By Brian Terrell
On Feb. 18, I was one of four defendants in Kansas City, Mo., Municipal Court, on trial for allegedly trespassing at the “National Security Campus,” a sprawling facility of the National Nuclear Security Administration of the US Department of Energy, where most of the non-nuclear components of the new line of “more precise and deployable” US nuclear weapons are being produced.
Judge Ardie Bland had no comment on codefendant Jim Hannah’s observation in his closing statement, “It’s sadly ironic that the protesters are on trial, while the perpetrators are protected,” but the judge was clearly taken by Jim’s reference to “two higher courts for recourse—the court of global humanity, and the court of Divine justice,” neither of which, Jim is convinced, would find us guilty regardless of the judgement of the court hearing our case that day. “More likely,” Jim said, “they would judge us wanting if we had done nothing.”
In finding us guilty, Judge Bland admitted that he does have to answer to a higher court, but in the court where he was presiding that day, he was required to judge us according to the law. The law that informed his ruling, though, was not the statute under which we were charged nor the laws of the United States or of the State of Missouri. These were largely ignored and would have found us not guilty had they been applied. Along with the municipal court where we sat and the courts of global humanity and of Divine justice, there is another court, one that cannot be named but that seems to take jurisdiction in any case where the military industrial complex is challenged, a secret, pervasive court that makes a mockery of every human institution, that has no time for constitutional amendments or acts of congress or international treaties but must ensure above all else that the profligate and profitable production of weapons never be impeded, even at the risk of destroying all life on the planet.
The city’s case established that the NSC is a federal government facility that is unfenced and its entrance is unguarded and open except when it is known that a protest is planned. The only disruption of business or traffic on the day in question was caused by the decision by federal authorities to exclude a peaceful protest. While the ordinance defines trespass as when a person “knowingly enters unlawfully or knowingly remains unlawfully,” Judge Bland ruled that at issue was strictly whether we were present at the date and place as alleged or not. Any other testimony in our defense regarding what we were doing there or what we know was ruled inadmissible.
In closing arguments, which do not count as evidence, Judge Bland allowed each of us to briefly say our peace and when it was too late to make a difference, he did listen respectfully. The First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” as applied to our gathering was not considered, nor were our reasonable beliefs that the building of new nuclear weapons is illegal and that crimes against humanity are being committed at the NSC.
Judge Bland’s lenient and creative sentence, our post-trial conversation with him and his appeal for our prayers were genuine and our trial was a deeply human encounter in a venue where too often “justice” is churned out cruel and cold. It would be an overstatement, though, to say that justice was done. Even if it were not a condition of probation, I will be praying for Ardie Bland.
The prosecution’s one witness, a lieutenant for the plant’s “federal protection” force, testified that the National Security Campus was open for business on May 31, a federal holiday, because, he said, “the job never ends.” The “job” has got to end or it will be the end of us.
—Brian Terrell, of Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa, has protested drone warfare and nuclear weapons in the US and in Europe. © 2022, Brian Terrell, Jane Stoever, Jim Hannah, Kriss Avery, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.
The video here, of Terrell and Jim Hannah speaking in the KC MO Municipal Court lobby Feb. 18, is by Kriss Avery: Peaceworks KC: Why we keep crossing the line.