July, 8th-16th, 2019: International Action Camp at Buechel Nuclear Airbase; with some Go-Ins and other nonviolent actions
This was going to be a trip of a life time! Several activists representing nuclear communities around the U.S. were invited by Anthony Donovan to come to an International Action Camp at Buechel Nuclear Airbase in Germany, where nuclear weapons are stored for the U.S. Little did I know that this would require a 10 hour air plane ride nonstop and two different train trips traveling for 2.5 hours each. This was a beautiful scenic ride, but I was sleep deprived and don’t sleep well on planes or trains. So, when I finally arrived at the last stop from transferring to another line, I had to carry 3 pieces of luggage upstairs without elevators, (yes no elevators) or handicapped access or accommodations. Those of you who have traveled with me know that I’m known as the Bag Lady! I can’t help it. So, with that said, I finally made it up the stairs so that I could call for a car to pick me up but didn’t have any cell phone service. So, I went into this quaint little bar to get some information but the bar keep didn’t speak English. Fortunately, I was able to communicate I needed to use the phone.
After a time, my car came. Thank God! This leg was another 1-2 hour ride as well. The camp ground, where we met up together, was a huge conglomeration. There were tents setup in an orderly fashion of rows after rows and old campers were in the midst as well. Different groups came from all around the world such as Russia, England, Iran and Scotland, and the Netherlands. There was an open kitchen set up for preparing vegetarian food only, which consisted of rice, bread, peanut butter maybe some beans and a salad every day. I lost about 8lbs during that 2 week process! (Yes, I gained it back as soon as I got in the States!) I was able to find a trail to a small mom and pop restaurant located near our cabin. When I got back to the camp, it had color! There were flapping hangings of bright banners in the wind and I walked through flat jungles of the youth’s chalk drawings, tents and tie-dye everything under blue skies and chilly winds. Black women, brown women, white women, and men and women as varied as the nations, states, ideologies, habits, enthusiasm, creativity, interests, talents, projects, emotions and experiences showed up at Büchel. Friends and family came by with food, chores, chats, and resistance to nuclear weapons.
We sat around the camp fire every morning, afternoon and evening for the daily ritual for training how the volunteers were to barricade the three different gated entrances where airbase employees came and went. Keep in mind that there were about 40 people involved in this process. Some of these were veterans who have been doing this same action for 20 years who let us beginners know what was expected. Now, in Germany the language seems really hard/harsh when spoken; especially from the German men. We couldn’t have our cell phones out during these training events or when we were protesting because of the detecting signals from the airbase. Two to three times a day there were airplanes flying above, which circled around the camp and were going on mission training, that sounded like bombs going off in the air. Every morning we would go to the main gate to pray and sing, while others tried to go into the base. But, they were met with soldiers who stopped them before they could get 10 feet inside.
On the anniversary day of this 20 year old annual action, we all broke up into three groups. We sang and marched to the different entrances to break or cut the fence to get inside. My group consisted of seven people where five cut the fence and went in undetected. There was a lady in a wheel chair who was assisted by her husband and both went in undetected among the other groups. We wrote and drew on the street where they enter the air base with several different sayings and drawings to express our feelings. No one even noticed that we were there. Some of the groups climbed on the bunker’s and others danced and sang. We walked along the outside of the realm of the airbase just to keep up with what was happening. A solider spotted a group and called for back up to come help get the volunteers. Yes, they were caught and taken inside, where we cheered them on from the main gate. We waved and shouted to them to keep the faith and not to turn around. They were questioned and given tea and cookies while we were worried about them outside. Those of us who were waiting for word on their condition refused to eat or drink while they were inside being interrogated; not knowing that they were inside singing and having tea and cookies. Unbelievable! This would not happen in the U.S. After two hours, they were put on a bus and driven outside to the 2nd gate and let go. We cheered and cheered for their release. We were all so happy to see them back and well. We marched back to the camp ground singing.
During the afternoon, we broke up into three different groups going to all three gates to block the entrance, which was very effective. The police were called on us and we were told to move a 100 feet from the gate and stand on the grass with our posters in hand. We were old and young in a mixture. Some of the veterans were physically picked up and carried to the grass by the police officers. During our late lunch early dinner, those were captured spoke about their experience of being inside the airbase. Later that day, four of us were to speak about our organizations and the work that we’ve been doing in the U.S. dealing with nukes and the environment. I was one of the speakers and spoke about Georgia WAND, who we are, and what work we’re doing in Burke County. Yes, I became a small celebrity there (at least I thought I was!). People were amazed by what I spoke of concerning Annie Laura Howard Stephens’ family and other black families where Georgia WAND has assisted in Burke County’s Plant Vogtle issues.
The Russian’s were arriving to the camp for their participation while some of us were preparing to leave. Leaving Germany, was another issue. I was stopped in the airport and questioned about my nationality and my role in Germany, etc. I was followed all the way through customs. When I finally got back to the U.S., it was worse. My bags were searched and examined. Yes, my picture was on the flyer from Germany, so I guess I was spied upon. Ever since then, I’ve been pulled out of line at the airport by the TSA agents.
This embodies my reflection of the “Nuclear Weapons-Free Now!” Peace Camp in Germany. Where I wondered, what would happen if we had the same effect in the States?
Catholic Workers Invite Cee’ Cee Anderson to Present in New York
By Lindsay Harper
Because of this trip to Germany, Cee’ Cee’ was invited to New York to present information about her trip to Germany and Georgia WAND at the weekly Catholic Workers meeting. I was able to go along to support her and learn more about the Catholic Workers movement and leader (please google her name and add a sentence or two about the movement). She along with fellow Alliance for Nuclear Accountability member Ann Sullenthrop (spelling) from Kansas City where *******nuclear weapons facility exists, were able to present pictures, anecdotes and reflections from their trip and also more in-depth information about the nuclear communities they represent. Cee’ Cee’ shared stories about imminent domain that was used to take the land of people like our community elder Annie Laura Howard Stephens, and how the environment has been impacted by Plant Vogtle and the Savannah River Site
nuclear weapons facility. She was also able the lift of the leadership of black women living in the area who have helped to advance nuclear harm reduction efforts in the area like our former board member, the late Ms. Clara Dalbert and Ms. Bernice Johnson-Howard, and the need for more public health efforts. We’d like to thank Anthony Donovan and the Catholic Workers for their generosity towards us the Burke County community by offering us a platform to share our stories.