Nuclear power plant. (AP Photo)
Shortly after the July 2012 protest, I wrote about it in this space and now the legal climax is approaching: three activists known as the Oak Ridge 3—Greg Boertje-Obed, Michael Walli and Sister Megan Rice—are in the Irwin County Detention Facility in Ocilla, Georgia, awaiting sentencing on September 23. The three were found guilty by a jury in Tennessee in May on two counts: interfering with or obstructing the national defense (sabotage) at the famous Y12 nuclear storage site at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and depredation of government property. Both counts are considered violent acts and fall under the definition of “federal crimes of terrorism.”
The three (mugshots at left) were protesting plans for a new multibillion-dollar production center and the ongoing production of nuclear weapons components. Photos here of the spray-painted messages they left at the site. Some say the three ought to be thanked, not punished, for exposing dangerous lapses in security at the sensitive site, which sparked a congressional probe.
The maximum sentence they face is thirty years, with something approaching ten years more likely. The trio have asked for their supporters and friends to write to the judge “asking for justice to be brought back into their case in this sentencing phase,” as the main site supporting them puts it.
One of the most cogent writers on the history of Catholic anti-war and anti-nuclear activism since the 1960s is William O’Rourke. I’ve known him since the 1970s, when he wrote book reviews for me at Crawdaddy. He is best known for his acclaimed book, The Harrisburg 7 and the New Catholic Left from 1972, but he has also written numerous other non-fiction books and novels (full bio here). Last week he wrote an important piece about the Oak Ridge 3 case in the context of these times, and former times, for his blog, and has given permission to reprint it below.
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by William O’Rourke
Last year, in April, there was a weekend event in Harrisburg, PA, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the trial of the Harrisburg 7, which had ended in 1972, with a hung jury on the major counts—conspiring to kidnap Henry Kissinger and blow up heating tunnels in Washington, DC—and convictions on minor contraband counts, smuggling letters in and out of a Federal prison in Lewisburg, PA.