June 23, 2010


Residents commit first civil resistance
at KC Nuke Parts Plant
then picket Oppenheimer office
by PeaceWorks, Kansas City, Physicians for Social Responsibility, KC Chapter and East Meets West of Troost

Four peace activists were arrested and released June 18 at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Kansas City Plant, committing the first known instance of civil resistance there. The activists and other protesters also visited and then picketed the office of Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., which will offer bonds to finance a new KC Plant.

The plant, now located at the Bannister Federal Complex, makes or procures nuclear weapons parts such as firing sets, casings for fissile materials and aiming devices — non-nuclear parts totaling 85 percent of each U.S. nuke. The plant has come under fire from community members and former employees for the contamination of workers and the plant’s up-to-$815-million relocation price tag.

At noon on Friday, June 18, about 35 protesters blocked an employee entrance to the plant. The four who refused to leave the entrance received this citation: “Disturbance to wit: Impedes or disrupts the performance of official duties of a government employee.” Each resister got a fine of $100 plus $25 for court costs and can pay soon or appear in the U.S. Courthouse, 401 E. 9th St., on Aug. 6. The four resisters were Ronald Faust of Gladstone, MO; Jane Stoever of Overland Park, KS; Frank Cordaro of Des Moines, IA; and Steve Jacobs of Columbia, MO.

“We purposely were arrested to awaken people from a kind of psychic numbing about the plant, its cost, how immoral it is,” said Faust after his arrest. “I was witnessing for peace. What made it possible was the community of peacemakers who support the cause, who stand for an alternative to the war economy.”

While the NNSA guards took the resisters into custody, the other protesters moved back to the KC Plant driveway, where they blocked it. Then the Kansas City Police arrived and parked their cars there, closing the driveway themselves. One protester counted 15 vehicles for NNSA, the Department of Homeland Security and KC police, plus the police helicopter whirring overhead. The media on the scene included the National Catholic Reporter, The Kansas City Star, KKFI 90.1 FM independent radio, KMBC-TV 9, and KSHB-TV 41 (see http://www.nbcactionnews.com/dpp/news/crime/protestors-arrested-outside-honeywell-plant-at-bannister-federal-complex). The protesters came from PeaceWorks-KC, the KC chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), East Meets West of Troost (a group that employs at-risk youngsters in recycling), and Catholic Worker staff and volunteers. Cordaro, of the Phil Berrigan Catholic Worker House in Des Moines, after the incident called the action “a natural fit” for Catholic Workers.

“They are known for personalism, both in the works of mercy and the struggle against war,” Cordaro said. “Catholic Workers see people hungry; they feed them. They see violence perpetrated by governments; they resist it.” Several protesters came from the two Kansas City Catholic Worker houses — Holy Family and Cherith Brook.

On June 14, the NNSA and Kansas City signed a $1.2 billion dollar lease agreement for a new south Kansas City campus to replace the current nuclear weapons plant. Local financial agent Oppenheimer received the OK to float municipal bonds worth up to $815 million for building the new plant. This bond authorization is the outgrowth of a privatization scheme whereby the city will own title to a federal nuclear weapons facility. In February, the City Council approved a $45 million tax cut for the new plant shortly before the city’s Board of Education announced it would close almost half its schools. The new NNSA project is part of a development plan for an Intermodal Center at the former Richards Gebaur Air Force base by real estate developer CenterPoint Zimmer.

“The new bomb plant will make millions of dollars for a few, get the workers sick, pollute the land and build weapons of mass destruction,” said Ann Suellentrop, M.S.R.N., lead organizer for opposition to the current and new Kansas City Plant. “You can’t build nuclear weapons and not get sick.” The protesters chanted slogans such as “DOE, stop the lies before more workers get sick and die.”

After Homeland Security officers released the four resisters, 15 protesters went to the Oppenheimer office at 4717 Grand Ave. to try to learn more about the unnamed investors who will buy the bonds to fund the new plant. Henry Stoever, chair of the PeaceWorks Board, said, “We asked to speak to someone about the investment companies, but we were threatened that police would be called. So we went outside, where we picketed until the police came.”

In a presentation at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church June 17, Steven Starr, a PSR senior scientist from Columbia, MO, noted that David Krieger of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation calls nuclear weapons portable crematoriums, delivered to the door. Expanding on that theme, Sasteh Mosley, president of East Meets West of Troost, walked up and down the sidewalk outside the Oppenheimer office chanting, “Get your red-hot crematorium bonds here!”

PeaceWorks, PSR-KC and East Meets West of Troost sponsored the action at the KC Plant as well as speakers June 16-17. Several speakers warned that the plant makes Kansas City a target for others’ weapons of mass destruction and underscored the danger of having thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. The three organizations’ leaders said they would continue displaying the community’s opposition to the contaminants that KC Plant employees have been exposed to and to the plan to create a new KC Plant at Botts Road and MO Hwy. 150.