publicity, and in my occasional writings I have tried to keep the focus solely on the issues. But now, I must get a little personal. When I left my beloved children, friends and home to do these actions, I knew I would never return. Many old friends have dropped out of contact, I have a daughter-in-law and grandchildren whom I've never met, and I have no assets besides my prison commissary account.
Serious resistance is serious business. It is not easy, but the rationale remains simple. Jesus said "Render to Caesar that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." Thus the question is, what does rightfully belong to Caesar? Not the lives of my family and all families, not the lives of all other species, not the mountains, deserts and aid, not the earth itself. In religious terms resistance is a way of rendering the creation back to God from whom it came. People whose action is framed more in political terms will express it differently, but the meaning is the same.
Nuclear weapons, war, the destruction of the natural world, and government and corporate greed must be resisted. Whatever the outcome here, I will remain faithful to this witness, either with another action if I am released or as a permanent detainee if I am not. Obviously, though, my situation has implications for others. As the post-September 11 hysteria spreads, any serious opponent of official policy may become a target. I may be the first to be subjected to this particular process, but undoubtedly I will not be the last. Be forward, be serious, be conscientious, be joyful and be alive!
Silo Pruning Hooks Disarmament Action 1984
Resistance in Captivity
03231-045 FMC Carswell
Fort Worth, TX 76127
Helen Woodson después de desactivar el misil Mintueman II.
HELEN WOODSON SE ENCUENTRA EN PRISIÓN DESDE NOVIEMBRE DE 1984, CUMPLIENDO UNA CONDENA DE 27 AÑOS POR TRES ACCIONES.
1. Por robar en el banco de la reserva federal de los EE.UU. y prender fuego a 26.000 $ después de haber distribuido un escrito donde denunciaba el materialismo y la obsesión por la riqueza y el poder, que causan la destrucción del medioambiente, las guerras y otras enfermedades sociales. Por esta acción fue condenada por robo con utilización de la fuerza.
2. Por mandar cartas de advertencia donde incluía balas del calibre 38 a varios oficiales del gobierno incluyendo al presidente de la Corte Suprema (n.d.t juez que preside la Corte Suprema de Justicia y dirige el sistema de justicia), al gerente principal y al jefe nacional de la empresa Steppan Chemical Co., al director de la agencia de protección medioambiental (EPA) y al director del banco de la reserva federal. Las cartas les avisaban de que sus actos eran como balas de fuego para el corazón de la creación. Por esta acción fue acusada de comunicación amenazante y por ser una criminal con posesión de munición.
3. Por desarmar un misil Mintueman II con un martillo perforador. Por esta acción fue condenada por sabotaje, destrucción de propiedades del gobierno y conspiración.
:: Helen Woodson #03231-045
c/o Bates County Jail
PO Box 60
Paroled Peacenik Pricks Pacifist Piety
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