An 84-year-old nun and two fellow peace activists broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and caused nearly $50,000 worth of damage on July 28, 2012, but their actions were all in vain.
Sister Megan Rice, the nun, was sentenced to 35 months in prison on Feb. 18.
She told the judge she didn’t want any leniency and she’d happily spend the rest of her life in prison. The other two activists each received more than five years in prison, in part because they had other criminal histories. The trio cut through four chain-link fences in order to breach what was supposed to be one of the most secure uranium processing and storage facilities in the country.
In fact, the website for the complex states, “Y-12 continuously monitors local and world events to prepare for potential risks to the site, our information and our employees.”
It goes on to state the website’s security experts control website access and guard against any potential threats to the website. It’s no wonder the security contractor was fired after the incident.
After hoisting banners, spray painting messages and splattering human blood from baby bottles on the buildings, the nun and her comrades were discovered by a security guard.
While complex officials said the trio had no chance of reaching materials that could be used in a bomb, the group’s tactics for protesting nuclear products and actions are questionable.
The goal of the group’s protest was to raise awareness of the United States’ participation in nuclear actions. The U.S. is one of five nations that are officially recognized as possessing nuclear weapons, according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968.
The treaty includes a commitment to not help other nations acquire nuclear weapons. The United States has an estimated 7,650 warheads, according to a survey by CNN.
While this goal was accomplished, the protesters actually helped protect the U.S.’s work with nuclear materials as the security of the site has been increased since they broke in. Operations at the site were shut down for a short period of time, but not permanently.
Rice and her fellow protesters claimed they were doing God’s work by breaking into the complex.
“I was acting upon my God-given obligations as a follower of Jesus Christ,” said Michael Walli, one of the protestors with Rice, according to the Huffington Post.
Regardless of religious beliefs, the law is the law. Breaking into a facility, especially one that pertains to national security, is wrong no matter what you believe or what your motivations are.
The First Amendment allows for the right to peacefully assemble and freedom of speech. This gives people the chance to protest peacefully and be heard by fellow citizens. These particular protesters did not do what the First Amendment allows.
It’s true that the group’s actions speak louder than simply waving signs outside a government building. However, according to the Associated Press, some government officials have praised the group for bringing awareness to the frailties in security at the complex, but not many people have commented on their actual goal of shutting down the complex and stopping U.S. participation in nuclear actions.
There are better ways to protest that do not include breaking the law. If there’s a weapons convention, picket outside.
If the government is meeting with other nations to talk nuclear proliferation, protest with petitions and signs.
Breaking into a high-security complex is an impressive feat, especially considering a nun was involved. Unfortunately, that’s all this trio will be remembered for.