By Jim Hannah
Why’d you do it?
That was the question put to the three PeaceWorks Kansas City activists who were charged with trespassing May 29 at the KC, MO, nuclear weapons plant, and subsequently had their court hearing Aug. 17 in Municipal Court.
Interviewed before going into the courtroom, the trio had ready replies about their motivations.
Kimmy Igla said that her interest in nuclear abolition was an outgrowth of earlier activism on environmental concerns, saying this aspect of planetary health is often neglected. This prompted her to become a member of the PeaceWorks KC Board. “I feel anti-nuclear work is part of climate justice,” she said. “This is not something I hear a lot of young people talking about. There’s a lot of denial around this issue. It’s so hard keeping resources for environment that I don’t want to see a billion dollars (the annual budget of the KC nuke plant) going for nuclear weapons. And what about the cleanup of damage already done?”
Kimmy also mentioned going to DC Days in Washington, DC, where she heard a Navaho woman testify about the devastating health effects on First Peoples who lived, and continue to live, on land contaminated by uranium mining, breathing air contaminated by nuclear testing.
Rylan Scott said that their interest grew out of their friend Kimmy’s involvement as a PeaceWorks Board member, heightening Rylan’s awareness of the nuclear threat. Rylan was asked about the recent movie Oppenheimer, which portrayed the life and times of the “father of the Atomic Bomb.” Rylan expressed disappointment that the health effects on “downwinders” who were living there were absent from the film. “And the use of black-and-white footage gives the impression that it’s over and done with, but it’s not. It’s still happening to this day. They’re creating nuclear weapons all the time. It’s maddening!”
Ann Suellentrop cited her 45-year career as a pediatric nurse to explain her decision to engage in nonviolent action for nuclear abolition. “I’m a mandated reporter if children are being abused, or even threatened. I could be fined, or even put in prison for failing to report such violations. This nuclear weapons enterprise is a corporate abuse of our tax money because they are wasting billions of dollars on these death machines that could kill billions of children. Nuclear weapons are totally evil. They constitute child abuse. There have been many children who have died of leukemia who live around nuclear weapons sites and nuclear energy sites. It’s the same poison. We’ve made such a mess, with no plan and few resources for cleanup.”
Appearing before Judge Michael Heffernon, the three defendants were apprised of the possible legal consequences of pleading guilty, which could result in 6 months’ imprisonment and/or a fine up to $500. After conferring with their attorney, Julie Gibson, both Kimmy and Rylan pleaded guilty and were given suspended imposition of sentence, meaning that if they obey all laws and stay away from the KC nuclear weapons plant for a year, they will have no criminal record. Kimmy and Rylan were fined court costs and a supervision fee, for a combined cost of $165.50 per person.
Ann pleaded not guilty, and has a trial date set for 1:30 pm, Oct. 25, in Court G of Municipal Court. In explaining her decision to plead not guilty, Ann said that the criminal activity was not her nonviolent peace witness, but was instead the continued manufacture of nuclear weapons of mass destruction that could result in a nuclear winter. “We built these things; we can un-build them,” said Ann. “The nuclear abolition movement is gaining momentum.” She summed up her response to nuclear weapons: “When you’re in a hole, quit digging!”
—Jim Hannah, of Independence, MO, a former PeaceWorks Board member, has crossed the property line at the nuclear weapons plant five times. (c) 2023, Kimmy Igla, Rylan Scott, Ann Suellentrop, Jim Hannah, Kriss Avery, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.