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Mon March 28, 2011
Anti-war protesters sentenced for breaking into Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor
Five peace activists who broke into Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor have been sentenced to prison. The group cut through fences at the Trident submarine base on November 2, 2009 to reach an area near where nuclear warheads are stored. Bangor is the largest nuclear weapons storehouse in the United States.
At a trial in Tacoma in December, the Bangor trespassers, also known as the "Bangor Five," were found guilty of conspiracy and destruction of federal property.
Now, a federal judge has handed down sentences ranging from 2 to 15 months. The shortest sentences went to the oldest in the group:
- Jesuit priest Bill Bichsel, 82, of Tacoma, 3 months in prison and 6 months home monitoring.
- Sister Anne Montgomery, 84, of Redwood City, Calif., 2 months in prison and 4 months home monitoring.
- Lynne Greenwald, 61, social worker from Tacoma, 6 months in prison with 60 hours of community service.
- Jesuit priest Stephen Kelly, 61, of Oakland, Calif., 15 months in prison.
- Susan Crane, 67, of Baltimore, 15 months in prison.
The activists could have received sentences of up to 10 years in prison.
All of those sentenced are long time anti-nuclear weapons protesters. By his own account, Bichsel has been arrested more than 45 times. He began protesting at Bangor in 1976.
U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle, in handing down the sentences, called the activism of the defendants "extraordinary," but said he had to send a "clear message," that the conduct was illegal and exposed the defendants and those on base to unnecessary risks. Settle called actions of the five "a form of anarchism."
"If it goes unchecked, it will lead to a breakdown of the social order and descent into chaos," the judge said.
Outside the federal courthouse in Tacoma, several hundred supporters gathered. One held a sign that read "Blessed are the Peacemakers."