During its fifth annual Memorial Day trek from the old nuclear weapons parts plant to the new plant, PeaceWorks-KC called for a nuke-free world and held a die-in and civil resistance.
Eighteen walkers/riders began the day May 30 at Bannister Federal Complex (BFC), home to the old nuke-parts plant. The group swelled to 52 by the time it reached the entry road to the new plant, the National Security Campus. Seeing the walkers, drivers punctuated the 10-mile walk by responding to “honk for peace” signs.
At the floodwall blocking the road into the old plant, Henry Stoever kicked off the walk he initiated in 2012. “We are at war with ourselves,” he said, noting the deaths of many BFC workers from the old plant’s contaminants—in 2011, NBC Action News listed 154 dead from the toxins, plus some 250 ill (see the list at their website).
Stoever, chair of the PeaceWorks board, cited resources the U.S. keeps pouring into nuclear weapons: “Our country has agreed to spend $1 trillion in the next 30 years to modernize these weapons of mass destruction. We say we are people of moral values and faith, yet these weapons violate all principles of affirming life, while many persons on this planet lack the basic needs to live in dignity.”
For the die-in at the new plant’s entry road, walkers read information on 26 dead BFC employees and then fell to the road. Among those memorialized:
- Alice Garland, a worker at the Kansas City Plant for Bendix, diagnosed beginning at age 39 with breast and brain cancer;
- Dewain Bahr, a worker at the Kansas City Plant for Allied Signal and Honeywell, diagnosed with lung cancer at age 58; and
- Jeanette Johnson, a worker at the IRS, diagnosed with colon cancer at age 41.
Reflecting on other victims of nuclear weapons production, Ann Suellentrop said, “Across the state, they are still dying from the uranium and plutonium manufactured and refined in St. Louis in World War II. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) never told them (about the dangers of the waste). They got a letter from school saying there’s a fire in a dump nearby, and if the fire reaches the nuclear materials in another dump, we’ll keep your kids at school and give them their medicine, so we need their list of medicines now. They said, ‘What?!’ There’s been a big outcry.”
Suellentrop, a member of the PeaceWorks board and leader in Physicians for Social Responsibility-KC, concluded, “This is the same story all across the U.S. People downwind, downstream, have been sick and dying. It will be in our genetic makeup forever. Nuclear materials don’t go away.” She urged the walkers to be “nuclear guardians” to prevent further spreading of the contamination.
Suellentrop also offered hope: “The vast majority of the countries that do not have nuclear weapons are becoming empowered, working through the U.N. to ban the bomb. We are not alone!”
Lu Mountenay capped the walk by stepping across the property line at the new plant (see accompanying story).