Opening Statement of Sr. Ardeth Platte, OP
Denver Federal Court, April 2003
THE COURT: Very well. Opening statement by defendant Ardeth Platte.
SISTER PLATTE :
I am Sister Ardeth Platte, and to begin with, I want to give gratitude to God for our being able to be present here with you. I give gratitude to you who are seated in this jury. The task before you, I know, is very difficult, and I know the grace of God will be with you, that whatever decision you make as it relates to us, that we will continue to bless you, so do not be afraid to speak the truth of what you believe. I also give thanks today to the prosecutor and judge. I want to forgive the prosecutor for some things, one is when he talks about us as "allegedly" being sisters --
MR. BROWN : Your Honor, I object.
SISTER PLATTE : -- I want you to know that Sister Jacqueline --
THE COURT: Sister, excuse me. I apologize for interrupting. The government has an objection. Your objection.
MR. BROWN: Number one, I don't think this is proper opening statement. She is not talking about the evidence. She is talking about God.
THE COURT: Well, I respectfully disagree. She is actually making a rhetorical or poetic transition from that statement to fair comment on the evidence in the form of its description. That's within the latitude of opening statement, and, therefore, the objection is overruled.
MR. BROWN : Thank you, your Honor.
SISTER PLATTE : I just want you to know that Sister Jacqueline Hudson and I, in our combination of years, have about a hundred years now in religious life in the Grand Rapids Dominican sisters, and Sister Carol has about 37, going on 38 years, so just to speak the truth, we are Sisters.
And also along with that, I just want to say that even though you are commanded to understand that maybe what we speak is not evidence, I want to assure you that what I tell you is truth. That what I say to you will be from my understanding of what we did and why we did it. So, even though it may not be considered as evidence, I want to make sure that you understand that everything I tell you will be truthful. I want to give thanks too as long as I am giving thanks to all the people, the thousands now who have written, some of whom are here, and the thousands who have sent in solidarity letters.
Now I say that because what we have done sounds like an extremely dangerous thing, and yet all over the world there are people saying the same thing. There are people who actually believe in what we did. And you are seeing them now by the millions as you turn on your television sets. Also I want to give thanks to our international community and our religious community because of their strength in understanding what we have done all our lives, and that is to study the gospel. We are students of the gospel. We are believers in non-violence. We are believers in truth force. We are believers in love force, and we are believers in soul force, so that's the unit with which we come in our communities. We have formed consciences. We are working every day on understanding what is moral and what is immoral. We are trying to be open to the leading of the holy spirit, the spirit of God.
Now we have had a lot of things before us here, and you know one of the documents you are going to receive in the evidence is a statement of conviction that we left at the site. You are going to hear about us putting a banner up: the front side says, "Sacred Earth and Space Plowshares II, 2002," and then on the other side there is going to be a statement, and on that statement you will see four names. And you will also hear of four baby bottles.
The same time we were committed to do this non-violent civil resistance action, at the same time our sister, Sister Ann Montgomery, had traveled to Iraq , and to Hebron . She has lived in Hebron for more than six years. She has been into Iraq many times. So you will see her name. I want you to know through the years she was personally giving us information as she took medicines and foods and things into the people of Iraq and visiting the children who were dying in the hospitals from leukemia caused from the use of depleted uranium., She was sharing with us in spirit, so that our information was coming firsthand from her and from very many other friends who have been in and out, and a set of at least twenty people who are there right now under the bombs that we are dropping.
I also want you to know that we have Dominican family in Iraq running hospitals and orphanages. Now that's very important because they are our family. They are the family of God. The whole human race really is the family of God. So whatever we do, whatever we do, affects the entire family. It affects the environment.
And so with this in our minds and hearts, we are trying to carry out something that seems so important. This is our faith and background.
We also are citizens of the United States. And we consider democracy very important; in other words, we are persons who will seriously study what is going on in this country, what we are doing as a nation. And we will try to stop crime, we will try to uphold the laws that are also God's laws. So, for more than a year we learned of the planning and the preparation and the threatening of mass murder, of extermination, by the use of nuclear weapons. We heard it, we read it in the paper, we would hear it on television, and we heard that there was a targeting of the people of Iraq . That they were part of seven nations in the axis of evil, and all we could do was think about our brothers and sisters. All we could think about were the babies, the children, who have no defense.
So, war became more and more imminent. We read the bulletin of atomic scientists where William Argon explains the threats. Opened up and revealed that actually there was a team that was supposed to sit down and plan the use of nuclear weapons. We know all nuclear weapons systems, we have studied them, we know what they do. Over the years, the many years, we understand it, and then we got this wonderful book from Francis Boyle, The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence..
MR. BROWN : Your Honor, I would like to interpose an objection based on the court's pretrial rulings.
THE COURT: The objection is sustained.
SISTER PLATTE : I don't understand that, your Honor.
THE COURT: You may continue your opening statement but without reference to the book. Thank you.
SISTER PLATTE : Even though it's going to be put into evidence?
THE COURT: That remains to be seen, Sister.
SISTER PLATTE : Oh, I see. I am sorry. I don't understand all the laws here.
We began to ask these questions when we studied and prayed; are the United States ' nuclear weapons good? And all the other nations' nuclear weapons bad? Is our security under threats of nuclear weapons evil? And the security from our threats over Iraq good? Is it right for the United States to kill massively and destroy a country and its people and its environment with weapons of mass destruction, big bombs, little bombs? Is it wrong for anyone to use force against us? To destroy our nuclear weapons systems or our threats?
Now, we know it's essential for the United States to assume responsibility to uphold our agreements. When we make agreements, we have a responsibility to uphold them. And for all of us gathered here as educated people, to assure that we do. That's part of democracy. With the war pending and axis of evil nations target, with Iraq demonized, at least its leader demonized, we had to do something. So this is what we did.
Now, you heard other people's explanation of what we did, but this is exactly what we did. We went to -- we came to Colorado because here exists the kill chain. That's terminology used by the military. The kill chain from outer space, the use of satellites, the use of the ground receivers, the use of land, sea, and air weapons systems.
The kill chain. And you know it from -- you all know this because you live here and you know Schriever Air Force Base, you know Peterson Air Force base, Cheyenne Mountain, you know Buckley; those are all connected, and then the Minuteman silos, 49 of them. Actually one of the OSI officers told me there are 48 on alert rather than 49. I have not checked that out.
We intended to come here to do a legal action, and we felt it was our duty as citizens of the United States to stop the crime. We wanted to like understand it as a crime scene. And we came here because we had studied, and we knew that we not only had a responsibility to stop crime, but that we had a responsibility to uphold all the agreements that were made, and I think I can say this, because I think it's public knowledge, you know, we had studied every law possible surrounding it. And even though we cannot mention them, evidently, in this courtroom, there were 3 0 categories that th judge has ruled that we cannot talk about. I still want you to know that's what we studied. And I can't -- I can't tell you about it, but it's sincere.
Now,we went there to inspect, to expose and to do a symbolic disarmament. Every movement of our body was a liturgy. We processed. We cut the little link in the farmer's field fence. We did not want to injure the farmer in any way. We did not touch the lock that still had the combination on. All they had to do was hook the chain back together.
Then we went to the next gate and did the same thing. There was a small link; we cut it. That lock was left intact. All they had to do was put it on the next link and not even do the next chain. So our lawyer is a little bit wrong there. All they had to do was put it on the next one. On the back of our mop-up suits we had written "CWIT, Citizens Weapons Inspections Team." On the front we had "Disarmament Specialist".
We went to N-8. The reason we chose it out of the 49 is because it was up on a hill. Here is highway 14. Here is highway 113, and it was up -- we were exposed to the public. We could see the cars coming in, we could see the cars from both directions. The farmer was right up here. In fact, the farmer came for a little while and sat there and watched us for
Ardeth Platte, Ann Montgomery , Jackie Hudson , Carol Gilbert .
We had a short bibliography, we had a short statement about what we believe about God. We inspected the site. We poured out our blood on the form of a cross on a six-foot cement lid on 110 tons of concrete.
On the side of the concrete lid, we did three more crosses, and on each of the three tracks we did a cross, and what is so important in that is the tracks reminded us of Germany and the people going in to the ovens, and we thought to ourselves God forbid that this cover ever be launched off this site,. that this nuclear weapon of mass extinction, extermination, would ever be used. And yet we realized it's all but being talked about that these will be used.
And it's just like the inspection in Iraq that we did for all to see, to tell every military person that came into our presence, to tell them that it is a crime to threaten to use it. Ever to use it. That it has been declared an illegal weapon of mass destruction.
And in this ritual we recall Jesus carrying the cross and pouring out his blood rather than ever taking anyone's life. When he said, "Peter , put away your sword," and the crosses reminded us of every man, woman and child, soldier, civilian, baby, old people, men, women, who have been killed, hundreds of millions, a hundred million plus over this century. Going into a new century, saying this is not the way of our faith. We remember the millions killed in the past, present and the wars possibly that were going to come.
Now the Minuteman III N-8 was targeted and ready in the plan to be used. Now it's very difficult for those of us who believe in government and law and everything to ever consider that the government would ever do anything illegal. That they would ever do anything of a criminal act. But to mass murder men, women and children is just that.
Now, they can pretend to go into a country and drop a bomb on somebody and say, "Oh, it was an accident that civilians were killed." But you and I know when you drop a bomb on an area that men, women and children are going to be killed.
You may even conceive that our intention to be there was to stop this nuclear weapon was ineffective, that it was naive, and you'll hear that, and you are going to hear how misinformed we are, but together, this is what we have to do:.
Now, Sister Carol and I live amidst Air Force base personnel for years. The ones who flew the B-52s, the ones who participated in the roles in the Gulf war, just like my dad who was a Navy man. We could go on, all of our families. It has to do with the love of them too.
I mean we fell so in love with the people with whom we lived that when they came back from the Gulf war and we were there when they went off to war, the squadrons of B-52s, and we were there when they came back, and all I can say is this is what we think about all the time is what they have to do, the injury to them. Not only the physical injuries but the mental and psychological injuries. We are not meant to kill. We are not created by a loving compassionate God to kill. We don't like it in our schools, we don't like it on the streets, and we don't like it massively over God's children any place in the world.
Well, then we took household hammers as the next act.
We each had a hammer, and we symbolically disarmed the site, hammering on the silo cover, on the tracks, and during that time we prayed aloud, "We shall hammer swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, nations shall not take swords up against other nations nor shall they kill anymore."
These household hammers are dismantling tools. They are symbolic for elimination of the illegal and criminal instruments that cause mass murder, that cause children to be burned into shadows on stones.
MR. BROWN : I object.
SISTER PLATTE : This is what we did in our prayer service.
MR. BROWN : I would like to continue. I know the court has ruled continuing after that objection. I would go on and I would ask that --
THE COURT: Sister Platte, the objection by the government is essentially relevance within the context of an opening statement which is limited to a description of the evidence without much more editorial comment. Do you have a response to that objection?
SISTER PLATTE : I do, your Honor, I am just trying to explain to even Mr. Brown and the jury what was in our mind, what we prayed. I am trying to give them the full picture so they understand our intent, our hearts, our soul, our spirit, our minds, what we did.
I am trying to give evidence --in fact, I am trying to share with him everything in detail. So I would think he would want it.
THE COURT: Inasmuch as this is opening statement, which again, ladies and gentlemen, is not evidence in this case, but a description of what the evidence is predicted to be by the various parties, and this appears to implicate state of mind, which will be relevant in these trial proceedings, I'm going to overrule the objection.
You may continue, and for your purposes, you have approximately five minutes remaining.
SISTER PLATTE : Well, this is very important. We felt we had to stop the extermination. We had to sound like a loud alarm, and we had to abide by the laws and the reasonable non-violence action.
We processed towards the fence and opened it up. We; opened up the crime scene, the illegal site to the total public in a measured way. We were extremely careful, allowing the exposure and the weapons experts that were going to come in then to complete the disarmament task. That's what we were going to encourage them to do. That we were the inspectors. We were the team that went in. We exposed it. We symbolically disarmed it, and now we are pleading the cause of our government to abide by the non-proliferation treaty.
We took care of placing the fence on the ground from; the inside with a prayer that all 49 of these silos would be dismantled and that there would return a security and safety also to the people of Colorado because as long as those weapons are there, they are going to be targeted, and we've talked with a lot of people in Colorado who didn't even know they were on alert anymore. That they were hair trigger. So I mean we felt that this was giving a tribute to the magnificent environment of Colorado itself.
We didn't leave. We returned to the silo lid to continue to complete our formal prayer service. We remained there because we were assured that we had carried out a legal action, and we will offer further testimony to substantiate our right and our duty to do this, to uphold laws, to stop crime, to stop the extermination, the extinction of people.
We felt that in our hearts and souls, that as believers, in a good God, as lovers, lovers of people of the soldiers and civilians, of the planet, to provide a clean and safe environment for children, just relations with other countries, and this was in our heart. This is what we prayed.
All of us really must make it happen. God's laws are clear. And in the surrounding body of laws regarding nuclear weapons, they must be dismantled. We, as a nation, have committed to doing so. This is the law.
There are many times when we are tempted to put on sack cloth and sit in ashes as a symbol of our own repentance for not doing enough.
We want to bring about a lasting peace. We want to see justice, a banning of war, total disarmament, all over the world. We want the people in this world to live. Forgive me.
This is a passionate plea. And you might think that this is the soap box, but what this is is a heart and spirit and the cry that this world begin to see that we are brothers and