The trial in Los Alamos of the LANL 6 was concluded in one long session from 9AM to about 1:30 PM Wednesday the 9th. Judge Alan Kirk and the Los Alamos County Prosecutor, Mr. Salazar, did not interrupt the individual testimony of each of the six defendants–an unexpected and welcome surprise. We had assumed we would not be allowed to give background on why we risked arrest, but would be limited to just the physical facts of the action last August 6th (2012). So in front of a FULL courtroom (53 seats) with about 17 people outside the courtroom who rotated with those inside, we gave our personal reasons for the civil disobedience action. The personal testimony was the highlight of the day. It also fulfilled our primary goal: a small uptick in the public consciousness about our nation’s on-going nuclear weapons ambitions and policy–and the Lab’s role in promoting and maintaining that ambitious policy (despite legally binding treaty comittments to the contrary).
Our testimony covered the plutonium contamination in the sediments of the Rio Grande and the health threat of exposure to chronic low level radiation especially to fetuses and young children (testimony of Janet Greenwald, Dr. Eular and myself); Barbara Grothus spoke on her comittment to carry on the oppostion to Los Alamos Lab’s weapons mission that her Dad Ed Grothus embodied for 40 years. Benjamin Abbot testified to the Lab’s role in the militarization of our economy, the appropriation of native land to site the Manhattan Project in the 1940s without fulfilling the promise to return the land after the war, and broader comments on the “US war machine.” Dr. Catherine Euler also testified to the health impacts of Lab radiological emmissions and told us about her activism in the UK in anti-nuclear portests.
Pan Gilcrist’s testimony emphasised the distinction between obeying County traffic laws and laws that flow from the UN Court of Justice and are embodied in humanitarian law. I was able to to focus on the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, my work since 1995 at the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, our First Amendment successful settlement with the Lab when arrested for leafleting outside the Bradbury in 1999, and my trips to Russia and Chernobyl in connection with the health effects on workers and civilians from weapons production in the two counties during the Cold War. I also mentioned the issue of ‘white skin privilege’ that allows a middle class white woman like myself to protest with less fear of police mistreatment when in a very ‘white’ community like Los Alamos.
We were found innocent of the charge of trespass, and guilty of failing to obey an officer and of obstructing traffic. We were each ordered to pay a total of $340.00 in fines, court costs and probation costs and were given a year’s probation. The probation stipulates we must not be arrested for protest in Los Alamos for one year. Our two lawyers who did such a super job on our behalf, felt that both a fine AND probation were excessive. We will decide together whether and how to pursue that point further. None of us wants to pay any money–and we are united in doing jail time instead. We felt that since neither the prosecutor nor the Judge asked for jail time, however, that this probably reflected the wishes of the Lab to not have people critical of the Lab be in jail, since it would garner public attention. In fact we are uncertain IF we can do jail time in lieu of a fine. It may be that wages can be garnisheed and assets attached to pay fines and that only being too poor to pay fines would allow them to be ‘paid’ by jail time. We are researching this issue.
Glad we did it–and glad the trial is over. But the big thank you goes to the surprising number of people who have supported this action: from the Sunday fundraiser with about 100 in attendance to the 70 to 80 at the trial (whom Judge Kirk thanked for their good, non-disruptive court room behavior).
Thanks to Cathie Sullivan for this post