PACIFIC LIFE COMMUNITY GATHERING NEAR TACOMA WASHINGTON
L.A. Catholic Workers Mike Wisniewski and Nicole Linsmeier along with Guadalupe Catholic Workers Tensie, Dennis, Rozella and Thomas Apel, and Fr. Louie Vitale, OFM and Steve Kelly, SJ, traveled by train to Tacoma, Washington to attend the 2013 Pacific Life Community (PLC) Faith and Resistance retreat and nonviolent direct action at Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base, in Silverdale, Washington, home to the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the U.S. and possibly the world, as well as 8 of the Navy’s 14 nuclear-powered Trident (Ohio Class) submarines that carry the Trident II missile system, the most diabolical, deadliest, and destructive first strike weapon in the U.S. arsenal–indeed the world. Each Trident submarine can carry 24 Trident II missiles; each missile has a payload of 4 – W88 (475 kiloton) or 8 – W76 (100 kiloton) warheads. By comparison, the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 64 kiloton, while the bomb dropped on Nagasaki was 23 kiloton.
The retreat theme was “A Nonviolent Future Without Nuclear Weapons?” and was held from March 1 to 4 at a retreat center on Raft Island in Gig Harbor/Puget Sound, ten miles from Tacoma and 20 miles from the Navy’s Bangor Trident submarine base. Speakers at Saturdays forum held at the University of Puget Sound included: Jack Cohen-Joppa, Master of Ceremonies, who along with his wife Felice, have published The Nuclear Resister, a publication dedicated to supporting imprisoned anti-nuclear and anti-war activists, for 30 years.
Other presenters included Michael Honey, Professor of Labor and Ethnic Studies and American History at University of Washington, Tacoma. Honey’s rich, personal history includes southern civil rights and civil liberties organizing from 1970-1976. His most recent book is: Going Down the Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign. The evening’s two main speakers are with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Washington. Tom Rogers is a retired U.S. Navy Captain. A career submariner, he commanded a nuclear attack submarine during the Cold War and now is an anti-nuclear activist and speaker. Elizabeth Murray is an ex-CIA analyst and former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East at the National Intelligence Council, and served for 27 years with the agency. She currently is an anti-nuclear activist and speaker. Ground Zero Center, located adjacent to the Bangor ballistic missile submarine base, works for the abolition of nuclear weapons with a primary focus on resisting Trident.
Closing the evening was Father William “Bix” Bichsel, who lives and works at the Tacoma Catholic Worker and is a member of the Disarm Now Plowshares, a group of activists who entered the nuclear weapons storage bunker area of the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific, in November 2009, to make a plea for the U.S. government to meet its obligations to work with other nations toward global nuclear disarmament. He also received the 2012 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize. Bichsel recently returned from Europe where he attended the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies and met with many anti-nuclear activists in an effort to work together in efforts to abolish nuclear weapons.
It was a wonderful and exciting weekend with powerful testimonies given by Saturday’s speakers and a memorial to Sr. Anne Montgomery, a longtime peace activist and anti-nuclear resister who participated in nine “Plowshares” actions since 1982, her last in 2009, who late last summer died and joined the great Cloud of Witnesses. Anne spent many years in prison for her “Plowshares” actions. She and her courage and steadfast witness will be missed. Photos of the weekend and nonviolent direct action, where 20 people, including Tensie Hernandez-Apel and Fr. Louie Vitale, OFM, were arrested, can be viewed HERE.