6 Kings Bay Plowshares Anti-Nuclear Weapons Activists Face Up to 20 Years in Prison

Interview with Mark Colville, one of seven Kings Bay Plowshares defendants, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

On June 8, 80-year-old peace activist Liz McAllister was sentenced for her part in the Kings Bay Plowshares action on April 4, 2018, in which 7 Catholic activists poured their own blood and hammered on equipment after breaking into the Kings Bay nuclear submarine base in St. Mary’s, Georgia, the largest such base in the world. April 4 was chosen as it was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
On Oct. 24, 2019, all seven Plowshares members were found guilty in federal court on charges of trespassing, the destruction of property and conspiracy. McAlister had already spent 17 months in prison before the trial, and was sentenced to time served, plus three years’ probation and a collective $33,000 in restitution, which the group has vowed not to pay. Of the six remaining participants, one, Jesuit priest Father Steve Kelly, has remained in the maximum security Glynn County Detention Center, where all of them were once incarcerated. The defendants face more than 20 years in prison.
Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Mark Colville, one of the seven Kings Bay Plowshares. Here, he talks about the federal government’s plan for sentencing – whenever it occurs – and ways in which the prosecution has cracked down on peaceful protesters trying to avert nuclear disaster.
MARK COLVILLE: The rest of us are awaiting sentences. The six remaining folks – all of us have asserted our right to be sentenced in person before a judge with the public present. So now essentially the dispute becomes, when is it going to be safe to be in a Georgia courtroom?

Georgia, of course, for anyone who’s paying attention to the spread of the pandemic – Georgia’s governor is one of the more ignorant in the nation that has made very bad decisions about reopening – canceling restrictions about social distancing; the restaurants and salons have been opened way prematurely, which means that as far as I’ve been following the science of this, it’s important to me because I’m facing federal prison where a lot of people are getting infected and dying.

We’re scheduled now for sentencing on June 29 and 30, and none of us to my mind really thinks that it’s either safe to travel to Georgia or be in a Georgia courtroom at this point. And, of course, I always need to add when I’m talking about this that people should carry in mind the absurdity of ordering people to federal prison by videoconference because it’s not safe to be in a courtroom. There’s a certain morbid irony in that to me.

I’ll speak for myself. I’m trying to get another continuance on the sentencing because, you know, I might have pissed off the government, but I don’t think it deserves a death sentence. Whether you sentence me now or three months from now when it might be a little safer, really doesn’t make any difference to the government.

From the get-go in this case, there’s been a certain public posture that the government and the prosecution and the probation office have taken, and that is that they want to be as punitive as possible and as unreasonable as the law allows. That was evident in Liz’s sentencing as well. There were motions that were summarily denied right up front when the sentence was pronounced. The two significant arguments we had about sentencing, both of which have bumped all of us up to a higher sentencing category. In other words, we are subject to doing more time – because, number one, the court refuses to grant us any leniency based on the notion that we accepted responsibility for our actions. That’s typical of any sentencing in federal court: If the probation department in their investigation makes the determination that you have sufficiently accepted responsibility for your action, you’re supposed to get some points taken off your evaluation of sentencing, which makes it so you have a less harsh sentence. Of course, the way the courts normally function, and apparently the way they have functioned in this case, whenever anybody refuses a plea bargain and takes something to court because they think they’re right, they automatically do not get credit for accepting responsibility. In other words, exercising your rights as a citizen is to the court – after you’ve been found guilty – they look back on that and see it as an avoidance of responsibility.

The other significant thing – they call it risk of death – and this is something they I guess just came up with in the federal system, and that is that our actions amounted to risking the lives of ourselves, or personnel on the base. Just an absurd notion, especially when we’re talking about weapons of omnicide that could end the whole of creation in about a half hour.

For more information, visit the Kings Bay Plowshares website at kingsbayplowshares7.org and on Facebook at facebook.com/groups/1558500837566350, on Twitter @kingsbayplow7 and on Instagram at @kingsbayplowshares7.

Subscribe to our Weekly Summary