“To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor this court could bestow on me.” — incorrigible peace activist Sr. Megan Rice
Excerpted from —
February 21, 2014
by Jim Habor
After being read their sentences, each of the three defendants were allowed to make statements. Michael Walli explained that many things in this world, like nuclear weapons and concentration camps, should never have existed, but were deemed legal by those in power. He challenged the assertion that his 40 arrests and over 20 convictions indicated an unrepentant disregard for the law. “I acted consistent with the rule of law,” he declared, pointing out that the United States breaks the law all the time, and far more seriously at that.
Greg Boertje-Obed quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. and presented a copy of his “Beyond Vietnam” speech to the prosecution, which — earlier in the trial — had challenged him when he quoted King as having called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence today.” Boertje-Obed also read from Daniel Berrigan’s Hymn to the New Humanity. His voice raised in volume and passion when he said, “The United States, if it would respect [the nonproliferation treaty] would promote the rule of law.”
Sr. Rice was at her most eloquent when addressing the court. “The problem with this trial is that people don’t know the law,” she said. “There is an alternative to nuclear weapons — common sense… If you resist nuclear weapons, you are upholding the law… The need to expose crimes pushed us to our action… To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor this court could bestow on me.”
She pointed out that nuclear weapons were declared illegal under international law and hence aren’t “legitimate property.” Additionally, the three members of the Transform Now Plowshares felt called to uphold their view of God’s law, and called for love and peacemaking, rather than nuclear threats and war.
Yet, these motivations were never allowed to be spoken during the trial itself, thereby preventing the jury from truly understanding their actions. As unjust as this — and the harsh sentences — may seem, it shows that the government actually sees civil resistance and organizing for the power and capacity it truly represents. The powers that be should be afraid of the likes of the Transform Now Plowshares. They’re not alone.