On January 18, 2014 activists from a Puget Sound-based nuclear abolition group engaged in a nonviolent direct action at the US Navy’s West Coast nuclear submarine and nuclear weapons base.
Members of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action held a peaceful vigil and nonviolent direct action at the main gate to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, Washington. They protested the U.S. government’s continued deployment of the Trident nuclear weapons system, and increasing military presence in Asia due to its Asia-Pacific Pivot. Its continued reliance on nuclear weapons as an instrument of foreign policy by force projection is in contravention of both U.S. and international laws.
The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles from Seattle, contains the largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. Each of the 8 Trident submarines at Bangor carries up to 24 Trident II (D-5) missiles, each capable of being armed with as many as 8 independently targetable thermonuclear warheads. Each nuclear warhead has an explosive force of between 100 and 475 kilotons (up to 30 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb). 60 percent of the Trident fleet is based at Bangor, with 40 percent at King’s Bay, Georgia.
On Saturday afternoon the group maintained a peaceful vigil on the roadside outside the base entrance. Honoring Martin Luther King Jr’s strong stand against war and nuclear weapons, participants held a large banner with a quote from Dr. King: “When scientific power outruns spiritual power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.”
Two participants entered the roadway, symbolically closing the base, and were removed by Washington State Patrol officers. Cited for traffic violations – “Pedestrian on Roadway Illegally” – were Gilberto Perez, Bainbridge Island, WA and Michael Siptroth, Belfair, WA. Perez, a Buddhist monk who has visited Jeju Island in South Korea, held a banner (in Korean) calling for “No Naval Base on Jeju.”
Another participant, Tom Krebsbach, Brier, WA walked onto the base in an attempt to deliver a message, in the form of a poem, to the base commander. Naval security authorities arrested Krebsbach, and took him to a base facility for processing. He was released a short while later, after having been cited for Trespassing (18 USC 1382).
After Krebsbach’s arrest, one last resister entered the roadway carrying a sign reading, “Abolish Nuclear Weapons.” MacKnight Johnson, Silverdale, WA was also escorted from the roadway by State Patrol officers and cited.
The day planned in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. began in the morning at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action where participants screened “The Ghosts of Jeju,” a shocking documentary about the people of Jeju Island who are resisting the military advance on their island today, just as their parents and relatives did in 1947. Participants included members of the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk that had walked from Olympia to Ground Zero Center, beginning on January 13th. The walk was led by monks from the Bainbridge Island Nipponzan Miyohoji Buddhist Temple.
Ground Zero also hosted an ecumenical gathering organized by William “Bix” Bichsel, SJ, of the Tacoma Catholic Worker on January 15th (Dr. King’s birthday). Fr. Bichsel led a shared Eucharist at the Bangor base Main Gate bringing people together in witness against nuclear weapons and in solidarity with the struggle of the people of Jeju Island.
On Monday’s legal holiday recognizing Dr. King, Ground Zero Center participated in the Seattle MLK Rally & March, carrying a full-size (44 feet in length) Trident II D-5 missile and handing out leaflets calling on people to join in efforts to build a nuclear weapons-free world.
Ground Zero holds three scheduled vigils and actions each year in resistance to Trident and in protest of U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The group has been engaged in a continuing legal struggle to stop construction of a Second Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor.
Ground Zero is also working, through its “NO To NEW TRIDENT” campaign, to de-fund the Navy’s plans for a next generation ballistic missile submarine, estimated to cost approximately $100 billion to build. Building a new generation of ballistic missile submarines will undermine nonproliferation efforts and will increase the risk of either accidental or intentional nuclear war.
For over thirty-six years Ground Zero has engaged in education, training in nonviolence, community building, resistance against Trident and action toward a world without nuclear weapons.