The self-named LANL 6 protesters outside the Los Alamos Justice Center Wednesday include Janet Greenwald, Catherine Euler, Pamela Gilchrist, Cathie Sullivan, Benjamin ‘Summer’ Abbott and Barbara Grothus. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com
By Greg Kendall
Six defendants sat in the front of Judge Alan Kirk’s Municipal Courtroom at the Los Alamos Justice Center Wednesday morning with their defense lawyer, Santa Fe Attorney Jeffery Haas.
The defendants were on trial for charges of trespass, refusing to obey an officer and obstructing movement as a result of their actions during an anti-nuclear protest that took place Aug. 6, 2012 on Los Alamos National Laboratory property.
Catherine Euler, Cathie Sullivan, Janet Greenwald, Benjamin “Summer” Abbott, Barbara Grothus and Pamela Gilchrist each faced a potential fine of up to $1,500 and up to 179 days in jail.
However, at the conclusion of Wednesday’s trial, the judge dismissed trespassing charges against all six, instead finding them guilty of refusing to obey an officer and obstructing movement.
Kirk ordered each defendant to pay a fine of $100 on each of the two counts plus court costs of $60. He also ordered them to serve one year of probation.
Wednesday’s trial was filled to the brim with supporters of the six anti-nuclear protesters. A large number of them were not able to enter the courtroom because it was filled to capacity.
Aug. 6 is the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. A Los Alamos protest on this date has become an annual occurrence.
The LANL 6 were part of a group of about 35 protestors who assembled at the southwest corner of Diamond Drive and West Jemez Road on the morning of Aug. 6, 2012. The group had a permit to protest that day.
The protesters entered the crosswalk on Diamond Drive and blocked vehicle traffic during the morning commute for Laboratory employees.
Testimony at Wednesday’s trial indicated that police warned protesters four times that they must leave the intersection or they would be arrested.
Most of the protesters returned to the sidewalk area but six remained in the street at the fourth and final warning and were arrested peacefully without violence or struggle.
A video of the arrests was shown in open court. The video documented the police warnings that were given and the peaceful arrests.
There was no testimony given that indicated that LANL management specifically asked police to remove any trespassers that morning.
Testimony by the six indicated that they were not aware that they were trespassing on government property and assumed the area of their protest was a public street.
Prosecutor A.J. Salazar indicated that the area of the protest was on government property controlled by the Laboratory, but did not identify when permission for the six to be on the Laboratory’s property was withdrawn.
Police officers testifying at the trial indicated that they did warn protesters four times that they would be arrested for “obstructing the roadway.”
During the trial, the judge gave broad leeway to the defendants and their attorney, allowing them to discuss larger issues such as climate change, international law and moral issues.
Each of the six defendants indicated that they were protesting that day in order to make a statement to the public about their desire to stop nuclear arms development at the laboratory.
LANL 6 protester Gilchrist indicated “International Law makes nuclear weapons illegal” and added that she would like to see the Laboratory’s resources redirected toward mitigating climate change. She also noted that her group had coordinated a peaceful protest with the police and that she expected to be arrested.
Euler took the stand and described how children and women are at risk to small daily doses of radiation. She said that is was not her intent to be arrested, but rather to protect human life by warning people of the dangers of radiation she said is released by the Laboratory.
Euler explained that she felt she had a moral duty to obstruct traffic in order to get the group’s message out, but was unaware that she was trespassing. She testified that she did not notice the sign as she approached Omega Bridge that indicated the start of DOE/LANL property.
Greenwalt discussed the effects of radiation on crops and people in the regions that surround LANL saying, “I don’t know what else to do. No one seems to listen.” She wept openly in court during her testimony.
Grothus testified that she too wanted to make a statement against the nuclear weapons work at the Laboratory. She grew up in Los Alamos and is the daughter of longtime anti-nuclear protestor Ed Grothus who passed away in 2009. He was the owner of the well-known Black Hole laboratory equipment salvage store in Los Alamos.
Grothus described her first Hiroshima Day protest in Los Alamos at Ashley pond around 1970. She noted that at that time, many Los Alamos residents were concerned about the welfare of the ducks during the protest held at Ashley Pond.
Many residents felt the ducks should be removed temporarily for their own safety, she said. Grothus described how she helped make a sign that was placed in the middle of the pond to express the ducks desire to stay put. It read, “Hell No. We Won’t Go!”
Kirk appeared to be genuinely interested in what the protestors had to say and was lenient in the defendant’s testimony, many times over-ruling the prosecutor’s objections to statements made by the six protesters.
Following the trial, Grothus spoke to the Los Alamos Daily Post. “I really appreciate that we were able to get our testimony out. He (Kirk) was very generous in allowing us to speak and I think that we were able to create a compelling case that we were not just being jerks. We were trying to make a point. All of us had a compelling point to make. I thought we got a fair hearing today and that is the major point of it. But, we are not going to pay the fines, so we will probably do some jail time at some point. I was prepared to go to jail today, so I am not unhappy. I have to give Kirk a lot of credit.”
Santa Fe defense attorney Jeffery Haas told the Los Alamos Daily Post. “I think that the sentence was excessive. I think that the judge knew they would not pay the fine and would go to jail, so he basically did sentence them to jail and a year’s probation. In a case like this, it seems to me to be way excessive. Usually at the most it is a fine and goodbye. It is sort of a way to keep them from demonstrating next year. I think it is punitive and unnecessary and way out of line for the seriousness of what was charged. I don’t think they obstructed traffic and I don’t think they proved that. I think the question on disobeying an officer comes down to are you allowed to follow international humanitarian law when that requires you to take an action as opposed to a local ordinance that says you are supposed to obey a police officer. I think there is plenty of precedence and moral reasons to say the international and humanist law should take precedence.”
Protesters hold flags outside the Los Alamos Justice Center following Wednesday’s LANL 6 trial. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com
A group of anti-nuclear protesters assemble outside of the Los Alamos Justice Center following the LANL 6 trial Wednesday. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com