A Personal Account of Ground Zero Actions: August 6-8
About 100 people showed up at Ground Zero in Bangor, WA, to protest trident nuclear weapons and remember the first atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki--19 arrested at Bangor Submarine Naval Base
I spent this last weekend with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, WA, in planned actions on the 60th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Having just returned, I am still quivering from the awesome experience.
I rode with several participants on the Bainbridge Island ferry early Sunday from Seattle. After about a half hour drive, we arrived at Ground Zero, an almost sacred land of trees and peace, located alongside the Bangor Submarine Naval Base. A tall fence separates the properties.
About 100 people arrived Sunday to participate in planned actions, strategies, and a walk and vigil to the Bangor main gate. We separated into specific planning groups. Peacekeepers kept us safe in their leadership along the highway, as well as stepping out in front of cars early Monday morning as Naval employees headed for work. Monks, who had walked from Hanford to Bangor, led us with drumming and chanting. The extremely hot sun penetrated our skin as we stood alongside the asphalt highway with signs , No More Miroshima bombing. We shared meals together, and heard the regional Raging Grannies, Jim Thomas, who talked on Hanford accountability, and Bruce Gagnon, a leader against weapons in space.
Mark Wilson, who has filed as a Democrat challenging Sen. Cantwell, attended the evening program and was available to talk with us. He filed as a Green last year.
As the sun went down, and cooled the air, some departed to nearby lodging, while others, like myself, retired to our tents. The Ground Zero house burned earlier in the year, but will be rebuilt. We deposited $1,283 in a passed hat.
Monday morning arrived with a 5 am gathering, necessitating flashlights to see. By 5:15, we were walking single-filed down the highway and through the path to the base. When we all arrived, the action began with a fell-swoop, the peacekeepers stepped out stopping traffic, followed by the banner people forming an arc, and then the prayer people, myself included, stepped in front of the banner, and held hands in a circle, all while drum beats and chanting happened. Some of us then knelt in prayer, and others formed their positions for prayer or meditation. I knelt my head, and placed my arms to my sides with my palms open.
The event was arranged with county police so no one would be hurt. Police called out a 3 min. warning, 1 min. warning, and then we were told those not on the curb would be arrested. After police arrested those of us on the right side, several cars began moving forward several feet, advancing at myself and others. But the police immediately halted them until we were all arrested. Hundreds and hundreds of cars were stopped for up to a half hour filled with people who had to be at work at the Naval base.
Nineteen of us were arrested, myself included. At the Kitsap County facility, we had to take off our jewelry, jackets and shoes. We had been forewarned to carry only a driver's license and no money. Otherwise, they would keep $10 for a booking fee. We were separated by gender into holding cells, and then called singlely out for questioning and charges. I think the charge was disorderly conduct. Booking was delayed by the electronic fingerprint technition.
After 4 hours, it was nice to be free in the sun. Our rides were waiting and we were cheered. Back at GZ, we had a Closing Circle. I have new, lovely peace friends.
Nobody has been fined or charged there since Feb. 2000. Kitsap Co. prosecutors have been unable to get convictions against nonviolent activists arrested at Bangor the last three times they have tried them. Juries and judges have found that people arrested at Bangor protests have the legal right to redress grievances under International and US law with nonviolent direct action.
The Bangor Base has a BLUE line at its entrance, signifying separation of federal property. People crossing it would incur legal problems. Nobody did.
GZ has been in existence almost 30 years, and was founded by Jim and Shelley Douglass. See www.gzcenter.org They have similar actions on MLK day, Mothers'Day, and Hiroshima/Nagasaki Day yearly.
I feel drenched from the natural sun with rays of peace on my skin. It was wonderful to stop hundreds of cars for a half hour, telling them of our visions for peace in the world.
Coming home I was reading the political autobiography of the late Scott Nearing, a radical who was suspending forever from teaching for expressing astonishing views of the time, such as child labor laws.
He said, "I dissociated myself from the US government after August 6, 1945 because I felt that the use of atomic weapons against Japan was not only a crime against humanity but was a blunder which would lead to a gigantic build-up of the planet's destructive forces...Humanity is today astride a guided missile equipped with a nuclear warhead."
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