By T.S. Last
From the Albuquerque Journal
LOS ALAMOS — Six people were arrested in an act of civil disobedience at the entrance to Los Alamos National Laboratory on Monday — the 67th anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
They were charged with three misdemeanor offenses of criminal trespass, obstructing a right of way and disobeying an officer.
“We weren’t resisting arrest,” emphasized Cathie Sullivan of Santa Fe, one of the people arrested. “This was entirely nonviolent and peaceful. That’s what this is all about.”
Los Alamos Police Department Capt. Randy Foster said about 35 protesters blocked the road at the intersection of Diamond Drive and West Jemez Road shortly before 8 a.m., backing up traffic and delaying entry into the lab for about an hour.
After being warned they would be arrested if they didn’t step aside, all but six complied.
“We gave them 10 minutes of warning and let their voice be heard,” Foster said. “They were taking a stand for what they believe in. Unfortunately, it’s against the law where they were doing it.”
Foster said the arrests were made without incident. The six people were handcuffed and transported to the Los Alamos County Detention Center, where they were booked and released on their own recognizance a few hours later.
LANL is where the atomic bomb was developed under the Manhattan Project in the 1940s and it continues to do work in the design and production of nuclear weapons. Because of that, Foster said, demonstrations at LANL on the Hiroshima anniversary have become an annual event.
“Some years they block traffic and it’s not unusual that we make arrests,” he said.
Foster said the demonstrators had a permit that allowed for 15 protesters and an area near the lab entrance had been set aside for them.
Fred deSousa, a LANL spokesman, said LANL has been proactive in dealing with demonstrators and accommodations are made for them to exercise their freedom of speech.
“They are free to express their views as long as they do it safely and in accordance with the law,” he said.
On Monday, LANL announced no one would be allowed on lab property without a LANL or Department of Energy badge. The public is generally allowed to cross LANL property en route to the ski area or Jemez Springs.
“The goal is to keep everyone safe, the facilities safe and the general public safe,” deSousa said.
“I hope the folks that were here today protesting would take the time to learn all about what the lab does,” he added, noting that LANL also conducts research relating to solar panels, biofuels and it had a hand in NASA’s rover Curiosity, which successfully landed on Mars only hours before the arrests were made.
Those arrested said they were there to protest the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other specific issues.
“I think it’s super important to re-evaluate the risk of radioactive material,” said Benjamin Abbott, 29, a doctoral student in American Studies at the University of New Mexico, who is against war of any kind.
“The lab creates a lot of jobs, and I don’t want anyone from Los Alamos to suffer economically, but devices designed to incinerate human flesh and destroy buildings, I’m against that.”
Catherine Euler, 48, of Tucson, said she was concerned about the contamination of water and soil.
“The DOE does the testing. We need an independent source to do the studies. You can’t have the fox guarding the henhouse,” she said. “We need to break through that, and if it means putting my body on the line, I’m willing to do that.”
Barbara Grothus, 59, was following in the steps of her father, Ed Grothus, who was a LANL employee before becoming a renowned anti-nuclear activist.
“He devoted the last 35 or 40 years of his life to the anti-nuke message and advocating for LANL to change its mission,” she said, adding that she was there to do the same. “You can’t use the bomb. Spending all this money for something we can’t, shouldn’t and won’t use is a waste, especially when there are so many other issues we should be spending our resources on.”
Grothus said she was willing to get arrested in an effort to get that message out.
Also arrested were Pamela Gilchrist, 73, of Santa Fe, who was at the end of a 21-day hunger strike in protest of LANL’s involvement in nuclear weaponry, and Janet Greenwald, 66, of Albuquerque.
“It’s the responsibility of citizens to protest and stand up for justice and freedom. It’s an honorable act,” said Lisa Krooth, a Santa Fe attorney who is representing the six people arrested. “These people feel strongly about the moral position that they took today.”
Krooth said if found guilty, the six will be subject to paying court costs, fines and possibly community service. She said she expects each to enter a not-guilty plea when they are arraigned on Thursday.
Krooth said traffic was again delayed briefly before 5 p.m. when the demonstrators dropped a banner reading “Hiroshima Still Haunting” from the bridge over Los Alamos Canyon.
No arrests were made in that incident.