Commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr Day
Activists from a local peace group blocked the main gate and staged a mock funeral at the Navy’s West Coast Trident nuclear submarine base in an act of civil resistance to nuclear weapons, on Saturday January 17, 2015. The action was part of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr’s life and legacy. The event concluded with a vigil and nonviolent direct action at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, Washington.
Under the theme “Building the World House,” the day focused on Dr. King’s commitment to nonviolence and his opposition to war and nuclear weapons. Dr. King’s essay “The World House” may very well be the best summation of Dr. King’s teachings.
While some participants maintained a peaceful vigil at the Main Gate to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, Washington on Saturday afternoon, others dressed in black monk’s robes carried a coffin containing a globe representing the earth to the side of the road. People walked up to the casket and placed flowers on it, and then another robed participant recited a eulogy, “Mourning the Death of the Earth after Nuclear Annihilation.” A funeral dirge completed the ceremony.
When the ceremony was finished participants carried the casket onto the roadway, blocking traffic entering the base. Washington State Patrol officers ordered the resisters to move the coffin out of the roadway. They complied, and carried the coffin to the median where they were detained. All received citations for being in the roadway illegally, and then released.
Those cited were Mary Elder, Seattle, WA; Peter Gallagher, Seattle, WA; Raghav Kaushik, Kirkland, WA; Mona Lee, Seattle, WA; Bernie Meyer, Olympia, WA; Michael Siptroth, Belfair, WA; and Rick Turner, Seattle, Wa;
Following the initial action more protesters entered the roadway and blocked traffic. Gilberto Perez, Bainbridge Island, WA carried a sign calling for no naval base on Jeju Island, Korea. Jonathan Landolfe, Tacoma, WA carried a sign saying “Sea Hawks, Not War Hawks.” Bruce Gagnon, Bath, ME carried a sign saying “Human Needs, NOT WAR$”. All were removed from the roadway by State Patrol and cited for being in the roadway illegally.
Gagnon, the Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, gave the keynote address earlier in the day at Ground Zero Center. Gagnon spoke of the unsustainability of the US Navy’s shipbuilding budget, and how “entitlement” programs including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are being defunded in order to fund the newest ships that include a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines. The OHIO Class Replacement Program alone (12 new Trident submarines) will cost an estimated $100 billion.
Members of Ground Zero Center also participated in the Seattle MLK Rally & March on January 19th, carrying a full size inflatable replica of a Trident II D-5 thermonuclear armed missile. Accompanying the missile was a banner with a famous quote by Dr. King: “When scientific power outruns spiritual power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.” Participants handed out leaflets with facts on Trident.
The Trident nuclear weapons system was designed during the height of the Cold War and was predicated on the theory of Strategic Nuclear Deterrence, a doctrine that no longer applies long after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Continued deployment of Trident increases the risk of either accidental or intentional nuclear war, and building a new generation of ballistic missile submarines is increasing global proliferation of nuclear weapons at a time when the nuclear armed powers should be reducing reliance on nuclear weapons and making good faith efforts toward disarmament.
The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles from Seattle, contains the largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. Each of the 8 Trident submarines at Bangor carries up to 24 Trident II (D-5) missiles, each capable of being armed with as many as 8 independently targetable thermonuclear warheads. Each nuclear warhead has an explosive force of between 100 and 475 kilotons (up to 30 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb). It has been estimated that by the time the new generation of ballistic missile submarines are put into service, they will represent 70 percent of the nation’s deployed nuclear warheads.
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action holds three scheduled vigils and actions each year in resistance to Trident and in protest of U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The group is currently engaged in legal actions in Federal court to halt the Navy’s construction of a Second Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor. Ground Zero is also working with other organizations to de-fund the Navy’s plans for the next generation ballistic missile submarine.
For over thirty-seven years Ground Zero has engaged in education, training in nonviolence, community building, resistance against Trident and action toward a world without nuclear weapons.
Photos attached. Photo Credit: L. Eiger, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (Note: High resolution images available)