The three protesters who vandalized a uranium storage building at Y-12 National Security Complex in July said they would not accept a plea deal from the federal government earlier this year, even though prosecutors threatened to charge them with more serious sabotage crimes.
“We chose to exercise our constitutional right to a jury trial and refused to bow down to their threats,” the trio said in a statement released Wednesday. “We remain convinced that making and refurbishing nuclear weapons at Y-12 is both illegal under U.S. and international law, and it is also immoral. Ultimately, we are required to follow the law of love and our consciences.”
Calling themselves Transform Now Plowshares, the three protesters—Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael Walli— allegedly cut through fences at Y-12 before dawn on Saturday, July 28, entered a high-security area where deadly force is authorized, and splashed human blood and spray-painted slogans on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.
On Tuesday, a federal grand jury in Knoxville returned a new charge against the trio for this summer’s unprecedented intrusion. The new count of injuring national-defense premises carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years, longer than any of the earlier potential penalties.
Boertje-Obed, Rice, and Walli also face federal charges of property destruction and property depredation. An earlier trespassing charge was dropped. The trio now face maximum prison sentences of up to 35 years and fines of up to $750,000.
A Thursday press release forwarded by the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, which supports Transform Now Plowshares, said the maximum sentences could translate into life sentences for the “partners in peace,” Rice, who is an 82-year-old nun, and Walli, 63, and Boertje-Obed, 57.
In addition to protesting Y-12’s nuclear weapons work, the activists also oppose plans to build a new Uranium Processing Facility that could cost up to $6.5 billion or more. Y-12 was built to enrich uranium during World War II as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, and it remains a key part of the nuclear weapons complex today.
“Our consciences compelled us to act at Y-12 Oak Ridge nuclear facility because we knew that the nuclear weapons of mass destruction illegally produced there threaten the well-being of our entire planet,” Transform Now Plowshares said. “The government and Babcock and Wilcox know these weapons can only be used to inflict massive death and injury on people and on our planet.”
The trial against the trio had been scheduled for Feb. 26, 2013, in U.S. District Court in Knoxville. But it may be rescheduled as a result of the new three-count indictment returned Tuesday, which replaces an earlier three-count indictment in August.
Transform Now Plowshares said their daily activities now include community prayer, study of the Nuremberg trials, and public education about the existence of illegal nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
“We look forward to presenting evidence to the jury of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what goes on at Y-12,” the activists said.
The press release said the July 28 security breach was a “monumental embarrassment to the government.” Besides pouring blood and spray-painting messages on the HEUMF, the Transform Now Plowshares protesters were also able to hammer a chunk out of the side of the building and wrap crime scene tape around adjacent concrete crash barriers before they were apprehended, the release said.