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Armed with a hammer and blood in a baby bottle, Garner man arrested at nuclear submarine base

Garner resident Patrick O'Neill was arrested in Georgia on Thursday, April 5, 2018, after protesting nuclear weapons at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. He was one of Catholic peace advocates who call themselves Kings Bay Plowshares.
Garner resident Patrick O'Neill was arrested in Georgia on Thursday, April 5, 2018, after protesting nuclear weapons at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. He was one of Catholic peace advocates who call themselves Kings Bay Plowshares. Contributed by Kings Bay Plowshares

Wake County resident Patrick O'Neill was one of seven Catholic peace advocates arrested early Thursday at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia while protesting nuclear weapons housed there.

The protesters went into the base on Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, armed with hammers and baby bottles filled with their own blood.

Calling themselves the Kings Bay Plowshares, the protesters went into the Navy's port to show their opposition to nuclear weapons and attempted to "convert weapons of mass destruction" into pacifist tools, according to a news release they sent.

O'Neill and the others divided into small groups and went to the administration building, the D5 Missile monument installation and the nuclear weapons storage bunkers with crime scene tape, hammers and banners weaving their mission with King's.

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Catholic peace advocates arrested on April 5, 2018, after protesting nuclear weapons at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia. Contributed by Kings Bay Plowshares

"The ultimate logic of racism is genocide, Dr. Martin Luther King," one banner stated.

"The ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide," stated another. "Nuclear weapons: illegal -- immoral."

Mary Rider, O'Neill's wife, said Thursday that her husband had been charged with two misdemeanors and a felony.

Paul Magno, a spokesman for the protesters, was outside a jail in Woodbine, Ga., Thursday afternoon awaiting news about their first appearance before a judge.

They had been charged with trespass, possession of tools of criminal intent, both misdemeanors, and a felony accusing them of interfering with federal property, according to Magno.

The Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base is the U.S. Atlantic Fleet's home port for the Navy's ballistic missile nuclear submarines armed with Trident missile nuclear weapons. It's in southeastern Georgia on about 16,000 acres, some of which are protected wetlands.

The submarines, according to the Navy's fact file, are often referred to as "boomers" and "are designed specifically for stealth and the precise delivery of nuclear warheads."

O'Neill and many of the others he was arrested with have been jailed before while advocating for disarmament. He also has been arrested in North Carolina as part of the Moral Monday movement protesting laws adopted by the Republican-led General Assembly. He has advocated for immigrants and marched for peace.

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Cary Police Sergeant R.C. Swallow, left, talks to protesters Patrick O'Neill of Garner, center, and Steve Woolford, 42, of Silk Hope, right, outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Cary. About 40 people demonstrated. There were no arrests. Corey Lowenstein N&O file photo

O'Neill and his wife are cofounders of Garner’s Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker House, "an intentional pacifist, Christian community that offers hospitality to people in crisis."

"Patrick and many others continue to work against nuclear weapons because nuclear weapons continue to exist," Rider, no stranger to non-violent protests, said Thursday. "They threaten to destroy the entire world many times over."

Rider said the protesters chose to enter the base on the anniversary of King's death to highlight the disparity in resources going to nuclear weapons instead of to the war on racism that persists since the civil right's leader's death.

Rider, who was in North Carolina on Thursday, had not spoken with her husband since his arrest. He was being detained in a jail in Camden County, Ga., she said.

Others arrested include:

Clare Grady, a 59-year-old from Ithaca, N.Y., Martha Hennessey, the 62-year-old granddaughter of Dorothy Day, a journalist and key figure in the Catholic Worker Movement who is being considered for sainthood,Vermont Carmen Trotta, 55, of New York City, Elizabeth McAlister, 78, of Baltimore, the widow of the late peace activist Philip Berrigan; Mark Corville, 55, of New Haven, Conn., and Stephen Kelly, a 69-year-old priest who has spent more than a decade in jail for non-violent protest actions.

Rider said O'Neill and others knew they could not disarm the weapons on the Navy base with hammers, but hoped the symbolism would not be lost on others.

"It's symbolic," Rider said. "They're trying to raise awareness that this is still going on."

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