Peace activists going to court for blocking entry to nuclear weapons base

POULSBO — Nuclear weapons protestors will appear in a Kitsap County court to face charges for blocking the entrance to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor earlier this year.

The base contains the largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Each of the eight Trident submarines at Bangor carry as many as 24 Trident II(D-5) missiles, each capable of carrying up to eight independently targetable warheads. Each nuclear warhead has an explosive yield up to 32 times the yield of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. During a protest at Bangor on Jan. 14, nine peace activists blocked the main gate for nearly a half hour.

The activists were part of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action’s day of action honoring the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. Blocking the gate was a symbolic act of closing the base, a statement against the continued deployment of the Trident first strike weapons system. Washington State Patrol officers cited each of the nine protestors for “Pedestrian in Roadway Illegally” (a traffic offense) and released them at the scene.

Those cited were Louise Bollman, Larry Kerschner, Gabriel La Valle, Peggy Love, Jack Smith, Carlo Voli, Marion Ward, Robert Whitlock, and Alice Zillah.  Arrestees’ ages range from 33 to 73 years. Bollman and Voli are scheduled to be in court March 23 at 3 p.m. in Kitsap County District Court in Port Orchard. They are both pleading mitigating circumstances to have the fine dismissed or reduced, according to Leonard Eiger of Poulsbo-based Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

Voli said of his reasons for participating in the Jan. 14 action: “I strongly believe it is immoral and illegal for the USA to continue to stockpile, produce, and maintain such a large number of nuclear missiles that can cause such devastating levels of destruction and that if used at the same time can destroy the Planet several times over.”  Voli said he’s opposed to the large amount of tax dollars going to weapons spending, including nuclear weapons, which should “be used to improve the wellbeing of the citizens of this country.”

Three other protestors, Smith, Whitlock and Zillah, are contesting their charges. They have a hearing date of May 14 at 1:15 p.m.  Kerschner, La Valle, Love and Ward chose to pay their fines and will not have to appear in court.

Ground Zero holds three scheduled vigils and actions each year in resistance to Trident and in protest of U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The group has been working to reverse the Navy’s plan to build a Second Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor. Ground Zero is also working to de-fund the Navy’s plans for a next generation ballistic missile submarine, estimated to cost $99 billion to build.

For nearly 35 years, Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action has engaged in education, training in nonviolence, community-building, resistance against Trident and action toward a world without nuclear weapons.

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