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Get ready, get set, go to trial vs. nuclear bombs!

Ann Suellentrop is handcuffed after crossing the line to protest the making of nuclear bombs in KC.—Photo by Cody Boston

October 25, 2023 12:00 pm

511 E. 11th St., Kansas City, Missouri

This month, Ann Suellentrop is getting ready for trial. She’s posing questions to herself that Judge Katherine Emke just might ask her Oct. 25. And Ann’s delving into answers.

Why the trial? Because, on Memorial Day (May 29, 2023), Ann crossed the property line of the KC National Security Campus. She was protesting the NSC’s making of mechanical and electrical parts that guide US warheads and can set off nuclear bombs. For that, she was handcuffed, taken to a police station, and then released.

Now comes her trial. PeaceWorks KC asks you to rally on her behalf at noon on Wed., Oct. 25, at the entry to the KC MO Municipal Court, at 11th and Locust. At 1 pm, we’ll enter the courthouse for her trial.

To get ready for her trial, here are some questions Ann’s pondering, and—briefly—her answers.

Q. What are some peace groups you’ve joined and helped lead?

A. In 2008, I became a member of PeaceWorks KC, and this March, I was elected a vice chair of our group. I also belong to the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a network of about 30 groups near nuclear weapon production facilities and their waste sites, and I was president of ANA for a few years. And I’m a local leader in Physicians for Social Responsibility, a national group for nuclear disarmament.

Ann Suellentrop is interviewed by Jim Hannah outside the courthouse.–Photo by Kriss Avery

Q. How have Catholic social justice teachings influenced you?

A. In the early 2000s, I led a 9-month study group called JustFaith and also led a group of JustFaith leaders. These transformative experiences increased my social justice work. About 10 years ago, I met Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy and learned about Jesus’ teaching of nonviolent love of friends and enemies. For the past 6 years, I’ve been in a study group on Gospel Nonviolence, at Keeler Women’s Center in KC KS, run by the Benedictine Sisters of Atchison, KS. We’ve read numerous books and watched many films and discussed how these apply to our daily lives.

It became clear to me that the Just War theory is not able to be applied to any war. There is no such thing as a just war, particularly with nuclear weapons involved. Nukes are totally evil and inhumane. Pope Francis has condemned a state’s even possessing nuclear weapons as immoral.

Q. Do you really think there’s a danger of nuclear war?

A. Yes! The danger of nuclear war is higher than ever before. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds before midnight, the closest to global catastrophe that the world has ever been. Recently, 130 medical journals printed a joint editorial calling on all health professionals to speak out for abolition of nuclear weapons. Ignoring warnings like this, the US maintains the KC National Security Campus and 7 other major sites that together make US nuclear weapons. Plans are to spend 2 trillion dollars over the next 30 years to completely revamp all US nuclear weapons.

Q. What difference have you yourself made?

A. I have been one of the leaders over the past 15 years advocating to change the work of Kansas City’s nuclear bomb plant to peaceful pursuits, such as solving the climate crisis. This should be the focus of the Department of Energy, the agency through which the KC Plant is funded by our tax dollars.

Q. What is happening at the KC National Security Campus?

A. According to an Associated Press Sept. 20, 2023, article, the KC National Security Campus technicians put components for nuclear weapons “through endless tests. They heat weapons parts to extreme temperatures, drop them at speeds simulating a plane crash, shoot them at high velocity out of testing guns, and rattle and shake them for hours on end. The tests are meant to simulate real-world scenarios—from hurtling toward a target to being carted in an Air Force truck over a long, rutty road.”

Q. What good does it do to get arrested?

A. Over the past 13 years, there have been 160-175 arrests of individuals for trespassing during PeaceWorks protests at the old and new nuclear weapon plants. This has created public awareness, whereas the existence and purpose of the bomb factories had been kept quite secret in the past.

Q. What’s your formal educational background?

A. I obtained a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Avila College in 1975 and a master’s degree in nursing in maternal-child health from KU Medical Center in 1982. I earned a bachelor’s degree in photo-video from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1997.

Q. What are your professional objectives?

A. I strive to use nursing and other skills, such as massage and interpreting, in culturally sensitive ways to empower parents, women, and children to attain mental and physical well-being, reaching for their full potential and development.

Q. Over your 45-year nursing career, what are some places you’ve worked?

A. I began in public health nursing, and after graduate school, I worked at KU Medical Center, Bethany Hospital, and Shawnee Mission Medical Center (now Advent Health). I retired from Advent Health when the coronavirus pandemic started—my coworkers were concerned about me, due to my being 68 with a heart condition, and they encouraged me to retire. Now, in retirement, I’m more free to do full-time peace work. I love it! 

Man hanging origame peace cranes.