Nuke-protesting priest will not repent

Mar 15, 2011, 3:28 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

The fear of nuclear meltdowns because of damage done to reactors in Japan, is bolstering some opponents of nuclear energy in our country.

“We have so many other avenues. We have solar power, we have geothermic power, we have wind power. There’s just so many different ways we can go, if we have a will to do that,” says Rev. Bill Bischel, a Catholic, Jesuit priest from Tacoma.

Bischel is also an opponent of nuclear weapons, and he’ll be sentenced later this month for crimes committed while standing up for his beliefs. He makes no apologies, as he details what he did at the Navy submarine base in Bangor on November 2, 2009.

“We went up to the base at 2 o’clock in the morning. There were five of us,” he says as he begins to describe what happened.

PlowsharesThe five of them – 82 year old Bischel (far right in the picture ); Rev. Stephen Kelly, 60-year-old priest from California; Sister Anne Montgomery, an 84 year old nun also from California; Susan Crane, a retired teacher from Baltimore; and Lynne Greenwald, a 60-year-old social worker from Bremerton – all determined to break into the sub base for a demonstration, using Google maps to guide them in.

“We thought we’d have to be restricted to going through brush and rough terrain, but we were able to stick to roads,” he says. “All the while we were going quite slowly and then finally we came to a road that lead us to where the SWFPAC is. Swift Pac is an acronym for Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific. That’s where the nuclear weapons are stored.”

They were behind the perimeter fence line for over four hours before they cut through the final fence, triggering a response from military personnel.

“We cut through the second fence, which had a lot of sensors on it,” says Bischel. “We got through. We were carrying banners with us that said ‘Disarm now.’ We carried some of our own blood to spill on the ground.”

Bischel and the others were arrested and charged, and late last year they were found guilty on all counts of conspiracy, trespassing and destruction of government property.

Their motivation for breaking into the base had no malicious intent, Bischel says. It was to warn of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and make people aware of the nuclear warheads near Bremerton.

“It’s probably the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the United States that are there to arm eight Trident submarines, and there’s 24 missiles on each submarine, each missile carries weapons that are anywhere from six to 30 times the power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima,” he says. “It’s in our back yard. I couldn’t ignore that. It’s a big pile of death that is there.”

The group’s objective was not allowed to be entered in the federal court testimony, nor was Bischel’s justification for the property crimes.

“If you were going down the road and a house was burning and there’s a child or a person trapped in the upper story, you don’t ask if you can break down the door to get in. We certainly liken our action to that,” Bischel says.

Prosecutors say the protesters went too far when they broke into a secure area, endangering themselves and military guards. Bischel and the others will be sentenced at the end of this month – March 28th – and they each face up to 10 years in prison.

Bischel has no regrets and no remorse for what he did. He would do it again.

“You could say I’m unrepentant,” says Bischel.

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Nuke-protesting priest will not repent