13 persons display ‘Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal’ signs at KC MO nuclear weapons parts plant

What good is a sign? Well, it might get people thinking. Or taking a stance.

Ann Suellentrop, a recently retired mother-baby nurse, had two huge signs printed saying “Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal,” marking the expected Entry into Force of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The signs came to Ann less than perfect—words were shadowed. Not good. So she asked the printer to send her two other signs, perfect. No problem.

Now Ann shuttles her four signs to display spots. She often comes to the 17-years-strong weekly witness for peace in KC MO at 63rd Street and Ward Parkway. Activists who gather there each Tuesday, 5-6 pm., welcome Ann. They’ve trained those driving home from work to honk for peace. A joyful noise!

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On Nov. 12, Ann took her four signs to PeaceWorks members on the public right-of-way at 14510 Botts Road, the long entry road to the Nuclear Security Campus. The NSC in 2014 replaced the contaminated KC Plant that since 1949 made the non-radioactive parts for the US nuclear weapons at the KC MO Bannister Federal Complex. Asked why she lined up others to help her hold her signs at the entry to the NSC, Ann said, “The KC plant (now the NSC) makes 85 percent of the parts for US nuclear bombs that could kill all life on earth.”

The parts made in KC include the triggering device, the guidance system, and most of the internal and external parts of a nuclear weapon.

But just why do the signs declare nuclear bombs illegal? “As of Jan. 22, 2021,” says Ann, “nuclear weapons are illegal under international law.”

Indeed. The new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, signed by 124 of the 193 UN member countries in 2017, with one “no” vote and one abstention, reached the required 50 ratifications by countries on Oct. 24, 2020. That allows the treaty to “enter into force” 90 days later, Jan. 22, 2021. The treaty prohibits ratifying countries from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.

“When the UN outlawed landmines, even the US pulled back from manufacturing landmines,” Ann said Nov. 12 at the entry to the NSC. “We hope this new treaty convinces individuals, banks, companies, and countries to put ‘peace pressure’ on the nuclear weapon states and stop investing in them.” The domino effect counts!

With decades of experience as a mother-baby nurse, Ann says she’s been focused on freeing the world of nuclear weapons for 12 years because “there is no cure, only prevention, for nuclear weapons.”

Then Ann refers to the trials of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7—those who, on April 4, 2018, cut a hole in the security fence of the naval submarine base in St. Marys, GA, where six subs are berthed that carry missiles tipped with nuclear warheads. The Plowshares hung banners, spray-painted slogans, and hammered on a display of a Tomahawk missile. They were arrested, jailed, put on trial, and are being sentenced in Brunswick, GA. Ann says her own explanation of why nuclear warheads must be eliminated is not as eloquent as that of a character witness, Mary T. Yelenick, for Plowshare Martha Hennessy, 64, a granddaughter of a founder of the Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day.

Yelenick observed, “It is only a question of when—not whether—that nuclear arsenal will be used: intentionally, or by accident or mistake, or through cyber-sabotage, or theft. And when that happens: The final questions that dying children everywhere—not only here in Brunswick, but all across the planet—will be asking their parents—as they and their parents scream in agony, consumed by raging fire or withering away from radiation, or inexorably reduced to skeletal remains from global starvation, with nuclear dust clouds blocking the sun’s rays—is, ‘Why didn’t somebody stop this, while we still had a chance to stop it?’ And the response—the final agonized whispers of parents dying horrific deaths in Brunswick, GA, and all across the globe—the last human sounds before the extinction of all life on this small, fragile, beloved planet—will be: ‘Some people DID try to stop this. But we prosecuted them. And we locked them away.’”

So, the local question. Would you like to join PeaceWorks in holding signs? Or in planning a major celebration (electronically or in the streets or both) Jan. 22? If so, contact Ann at annsuellen@gmail.com.

—By Jane Stoever of PeaceWorks-KC