In a rebuke to White House attempts to “make America nuclear again,” 17 peace activists were arrested for trespass during the ninth annual Memorial Day peace witness for a nuclear weapons-free world.

Sponsored by PeaceWorks-KC, the annual event surpassed previous years’ participation by turning out some 90 peace activists. Three activists from Europe added another first—representation from a growing and global nuclear weapons abolition movement.

A rally at the decommissioned Bannister Federal Complex commemorated the 154 employees known to have died from toxins generated at the plant during its 65-year history of nuclear weapons production. Then the activists travelled to the new National Security Campus at Mo. Highway 150 and Botts Road in south Kansas City, where more than 80 percent of the non-nuclear components of the U.S. nuclear arsenal are developed or procured. A mile-long march to the entrance of the plant was emceed by PeaceWorks Board member Jim Hannah, who urged the marchers to bear in mind not only what they are against, but what they are for.   

“As we march today toward this citadel of mass destruction,” Hannah said, “let us also imagine that fine day when the world awakes from the nightmare of nukes, when flowers and soybeans will again grow where now there is only concrete and asphalt, when our grandchildren may one day ask, ‘What’s a nuclear weapon?’ And let us hold to that ancient promise, ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war no more.’” Read his full speech here.

When they reached the entrance of the plant, the activists read the names and maladies of persons who have died from toxins at the old weapons plant, then symbolically laid on the ground in a die-in until the bugle call of “Taps” was sounded. Statements from line-crossers followed, then in unison they stepped across the purple line indicating the plant boundary. After repeated warnings that they would be arrested for trespass if they remained, Kansas City police handcuffed, searched, and photographed the activists on the site, then released them with a court summons.

To date, nearly 140 arrests have occurred since 2010, the year construction began on the new plant. More than two million dollars a day is being spent there as the current administration ramps up efforts to “modernize” the current U.S. nuclear arsenal of some 5,000 warheads.

Photos by Mark A. Semet