Note: This story was last updated at 9:45 p.m. Aug. 7.
A Kentucky woman was arrested on a state misdemeanor charge after she walked up to the federal “blue line” at the front entrance of the Y-12 National Security Complex on East Bear Creek Road on Saturday afternoon and sat down on the pavement at the main entrance to the nuclear weapons plant.
Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, said Rosdatter, a 55-year-old mother who has a doctorate in philosophy, did not cross the blue line. Crossing it can result in federal charges.
In an apparent act of civil disobedience, Rosdatter sat in the roadway, on the hot asphalt near the blue line. She appeared to be questioned by Y-12 security officers and the Oak Ridge Police Department and then detained by the ORPD.
Also Saturday, Michael Walli, one of three protesters who broke into Y-12 on July 28, 2012, and splashed blood and sprayed graffiti on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility as part of an effort to protest nuclear weapons, helped lead a two-mile nuclear disarmament march to Y-12 from Alvin K. Bissell Park in central Oak Ridge. Rosdatter’s arrest followed that march.
Walli was released from prison along with his two fellow protesters, Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed, on May 16, 2015, eight days after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned their more serious felony sabotage convictions.
OREPA organizes events each year on August 6, the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, near the end of World War II. Uranium for that atomic bomb, code-named Little Boy, was enriched at Y-12.
Hutchison said Rosdatter had been moved to take action after hearing about the devastation caused by the Hiroshima bomb during a three-hour remembrance ceremony in front of Y-12 on Saturday morning. There was a break in the remembrance ceremony at 8:15 a.m., marking the moment when the bomb was dropped 71 years ago. The ceremony included the tying of origami peace cranes to a makeshift fence, one for each victim whose name was read aloud.
“I didn’t feel I could be part of the ceremony in the morning, with its graphic descriptions of the suffering caused by the bomb, and then just get in my car and go home,” Rosdatter said. “I had to do something.”
She was charged with obstructing a highway. Supporters bailed her out about 90 minutes after she was booked into the Anderson County Detention Facility in Clinton. Her bond was set at $500. She has a court date scheduled for August 17 in Anderson County General Sessions Court in Oak Ridge.
It’s been several years since anyone was arrested in an act of civil disobedience at Y-12 or other activity related to the demonstrations organized by OREPA.
Among other things, Y-12 works on nuclear weapons and stores most of the nation’s bomb-grade uranium, and those who support nuclear disarmament, including Walli, continue to protest regularly near the site. Walli said he’s been in the Knoxville area every year for the last seven years, either as a prisoner or protester, hoping to raise consciousness and continue to fight against weapons of mass destruction, including radiological, chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. A Vietnam veteran, Walli believes the work violates international law and human rights, and he called it immoral and ungodly.
After the remembrance ceremony Saturday morning, OREPA had a Concert for Peace and Rally for Disarmament at Alvin K. Bissell Park before a March for Abolition from the park to Y-12. Demonstrators are opposed to nuclear weapons and the proposed multi-billion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility, or UPF, at Y-12. About 60 of them marched the two miles from the park to Y-12. They carried signs saying “No More Money for Bomb Plants,” “Abolish Nuclear Weapons Now,” and “No UPF,” among other messages.
“We are here in Oak Ridge because Y-12 continues to produce nuclear weapons components,” Hutchison said. “And because the National Nuclear Security Administration wants to build a new bomb plant here and continue to use old bomb plants, which they admit do not meet modern safety codes, for 25-30 more years because bringing them up to code would be ‘cost prohibitive.’ This work puts the public at considerable risk.”
At Y-12, demonstrators tied ribbons together to form a chain that they draped on the security fence. That was part of a series of global events called “Chain Reaction: Breaking Free from Nuclear Weapons,” Hutchison said.
“The chain represented the fear that bombs project to all of us; it represented the threat of death; it represented the false doctrine of nuclear security that binds our imaginations and causes us to live in fear of others,” Hutchison said.
The annual protests—there are also smaller weekly vigils—renew debate each year about the bombing of Hiroshima and the continued work on the nuclear weapons stockpile. The demonstrators point to the suffering and death caused by the two bombs that were used, and they advocate for disarmament. But their critics say the use of the bombs near the end of World War II likely saved many lives, maybe up to a million by some estimates; they cite the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941; and they say the United States needs nuclear weapons for defense as long as any other country has them or might acquire them.
Though some are opposed, the work at Y-12 has widespread general support among local residents and workers, Oak Ridge municipal officials and City Council members, and federal legislators. They cite the importance of the national security work conducted at Y-12 and the thousands of jobs and economic impact the plant provides, and many, particularly in the economic development community, look forward to the construction of the UPF.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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