May 7 Warheads to Windmills Breakout session: Nonviolent Direct Action and the Plowshares Movement – Patrick O’Neill and Steve Dear

Patrick gave an overview of Plowshares noting that they “are creative theatre, shocking, make people think and offer a concrete, yet symbolic example of what disarmament would look like” because we actually attempt to “beat swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4)

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 acted at Naval Station Kings Bay, home of the trident submarine system, the most diabolical weapons system ever made. “When you see a trident float by in the bay you are seeing the end of the world.”

“Instead of moving toward nuclear disarmament and ecological cooperation … the U.S. is committed to a 30-year, trillion dollar-plus nuclear weapons upgrade. Instead of a reduction in militarism, the U.S. has added an additional war-making entity — the Space Force. Instead of peace diplomacy, the U.S. is engaging in a proxy war with Russia and making threats toward China.”

Steve Dear of Oregon paraphrased Howard Zinn that the United States doesn’t have a problem with civil disobedience, but a problem with civil obedience. He said his life has been deeply transformed by the Plowshares movement and the communities of resistance around them. But there are always opportunities to take impactful and personally transformative action wherever we live. For example, Steve has risked arrest dozens of times with relatively little risk beyond a night or two in jail. In recent years in Oregon there was a 15-year struggle by thousands of people to cancel the planned Jordan Cove liquified natural gas pipeline project, which would have decimated the Pacific Northwest. Steve and about 50 others occupied the governor’s office and she drove 90 minutes to meet the activists late at night. Steve and about 20 others spent the night in jail. She later changed her position. The pipeline project was cancelled. 

“Act small, think big!” Let us go out and form small, grassroots, non-hierarchical cohorts, Steve said. The Extinction Rebellion Movement, for example, was formed in the UK in 2018 and since then tens of thousands of people have risked arrest there and changed the narrative on climate and action. A tenet of the XR Movement is that we cannot trust the system that has brought us to the brink of nuclear annihilation and climate collapse to get us out of it. It transcends direct lobbying of legislatures.

In the US there are XR chapters across the country. The demands of the US movement are (1) Tell the Truth, (2) Net zero policy commitments by 2025, (3) Citizens Assemblies, and, (4) (in the US only) a Just Transition centering BIPOC people and addressing structural racism and recognizing the rights of nature. In the past two weeks around Earth Day XR chapters in the US took nonviolent direct actions aimed at militarism, banks funding fossil fuel industries, private jets, media inattention and misinformation on climate, and so on. The XR chapter in Eugene, OR has been involved in supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Sunrise, youth-led, movement. 

Also in Eugene, Planet Versus Pentagon works to educate and mobilize climate activists around the devastation wrought by militarism on our climate and all aspects of life on Earth. 

Let us organize nonviolently and get out in the streets, he said.

The discussion concerned the increasingly casual way people are discussing nuclear weapons.  People discussed how the mainstream media is mentioning the possibility of nuclear war without any mention of the end of life on earth.   The potential use of tactical nuclear weapons is brought up but with no awareness from the public about how dangerous these weapons really are.  

The need for mobilizing people was another topic. The importance of climate and nuclear weapons groups working together was talked about.  Sustainability was included as an essential goal.

Notes: Patrick O’Neill, Steve Dear and Louise Coleman