Y-12 fence that blocks protest area to remain up for now; judge questions lawsuit jurisdiction

Y-12 Fence on Scarboro Road

The temporary fence erected at the main entrance to the Y-12 National Security Complex encloses an area, pictured above, that has been used for protests and vigils for years. Despite a court challenge Friday, the fence will stay up for now.

KNOXVILLE—The temporary fence that blocks a traditional protest area at the Y-12 National Security Complex will stay up for now.

A group that has used the grass field and small parking lot for protests and vigils near the Y-12 entrance at Bear Creek and Scarboro roads had sought to have the fence removed before an annual spring demonstration on Saturday. Workers started erecting it on Monday.

But the arguments about the fence and its alleged violations of the protesters’ First Amendment rights took a surprise turn in U.S. District Court in Knoxville on Friday.

District Judge Curtis L. Collier quickly raised a question about whether the court has jurisdiction to address the complaint filed Wednesday by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, its board members, and people affiliated with the nonprofit organization. [Read more...]

Y-12 protesters ask court to dismiss sabotage charges

Transform Now Plowshares

The three anti-nuclear weapons activists pictured above allegedly cut through fences and vandalized a high-security building at the Y-12 National Security Complex in July and now face federal charges of property destruction, property depredation, and injuring national defense premises. From left to right the three are Michael R. Walli, Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed. (Submitted photo)

In one of a series of motions last week, the three protesters who broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28 asked a federal court to dismiss the new sabotage charges filed against them in December.

Attorneys for the protesters—anti-nuclear weapons activists Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael R. Walli—said the new charges, which could add up to 20 years in prison, are unconstitutional, vindictive, and selective. They said the new charges were brought because the defendants earlier refused to plead guilty to less serious crimes.

In addition, the sabotage charges are rarely applied to civilian conduct and should not have been used in this case because Y-12 is a private contractor site and not a military base, the four attorneys for the protesters said in a motion to dismiss filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville on Friday.

[Read more...]

Third Y-12 protester has detention hearing today, trial rescheduled

Greg Boertje-Obed

Greg Boertje-Obed

The third protester who has remained in jail since a July 28 security breach at the Y-12 National Security Complex has a detention hearing at 2 p.m. today in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

Greg Boertje-Obed had previously waived his right to a detention hearing, and he has remained jailed in Blount County. The other two anti-nuclear weapons activists, Megan Rice and Michael R. Walli, were freed Aug. 3.

Meanwhile, U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley has rescheduled the trial of the protesters to Feb. 26, 2013. The case will be tried before U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Phillips.

[Read more...]

Seeking delay, Y-12 protesters have Friday hearing in federal court

A Friday hearing has been scheduled for the three protesters accused of sneaking into the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28 and spray-painting slogans and splashing human blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.

The three protesters—Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael R. Walli—have asked Magistrate Judge C. Clifford Shirley to delay their Oct. 10 trial in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

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Y-12 protesters ask federal judge to delay Oct. 10 trial

Megan Rice and Michael R. Walli

Anti-nuclear weapons activists Megan Rice and Michael R. Walli leave U.S. District Court in Knoxville after an Aug. 9 arraignment on charges of trespassing, property depredation, and property destruction at the Y-12 National Security Complex. A third protester, Greg Boertje-Obed, remains jailed in Blount County.

Two anti-nuclear weapons activists arrested in July in a high-security area at the Y-12 National Security Complex have asked a federal judge to delay their trial date.

The protesters now face an Oct. 10 trial before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas W. Phillips in Knoxville.

But in motions filed Wednesday, two of the protesters—Greg Boertje-Obed and Megan Rice—said the evidence in the case is voluminous, and it involves significant and complex issues, including national security and First Amendment issues.

[Read more...]