Even though I was in jail and she wasn't, Miriam's sentencing
was scheduled several days before mine. I did not get to hear
her statement in court. She said she would not pay a fine to the
government but brought the names of three local charities in Valdosta
to which she would be willing to pay. Judge Alaimo obviously didn't
want to send this kind, little, old lady to jail; so he gave her
everything he could without doing that. He put her on probation
for three years, assigned her 500 hours of community service,
and said that she could pay a $500 fine to one of those charities.
When I heard about this sentence, I realized that he was probably
going to give me the maximum sentence of six months imprisonment.
On September 19 I was taken by the marshals from the jail in a car to the courtroom; it was the first time I had been outside that building in ten weeks. The hearing began with the motion for a new trial. Since I was represented by an attorney, I was not allowed to speak during this procedure. Doug Alexander began by saying that I did not waive my right to counsel at trial. (I had waived it at the arraignment.) As I expected, Judge Alaimo did not take this argument seriously, asked him if he had ever talked to me, and said I was an intelligent person and "pretty skilled."
On the second point Doug Alexander brought up the cases, Greer v. Spock and United States v. Flower. He claimed that only peace demonstrators were stopped or checked from going into the "restricted area." Judge Alaimo tried to argue that if the guards recognized the people entering then it was okay. Doug Alexander said, "The general public was allowed to enter and exit without being challenged." In spite of the affidavit and the video tape Judge Alaimo merely said that he had no evidence for that. Alexander argued that my arrest was arbitrary and capricious.
When he brought up the Flower case again, Judge Alaimo said that he had been to that base in Texas and said it is a public street. Then Judge Alaimo said, "Mr. Alexander, the purpose of your client was to go there to defy the Navy, no matter where the line was drawn. He has admitted that in open court, that was his purpose. His purpose is to draw attention to his beliefs. And he would not be drawing any attention to his belief if he did not go against the authority into a restricted area." In denying the motion he mentioned my admission of being arrested 44 times between December 1987 and August 1988 for similar demonstrations.
Then he asked me to come forward to be sworn before making whatever statement I wished.
First he asked me if the presentence report was accurate, and I told him about the corrections that I had offered to that. Then he asked me if I had anything else to say. When I said that I had much to say (I had ten weeks to think about what I would say to him.), he said he was there to listen to me. I replied, "I hope sincerely that you will listen, because my experience so far is that you're not listening very well."
He said he would listen even though he didn't agree with me, saying, "As a matter of fact, I disagree with most of what you say and what you stand for."
I began by saying that I had no ill will against him and no desire to harm him in any way, but I felt "obligated in my conscience to offer certain criticisms of your attitudes and beliefs and judgments you've made in this case." I hoped that he wouldn't take it personally. When I mentioned that I am educator, he asked where I had taught, and I mentioned several colleges and universities. He asked me to tell him why he is wrong, but I preferred to begin in my own way, mentioning that the interruptions make it more difficult. I then began as follows:
First of all, I believe that I am standing here in the Light of the Christ, and I ask the Holy Spirit to be present here in this courtroom to everyone here and that the truth may be revealed.
For the last twenty years of my life I've had a spiritual understanding of life, the sense of the oneness of life, of the immortality of the soul, the divinity of the soul, of the awareness of the Christ within the heart of every person, of an awareness that love is the way of life, that we must love one another, and if we don't start learning how to love one another better, we may destroy ourselves. (At this point Judge Alaimo said that he did not disagree. I said, "Good," and then continued.)
I've studied the great philosophers and the great religions of the world, and I believe---through this in-depth study of the Buddha and Lao Tzu and Confucius and Socrates and Jesus and St. Francis and Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many, many others---that there is a better way of life, that there is a better way of living where we can solve our problems.
Again Judge Alaimo interrupted to say that that is why we have
freedom of speech in this country. I complained that my freedom
of speech was restricted in this case. He asked, "By about
50 feet, was it?" I answered that by fifty feet is still
restricted, isn't it? I noted that he was admitting that my freedom
of speech was restricted. I also mentioned the loud tape recording
and how the video tape showed that I was making a speech by the
line, but in his so-called verdict---because the verdict is supposed
to be a true statement---he had said I had made no effort to use
my right of free speech. In the trial I had repeated the very
speech I was making on that day.
So I do believe in free speech, and I believe in the Constitution, and I believe in the principles of law. Because as I studied and became aware of a greater oneness of life, and because I dedicated my life to the betterment of humanity, the human race, I began to become aware of the suffering in the world, of all the people that go to bed hungry, the 40,000 or more people who die of hunger every day while we spend $300 billion or more per year on armaments which have little or no value, no use, no intelligent, rational use.
In the '70s I was very much deeply involved in becoming aware of the Light of the Christ and that Light within me and how to attune myself to that Light and how to send that Light to other people and how to live in the way of love.
In about the last ten years there's been a big change in this country, and it's a very frightening and a very dangerous trend. Teaching at the World University, I became aware of more global issues, of looking at humanity as a whole and studying different cultures and seeing the interrelationships and the suffering that goes on in the world and who's responsible for that suffering. I felt that when things started getting really bad, more dangerous with the big military buildup of the last ten years in the United States particularly, I felt that I had to try to find the answer, to try to find a way to communicate to people that there is a better way.
I studied deeply many of these issues, the psychology, the politics, the history, the economics, the principles of law. The two main things that I found that we can use to solve our conflicts without violence are the principles and the practice of nonviolence, which is the greatest ethical principle I believe that we have---that is simply not hurting; that we shouldn't hurt other people, and we shouldn't hurt ourselves.
I'm not like one of those Buddhists who set themselves on fire. I'm not here to suffer; I don't want to suffer; I don't want to see other people suffer. I'm here to communicate; I'm here to try to teach; I'm here to try to reach people.
I believe that I have to do that in a nonviolent way, in a loving way, because the end and the means need to be the same. Because if you use a wrong means to try to get to a good end, you end up stuck with your means, and you set a very bad example. So, the way of nonviolence is very important and to act so as not to hurt anyone.
The second major principle that I found is the principle of law and the principle of constitutional government, where we live not by the caprice of men and women who happen to be ruling or happen to be in power; but we guide ourselves by certain rights and by certain principles, and we have a judicial process. I respect you as a judge, and I respect this court as a judicial process where we can come together and try to set up a fair process and determine what is right and without seeing who's got the biggest weapon---because the instruments of war don't tell us who's right, they only tell us who's left.
So as I studied the principles of law, I began to see that we're in a stage now where we're in a situation, and have been for many, many years, of international anarchy where the nations have gotten so powerful and they set the laws within their own nation, but they still act in a criminal way towards other nations. Many, many nations in the world do this.
When the Iranians took the Americans hostage, the United States went to the World Court and said, "You know, this is against international law. You should not take these people hostage. You should give them back." That was right, and that was a good thing to do. Then when the United States was arming the people who were fighting to overthrow the government of Nicaragua and mining the harbors, then Nicaragua took the United States to the International Court and said this is a violation of certain treaties, Rio Pact Treaty and so on, and the International Court found that that was true.
So if we can have a system of laws ... I began to learn the principles of world federalism and the experience of the League of Nations and how it was an attempt, but it didn't work because the United States didn't support it, as in the tragic sense of the attempt of the United Nations which, unfortunately, is too weak to be effective so far. But just as the 13 original states of the United States came together and formed a constitution and principles of law and the checks and balances between the systems of government, then that was a way where they could settle disputes and not have problems.
Unfortunately, they didn't get the evil of slavery out of the system, and we ended up with a great and terrible civil war because of that. But other than that, there generally aren't serious conflicts between the states in the United States.
If we had a system like that for the world---and I believe that the United States can lead the way for that kind of a system, because in the United States the Constitution says that the treaties are the supreme law of the land.
It seems to me that we need to learn from history. To me there are very frightening parallels between what's been happening in the United States in the 1980s and what happened in Germany in the 1930s. Because the buildup, the military buildup of the last ten years in this country makes the German military buildup look like a little tribe of pygmies.
What was learned in World War II at the conclusion of that struggle---and I know that you were involved in that, at least I heard that you were, in fighting fascism, and I think that's a commendable thing. I think we always have to be aware and careful about this tendency toward fascism that we find in Western civilization.
The Nuremberg Tribunals were set up to be a model to show that governments do not have the right, even if it's an entire government, they do not have the right to kill people, to go to war, to prepare for war. (Judge Alaimo interrupted by saying, "To defend themselves.")
It's not defense, Your Honor, and I'm going to go into that. To think that the Trident submarine is defense is insanity. But we've gotten so used to it in this country in the last 40 years, this cold-war mentality, the United States has committed so many crimes so regularly that we've gotten used to it, that we think that's just the way we do things.
We started out in 1938 with no soldiers in foreign countries. We had a military budget of what, half a billion dollars or something, practically nothing. Yet President Roosevelt pleaded with the fascists in the Spanish Civil War and the Italians and the Germans who were bombing cities, he said, "Please do not bomb civilians; do not bomb cities; it's a crime against the human race."
But what happened? We were Hitlerized ourselves. By the end of World War II the United States was dropping more bombs on cities than anybody ever had; not only the atom bombs, but in Tokyo and Dresden and Hamburg. Entire cities were turned to rubble, innocent civilians just murdered. So we have become like our enemies.
And that was just the beginning---the cold war, the nuclear weapons---God! when are we going to wake up?!
The Trident submarine is part of a first-strike capability; it is not a deterrent weapon in any stretch of the imagination. Maybe you could say the Poseidon submarine was a deterrent weapon, but the Trident II submarine is way beyond deterrence.
Now what is deterrence, and is it really---is it really what's keeping the peace? I don't think so. I think there is a great delusion around this whole concept of deterrence. Did we refrain from using nuclear weapons in Vietnam, because the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons? Were we deterred because of that, or did we not use a nuclear weapon in Vietnam because it was against our moral principles? Were we not stopped by our own moral self-restraint, not by the fear of what the Soviet Union would do to us? Was the Soviet Union deterred from going into Hungary or Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan because we have nuclear weapons? No.
How did we get to this situation of deterrence? You have weapons that are so terrible. You see, what happens with technology in warfare is that it's easier to make an offensive weapon than a defensive weapon. So no matter what kind of a defense you have, they always find an offensive weapon that can destroy it. So we've gotten to this point where we've got all these offensive weapons. But instead of calling them offensive weapons we'll call them defensive weapons, because we say, "Well, it's so they won't use their offensive weapons either."
But what's happening now in the 1980s is extremely dangerous, because now we've developed this concept of Star Wars which is that, oh yeah, okay, now we're going to have a defense and an offense. What does that do to deterrence? Well, if deterrence even exists or even works, it destroys it. Because if we can have an offense and a defense, then we can maybe think that we can fight a nuclear war and we can win. Now it's insane to think that, but there are people who think that way. That's tragic, but that's apparently the case.
So the situation is that now with Star Wars---though no one really believes that you can use the Star Wars as a complete defense against a first strike---it would cost a least a trillion dollars, and the first thing that the other side would probably do would be to shoot it down, shoot down the space satellites and all these things before the hostilities started.
The only really practical, if you could even call it that, or even logical in the perverted sense, use for something like Star Wars defense, or Strategic Defense Initiative, supposedly is in combination with a first strike.
By the way, all of the things that go under what's called Strategic Defense Initiative can also be used as offensive weapons. Many of those laser beams and particle beam weapons and so on, they can hit targets, which means that they can be just as offensive as they can be defensive.
But in the last ten years what the United States has been developing, which is what makes the Soviet Union afraid and makes them continue in this arms race with us as long as we keep leading the way and escalating it in these periodic intervals this way, is a fear of a first-strike capability so that they would be blackmailed under our domination and to have to do what we tell them to do. Either that or go to war and face a nuclear war; and they don't want that any more than we do.
So you have the development of the Trident II submarine, the cruise missiles, the MX missile, the B-1 bomber and the Stealth bomber with anti-submarine weaponry which is much more advanced than theirs---our submarines are basically invulnerable, but theirs are not.
Let's look at the Trident submarine first, because it's the worst, probably, invention, the worst weapon of war ever invented. You said, you know, in the trial almost in a joking manner, said, "Well, let's assume it's the worst thing ever." Well, it very likely is. If we assume that, then it's the most evil technology that's ever been developed in the history of the human race.
Now let's try to get some perspective on this. So far there's one Trident submarine at the Kings Bay Base, the Tennessee. That has 24 missiles, eight warheads on each missile, 475 kilotons on each warhead, according to the experts' information on this. That means that that one submarine can hit 192 targets, each target with the power of 38 times the Hiroshima bomb. That's one Trident submarine. That's 30 times all the bombs of World War II.
Now what is that in a personal way? What would that be if we think about that we're defending ourselves with something like this? This is just one submarine. That's 750 pounds of dynamite per every person in the United States. That's like saying I'm going to put 750 pounds of dynamite in my closet and then if anybody comes to attack me, that's what I'll use. For every person. A family of four, that's what? 3,000 pounds of dynamite. Now if you take the entire United States arsenal all together, we're talking about 35 tons of dynamite per person. Now this is just beyond human comprehension in terms of its insanity.
Now the deterrent started out with this massive retaliation; you hit all their cities. Well, we had that capability in the '50s, but now we're in a capability so that you have one Trident submarine, you hit 192 targets. Well, how many Trident submarines do they want to build? Twenty. So that's 20 times 192; that's 3,800 targets.
Now what kind of accuracy do these weapons have? Fifty feet. They can hit within 50 feet. Do you need 50 feet for a deterrent weapon, to threaten the population of the Soviet Union? No. You need a 50-foot accuracy so you can hit Soviet missiles in their silos and other military targets---land-based missiles; most of their arsenal is land-based missiles.
Now why would you want to use a deterrent weapon to hit land-based missiles? The deterrent is supposed to be---well, if they shoot their missiles, then we shoot back. We're going to blow up empty missile silos? That doesn't make any sense. No; it's a first-strike capability.
Now you may say, "Well, we have good intentions; we'll never use this first-strike capability." How do you know that? Do you know anything about history, the various insane people that have ended up being the heads of empires? Caligula in the Roman Empire and so on? How do we know that we won't end up with a Hitler? I mean, we got a Ronald Reagan. You know, it's hard to get much worse than that. (Judge Alaimo said that some people disagree with me.)
Yeah, I know. That's all part of the tragedy, because the people are asleep. They vote---they're greedy. They vote for someone who says they'll cut taxes, someone who will make America strong again, make America stand tall.
You know, it's just like in the 1930s. People loved Adolph Hitler, because Germany was strong again. And he said, "Boy, England's got all these weapons; we've got to build up our arsenal; we've got to build more weapons. We're going to stand tall, and we're going to be strong again, and we're going to be proud of ourselves as Germans. This is what happened. So it's dangerous, and it's a scary parallel.
So if you add all those submarines, Trident submarines, and then you add cruise missiles---and they're planning to build some 30,000 cruise missiles---these are designed not to be picked up by radar so they can go in and make a first strike, too.
The MX missile, ten warheads on each missile. Herbert Scoville, used to work with the CIA, an expert on the MX missile, said the MX missile is not a deterrent weapon; the MX missile is a first-strike weapon; it invites attack; it does not deter attack. If we start getting first-strike capability, then the Soviet Union feels, "We're getting backed into a corner." I ask you, is that intelligent? Think of the Soviet Union as a terrible, ferocious bear. It's not very bright to force a bear into a corner.
So you have the Stealth bomber which could cost a half a billion dollars each, and they're also designed not to be picked up by radar. So you have all these things which all combined together---and some experts say in 1990 and 1991---that first-strike capability will be in place, and it will be getting stronger and stronger.
Now some people may say that---you know, the comment was made I think in the trial that maybe the reason that there's some changes happening in the Soviet Union is because we have all these tough policies. Well, I just have to say that to me it's stinking thinking, because that's not the reason why the changes are made. If anything, our military buildup is going to make the Soviet Union more hard-nosed.
But by the grace of God or by some miracle, in the last few years the Soviet Union has had a change of leadership, which is a vast improvement. They have some intelligent leadership for a change.
I'm not a defender of the Communist system, and I never want to live under Communism, because I don't like bureaucracy, and I like freedom, and I would be one of the first ones to stand up and nonviolently not allow anyone to take over my rights. We can do it nonviolently. But since 1985 the Soviet Union is eager for disarmament. The Soviet Union is opening up. They're allowing more free speech; they're allowing the parts of their empire to become more democratic, at the very risk of the dissolution of their empire they're doing this, in spite of our military buildup.
They've been begging and pleading; they've made unilateral concessions. They stopped testing for 18 months. They pulled troops out of Europe. They've pulled tanks out; they're converting tanks into tractors. They're doing a lot of things. But what are we doing? Very little. Very little. The only agreement, which was the medium-range missiles which was made by Reagan was such a tremendous concession from the Soviet Union where they were actually dismantling four or five times as many warheads as the United States that for a rational, objective look, you can only conclude that Reagan agreed to that, because it would enhance our first-strike capability.
Because by removing those threatening intermediate range from Europe and also because of the danger of the political breakup of western Europe breaking away from NATO and the peace movement very strong in Europe---unfortunately, much stronger than in this country---there was enough voices of dissent to get people back to their sanity a little bit in Europe to realize that they're going to be much better off if there's not a war fought between the United States and the Soviet Union in Europe.
So we have an opportunity now. Mikhail Gorbachev has made proposals for complete nuclear disarmament by the year 2000. If we believe in our system and in our way of life---I do---if we believe in freedom and free enterprise---and you know, I think maybe I personally believe that we need kind of a combination. I believe in health care for the needy people; I believe that everyone has a right to adequate nutrition and so on, and we could use our military spending to do these things and help people and still have, you know, free enterprise for most of the system.
But the military is not a free-enterprise system; it's the biggest monopoly in the world. There's one employer, the United States Government, and there's little or no competition. They get these huge salaries, and it's like---talk about, well, fraud in the welfare system---it's unbelievable in the military system how many people are getting so much money, and they're all a part of this military buildup which is threatening the very future of the human race.
Now when I study and I look at all this capability and I look at the treaties and the constitutional principles that the United States is supposed to be following, I say I've got to do something. So what have I done? I've written books.
This book here, THE WAY TO PEACE. This took me three years to write. It's the great peacemakers throughout history. They've done the type of things that I've done---nothing to hurt anyone, step across a symbolic line. They exercised a symbolic protest. That's an exercise of free speech, especially since I was outside where I even go to get permission.
You know I was not allowed to go ask permission, to talk to somebody on that base. That's how paranoid they are. They hire cops, and they put a whole bunch of cops between us and the people that work on the base, because they don't want to hear the truth. They're afraid of what we might even say to those people to get them to start to think, to question.
But the media in this country is controlled. The politicians are re-elected because of the way the money flows and the PACs and the contributions from the defense contractors, that we have a president and we have a congress that just go on year after year committing these crimes against the human race.
This book, I had to raise the money to get this published, because most of the publishers, they only want to do something that's going to be popular, that's going to sell a lot of copies. The big corporations and all these things, it all tends to be controlled. But I sold nearly 1,000 copies of this book myself person to person, hand to hand.
Now I taught courses; I've written other books---this book. I started a world peace movement, and I sent a brochure to peace organizations all around the world, over 1,000 peace organizations. This book I wrote, IRENE: Realizingn World Peace, it diagnoses the causes of our conflicts, our problems and how we can solve them peacefully and in a way that's going to be good for everyone.
We're playing this mindless game of we'll make it bad for you, and you'll make it bad for us, and it's going to be worse for everybody, instead of let's make it better for both sides.
Finally in 1983 things got really terrible, and I began to experiment with the principles and the practice of nonviolence. That is what Jesus taught, to stand up to authorities if those authorities are doing the wrong thing. I have to say, and I'll have to admit that he didn't really have much more success than I've had with you when he was faced with high authorities, whether they were Jewish authorities in the temple or the Roman authorities. They were so caught up in their power, and they were so programmed and so conditioned by their way of life that they couldn't hear the truth from that man. Only the common people tended to be able to hear the truth.
Like Socrates. The same thing happened to him, and he said in his trial it is very difficult in a very short amount of time to persuade someone who has an entire lifetime of conditioning and prejudices in the opposite direction, extremely difficult.
I don't really, you know, have that much hope that I'm going to be able to convert you or win you over. But I do have some hope that maybe a glimmer of light, a glimmer of truth might somehow penetrate its way into your steel heart and touch you and awaken some love in your heart. If you really believe in freedom of speech, you wouldn't have me in jail for ten weeks for stepping over a line. What kind of man are you? God! Oh God!
Forgive me, Your Honor, but sometimes emotions can help wake people up, too. Jesus Christ, what a country this has become! I'm ashamed of this country. I was brought up to love this country. I was an Eagle Scout. For God's sake, people talk about the flag; people don't want the flag desecrated. God, with what we're doing if we bumble our way into a nuclear war---which is the way we're going, and like they say, if you keep going the way you're going, you're liable to get there---that flag, if there is even a limited nuclear war and somehow some people manage to survive and try to live in a polluted, radiated planet, some hellhole that was made, and they try to live, what do you think they'll think of that flag? God, they'll think it's worse than a Nazi flag; I'll tell you that for sure. They'll hate it, and they'll loathe it. So who's desecrating the flag? Jesus!
It's unbelievable the stupidity of this country---people who watch the television. Do you think someone with my views ever gets a chance to be on television? That's a laugh. God!
So I traveled. I said okay, maybe if I go around and talk to people and say, you know, we have an election in this country; let's try to get a candidate with some intelligence, some candidate who will make peace and save the economy from collapsing with all this debt when we pile up hundreds of billions of dollars, almost three trillion dollars now, spending for this mindless arms race. There's going to be a day of reckoning. Do we have to learn from our suffering? Do we have to create a horrible situation before we wake up? Can't we learn from our wisdom? That's what I'm trying to say.
I did my Ph.D. on the teaching of wisdom. We ought to be able to learn from the examples of the great human beings who lived on this planet and have taught a better way to live. God!
I traveled. I started in 1987. I went to 47 states. I talked to hundreds of people. I talked to about 600 representatives of local peace organizations face to face. I gave them this article, and I gave them some petitions, and I said, "Please get people to sign this petition and send it to the people running for president and tell them we want someone who's going to make peace in 1989; we want someone who's going to stop this mindless arms race; we want someone who's going to stop promoting murder and terrorists in Central America; we want someone who's going to save the economy by cutting the military budget."
I talked to Michael Dukakis in Dubuque, Iowa, and I pleaded with him. I said, "Look, take some leadership here. Be for the freeze and the multi-lateral disarmament, and that's the only way you can save the economy; if the next president doesn't do it, there's going to have to be massive civil disobedience in this country to wake it up.
That's what I found when I talked to people, because they said the Democrats aren't much better than the Republicans; they're not going to do it either, because they're all part of the same corporate warfare state.
This military-industrial complex is like a monster with this tremendous momentum that just keeps rolling along. And God, here am I, and I'm less than David against Goliath. I mean, I don't even use a slingshot like the Palestinians do who are fighting for their freedom. I step across a line; they throw me in the clinker for ten weeks. God!
So I talked to these people and had them send these petitions. Even Jesse Jackson, who had the best policies of any major candidate who was running, decided he was going to maybe have a chance and started pleasing the public and moving over and saying, "Well, instead of cutting the defense budget 20 to 25 percent, let's keep it at the same level." When he did that, he lost his moral leadership; he lost the chance to educate the people in this country on what we really need to do.
I'll tell you honestly, I don't like going to jail, and I don't like having to protest like this, and I'm seriously thinking of running for president, because somebody's got to tell the people the truth; somebody's got to show a better way.
So when it looked like it was---I could tell Dukakis was going to get the nomination---I hoped he'd win. I thought he may be a little bit better than the Republicans, but he lost it. He was running around in tanks, but he was for the Trident II missile. So you know, it was useless.
So I was involved out at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, because they were shipping weapons out there to murder people with, and I think that's wrong. I think that I have a right to sit on railroad tracks in front of a train at the very place where a train ran over a human being for protesting nonviolently, cut off his legs. I think I have a right to sit on that railroad track just like I bet a lot of people wish somebody sat on a railroad track in Germany to keep the Jews from going to the concentration camps.
Somewhere we have to take a stand. Now I do it nonviolently. I never try to hurt anybody, and I don't want to use any weapons or be a terrorist or anything like that, and I'm not an anarchist; I appeal to law, and I appeal to the Constitution of the United States. So I was arrested there a number of times, but only once was I brought to trial in that entire 9-1/2 months that I was there. That was when I defended myself in court, and I was acquitted by a jury of 12. In all those other cases I begged and pleaded to have the chance to go to court and to argue my case, and I was never given the chance.
They have this law in California, 849 Statute, where it says that---it's supposed to be for drunks and people on drugs so they can keep them in jail for a couple days; then they can let them go without charging them. They started using that on us. Instead of giving us our due process, they took us to jail for a while; then they'd let us go, and they never let us get a chance to go to court.
Then after I had signed a contract and moved to Georgia to rent a place, a house in western Georgia, and I had already decided to move, then I read in the newspaper they're going to bring 25 counts of charges against me. I never got an official notice from that court. By the time they got around to indicting me, I was in Georgia.
Now I told them---you know, I talked to the people at Nuremberg Actions, people trying to stand up for the Nuremberg Principles. I said, "Look, I'd be glad to stand trial. If the state of California wants to pay my expenses back there, I'd be glad to stand trial, willingly. But I couldn't afford it.
I don't believe that it's morally right to pay taxes to the United States Government when it's spending two-thirds of those income taxes on this evil military spending; so I keep my income below the level where I have to pay tax. Many spiritual people, St. Francis and the Buddha and many others, Jesus himself, have lived in poverty and in solidarity with the poor people as an example.
I explained that my right to a speedy trial had been denied and that California does not extradite for misdemeanors anyway.
Then I complained that I wasn't given a jury trial even though the U. S. Constitution states in two places that the trials of all crimes shall be by jury and that it was tough to get a fair trial from a representative of the government one is challenging. As I was explaining how with a government of checks and balances the judicial branch is supposed to stop the wrongs of the other two branches, Judge Alaimo asked Doug Alexander if he would like to sit down and allowed him to do so. Then I continued:
So I feel---and this I think is the most serious grievance that I have against your decisions, is that you have failed to uphold your oath to uphold the Constitution. Because the Constitution says that the treaties are the supreme law of the land, and you refuse to consider, even consider, that it might be possible that the other two branches of government might in fact be involved in illegal activities. You refuse to even consider that those things are possible at all. So you have ruled that out, and that is very serious to me.
Again I have no personal thing, and I'm not vindictive, and I'm not vengeful, or I'm not an avenger or anything like that. But in my opinion, in my view, that means that according to the Nuremberg Principles, you're now in complicity with those crimes, because you've essentially covered them up; you've refused to consider, to be that check and that balance on the abuses of the executive and legislative branch.
Furthermore, it's a very heavy responsibility and something that you'll have to live with in your soul and even after you die and your soul goes on to other experiences. Because you know, in the Nuremberg Tribunals there were certain mitigating circumstances. Now if a person was the head of the government, they were still considered responsible, and if a person was taking orders from a higher government official, they were still considered responsible; however, they did consider that a mitigating circumstance.
So the people at the Trident base who are doing these activities which are violations of the United Nations Charter and various other treaties that we are parties to, they are violating international law. But they at least have the mitigating circumstance that they're taking orders from the President and Congress of the United States and their higher-military-ranking officers.
But as a judge you do not have that excuse. You are independent. You can make a fair and impartial judgment, and no one can fire you. You are set up to be independent. You're not taking orders; you're not supposed to be taking orders from the President or Congress as to what's constitutional and what isn't. I submit to you that that's a very heavy responsibility....
I'd never been to the base at St. Mary's before and, you know, it seems to me that it's traditional and customary that the military gives a ban-and-bar letter the first time a person comes on a base so that person really then knows that they're not allowed to be on that base.
It does seem to me that it was a violation of my First Amendment right and prejudicial for me to be arrested on a sidewalk on the way to the building where you ask permission. Because am I not a citizen? Do I not have a right to request the Navy to talk to people, to communicate, to use free speech? Don't I have a right to go to the building and say, you know, "I have a serious concern here about what's happening on this base; I'd like to talk to someone."?
If they had let me do that, go to the building, and said, "Well, no, sorry, we can't let you do that," that wouldn't be a very good decision, but I maybe would have to live with it. Then maybe if I stayed in the building or refused to leave, or if I went onto the base beyond that or something like that, then I wouldn't be able to argue First Amendment, I could only argue international law.
But since I never got the chance, since I was arbitrarily and capriciously treated, I was prejudiced---they were prejudiced against me because of my political beliefs---you're right: I had a purpose there, to go and communicate there. But as far as I know, that's not illegal. It's not illegal to try to persuade people that something is wrong. It's certainly not illegal to try to admonish people or to beg them and plead with them to stop doing what they're doing if it's illegal or if I believe that it's illegal.
This is the thing about nonviolence. I'm not trying to hurt anybody. The only one that suffers from this is me, you see. The suffering goes on me. This, then, is designed to wake people up.
So you have found me guilty---guilty like Jesus was guilty of breaking the Sabbath law and of challenging the Roman Empire and was punished by the ultimate deterrent the Roman Empire used against revolutionaries, which was the painful death of crucifixion. I'm guilty like Socrates who tried to persuade people and get people to think and reason that maybe what they're doing is wrong.
I'm guilty like Washington and Jefferson and Adams and Patrick Henry and people that stood up against the oppressive colonialism of the British Empire and were called rebels. I'm guilty like John Marshall who had the audacity to think that the federal judiciary had the right and the obligation to be a check on the other two branches, had the audacity to think that he could determine that something was against the Constitution. Even though they may have been elected by a popular majority, that does not give them carte blanche.
So I'm guilty like the people of the anti-slavery movement who stood up against the notion that a person is a piece of property and agitated and, if necessary, refused to go along with the Fugitive Slave Act and helped the black slaves to escape to freedom. So I'm guilty like the women who had the courage to go to Rochester, New York and vote, because they thought they were human beings and citizens of the United States.
So I'm guilty like Woodrow Wilson who traveled around the United States and exhausted himself begging and pleading to the people to adopt a system of world law and international government. So I'm guilty like Mahatma Gandhi who spent more than six years of his life in prison for standing up nonviolently against the oppressive domination of the British Empire and colonialism and struggling for freedom and independence for his country, India.
So I'm guilty like Dr. Martin Luther King and the people in the civil rights movement who believed they had a right to be served lunch in a public place, sit at a lunch counter, had the courage to march in Selma and Birmingham and be thrown in jail for it, who challenged the morality of the Vietnam war and began to organize the people for economic rights and social justice in this country and who had to be murdered by a madman, I suppose, in this society that's so obsessed with massive violence.
So I'm guilty of stepping over an imaginary line on a sidewalk used generally by the public outside of the main gate of the Trident submarine base, because I believe that the Trident submarine is a part of the end of the world, I guess, that it's insane, that it's a genocidal weapon.
You made a statement---in your verdict you said that I was well-intentioned, but if the people were allowed to violate the law it would lead to anarchism. Well, I'm not any more of an anarchist than you are a fascist. I hope that you're not a fascist, although I have to admit that some of your decisions do seem to be of a fascistic nature, because it seems like when you have a tremendous---fascism basically is when you have a tremendous military state and anyone who challenges that force of that military state is put in prison.
But I'm not an anarchist, as I've explained to you. I believe in law and the principles of law, and I'm perfectly willing to submit to judgment, and I'd like judgment, but I have to criticize and try to get redress when I feel I'm being severely misjudged. I don't mind being judged as long as it's accurate and fair. But if I'm misjudged, as in this case, which is the most egregious, really, in my experience, then I have to try to reach the person and get you to think that maybe you might have made a mistake.
So we come, then, to sentencing. I'd just like to say on behalf of the inmates that I met in the Glynn County Detention Center that I find it rather outrageous that people can sit in there three or four months without even having been arraigned. You know, in California they have 72 hours, not counting weekends, to arraign people or release them. That's by law. So it seems rather absurd to me that the punishment comes before the trial---sort of an Alice-in-Wonderland thing, first the punishment, then the trial. It doesn't really make a lot of sense. I'd just like to bring that to your attention. It seems like it must have been already by somebody, but if you are over this area and have any say in that kind of place, it does seem to me to be a pretty serious violation of the right to a speedy trial and due process of law.
So I might pause here at sentencing just to say that---and ask you---and I have done 71 days, served---and I think of it as service, serving my country. I really do believe that what I'm doing is good for my country and very much needed. If you are not considering adding anything to that sentence, I could stop right now, and we could all go home. If you are thinking of adding anything to the sentence I've already served, then I have to talk some more about why that would not be appropriate.
Then Judge Alaimo said that I hadn't been sentenced yet and that he wouldn't tell me what it would be until I finished my speech. Therefore I reviewed what had happened to the other people who were arrested on the same day as I. The 54 people who had blocked traffic in the street going into the main gate were not even charged. People who pleaded no contest before the magistrate were fined $200 and given 50 hours community service, the four who refused to pay the fine were sentenced to five days in jail and 80 hours community service. Those who came later to arraignment were fined $300 or spent seven days in jail with 100 hours community service. Then I reminded him of Miriam's sentence. I pointed out that the ten weeks I had been in jail was ten times more than the longest sentence of the others, that it was already 1,683 hours served, that it had already cost the federal government about $2800 to house me there, and that was a waste of the taxpayers' money. Finally I concluded my sentencing statement as follows:
It's also true that we have a great overcrowding in our jail system and most of the people seem to feel it is rather absurd---people I've talked to, at least---to have someone like myself who is obviously not really dangerous to society in the traditional criminal sense, just a nonviolent person who did a symbolic protest, taking up space in the jail. It is rather sad, because I don't consider myself a criminal but a political prisoner. It really breaks my heart to see this happening in the United States, because it's like we're becoming like the Soviet Union where dissidents are imprisoned for speaking out against their government. I think that's a very sad and dangerous trend in this country.
So I ask only that God's will be done. I don't really know what's going to be the best for everyone. I try to do what I think is best for everyone; that's what I call the way of the saints. I try to live by that. It's hard for me to know whether if I get more time or even what I've done somehow might that tip the balance and prevent a nuclear war. I mean, it's only a small thing, but maybe that would be just enough. I do believe that we can learn and that we will, I hope, you know, stop this madness and prevent these dangers and live a better life and be more prosperous and have a good society and let people be free, and everything could be a lot better. But it's hard for me to know.
There is some consolation in the fact that at least that $1,200 a month of the federal government's money is not going into spending on more armaments, and it may be it's bringing the pressure of an economic crisis, which is maybe the way we're going to learn maybe a little faster.
So I believe I am, and the other people that have done this action with me, are a part of the Christ action and that what you do to me that you are doing to the Christ, because the Christ lives in each one of us. And I ask that God's will be done. Amen.
Judge Alaimo then asked if Doug Alexander had anything to say.
He merely said that I was very sincere and nonviolent, asking
that he consider that in sentencing. When Judge Alaimo pointed
out the 44 arrests at Concord, I remembered that I had wanted
to say that of all my arrests I had only four previous convictions,
but when I tried to say something, he said that he hadn't interrupted
me and that now I had to listen to him. When I tried to point
out that he had interrupted me, he condescendingly mentioned courtesy,
then asked Mr. McAbee what he wished to say for the Government.
A large portion of Mr. McAbee's statement was taken up with trying to discredit my Ph.D. by making fun of the World University in Ojai. Then he attacked my knowledge of history by talking about the German war criminals tried at Nuremberg. To show that the United States does concern itself with its own war crimes he mentioned Lt. Calley and his trial in Columbus, Georgia, neglecting to mention that Calley never spent more than three days in the brig as his punishment. He referred to Solzhenitsyn and Tiananmen Square, claimed that if the United States wanted world domination it could have obtained it after World War II before the Soviets develop an atomic bomb. He spoke of the "43,000 Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks arrayed along the Iron Curtain." He even tried to take away the ten weeks I had served in jail, because my not promising to return for sentencing could be considered contempt of court. Finally he said that I was not like the great leaders I had mentioned, because they had taken responsibility for what they did.
Judge Alaimo did allow me briefly to answer the "smear campaign" against my educational background before pronouncing his sentence. Then he merely said, "It is the judgment of this Court that you be committed to the custody of the Attorney General or his authorized representatives for a period of six months and to pay a fine to the United States in the sum of $500. In addition, you are assessed the sum of $10 due immediately. I will permit credit on his 71 days."
He said I had ten days to file a notice of appeal. I said that I wanted to do that right then, and I asked that a different lawyer be appointed to represent me, because Doug Alexander was not willing to make the appeal I wanted on international law. He said he would appoint someone. I was taken by the marshals out the door and back into a cell and from there in a car back to the county jail.
I think this was the most impassioned speech of my life, but I felt rather let down that only John and Martina Linnehan, a nun, and a reporter from the Jacksonville paper were in the courtroom. The Brunswick newspaper which was delivered in the jail everyday had mentioned every sentencing from this protest, but somehow neglected to report on the trial of Miriam and I and then also my sentencing. John X. said on the phone that I had made some good points, but I just felt completely emptied by the experience. At least I had been able to say what I felt needed to be said. I could go back to reading and forget about the case for a while.
Roger Lane was appointed by the court to represent me on my appeal. He came to see me and seemed friendly and helpful though very noncommital on the issues. He said that he would allow me to write the arguments on international law and the right to a jury trial and would give me copies of cases to study. He also believed that the First Amendment argument was our best hope, and I asked him to work on that argument. We also tried to appeal the sentence but to no avail. His office also was able to find out for me whether I would get two-days-for-one credit in jail or any time off or parole on my six-month sentence as Doug Alexander had implied in his last letter to me. They found out that under the new law I had to do all of the six months.
In the next four weeks I read another seventeen books. For
a change I played some cards once in a while---spades, pluck,
and hearts, but I also taught others to play a little pinochle,
bridge, "I doubt it," and "Oh heck," which
is also known by many other foul names.
Some of the young men were involved in seances, which some others didn't like, because they thought it was "of the devil." A 17-year-old named James who had been involved in the Pentecostal Church and was interested in talking with me sometimes and in fact was reading my book THE WAY TO PEACE, also experimented with this spiritualism. One evening he began acting very strangely, and the others asked me if I "knew anything about exorcism." I had counseled with him some before, helping him to try to release some of his guilt from the past. He certainly was acting in a way that was bizarre and different from his usual personality, but it was difficult for me to tell whether he had actually been taken over by another spirit or whether he was just letting himself go into his own subconscious feelings. Either way it seemed to me that he needed to regain conscious control of himself, and I tried to encourage him to do that. I was able to get him to walk with me from the cell where they had the seances back to his own cell. There he sat down at his desk and opened the Bible and began reading. A few minutes later when I was talking with his friends, Donald suddenly realized that he had a razor in his cell. He went back to check if he was all right and found that he had in fact cut his wrist. The deputies were called, and James was taken out of the pod to be treated in the medical pod C.
This tragedy is an example of how injustice can harm people's lives. James was missing high school because he was allegedly implicated in a burglary. He had been waiting several weeks to be arraigned, and they would not release him even though he had sworn affidavits from those involved in the burglary that he had nothing to do with it.
I heard about a meeting which had occurred among the inmates about protesting some of the jail conditions and the failure of the courts to arraign people. On a weekend night inmates had decided to refuse to go into their rooms at lockdown. Skip Austin had to come in from home in his street clothes to promise that he would listen to all the complaints on Monday. With this promise we all went into our cells. That Monday Skip said that he had no power to influence the courts but that they were going to allow the TVs to be on until 1 a.m. on Saturdays and Mondays, instead of having lockdown and lights off at 11 p.m. This mollified enough people to thwart the protest. To me, however, it made things a little worse not better.
In early October I wrote a letter to the new administrator offering some suggestions about monitoring the TV volume, asking for two-for-one credit, and suggesting that he turn me over to the federal government, since I was their political prisoner. I got a chance to talk to him briefly about my letter, and he said that his first impulse to relieve overcrowding was to give the federal government back its prisoners. On the next day, Friday, October 13, I was told to "roll it up all the way." One of my friends thought that I was going home. But I soon realized that I was probably being picked up by the feds.
I was right. About a half a dozen of us were being transferred by bus. We put our street clothes back on and were told to put everything else except legal materials in a box to be mailed to our home. They said that the marshals told them that if we had anything else with us, it would be thrown away when we got to federal prison. We were chained and shackled in pairs before boarding the bus, and we made a couple of other stops in Georgia to pick up other prisoners.
I met some people who had also been sentenced by Alaimo. One man complained that the prosecutor had promised him 8 months if he pleaded no contest, but Alaimo gave him 14 months. Another man of about 50 who was caught farming marijuana got 25 years plus 5 more years for failing to appear in court once. Under the new law parole is abolished, and 85% of the sentence must be served in prison regardless of how well the inmate behaves. If the sentence is one year or less, then every day must be served. I learned that Judge Alaimo had a personal goal of wanting to sentence people to a total of one million years and that when he went fishing he wore a hat that had "Time Master" on it.
It was dark when we arrived at Taladega, Alabama, and we shuffled with our shackles into the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI). After a strip search they gave us some clothes and mailed the clothes we had worn to our homes. However, I was allowed to keep my contact lens kit and my legal papers. I had brought the Plato book which was discovered with my things at the jail, because I said it was a religious book. I found out later the FCI mailed it home too.
That night we were put in Beta B, which is "the hole." I pleaded for a cell that was non-smoking. Some guards made fun of that as if I were making airline reservations. The guard who assigned a cell to me did make an effort however. He said that they weren't expecting me and put me in a cell with a young black man who didn't have any cigarettes named Tommy. He was a very nice guy who came from Miami with the "black box" on his handcuffs; he said this was very restrictive and painful. A couple of hours after I got there, another person joined us who said he did not smoke. His name was Peter Patton, and he was a disciplinary transfer from Eglen in Florida. He had been caught with alcohol on his breath, and he said he was falsely accused in another incident involved with placing shit on someone's bed. He had originally been arrested in Mexico on drug charges even though he is a Canadian citizen. He was one of the many people I met who hates the United States Government with a passion. I could hear him talking in his sleep, saying, "Liars, liars."
In the hole there wasn't even a mirror, but Tommy offered me a small piece of broken mirror. I said I didn't want to touch any contraband. Tommy and Peter had been joking about my short sentence and how they might find some way to get me another charge so that I wouldn't get out so soon. As they were napping I thought about that jagged mirror and how it could be used as a weapon against me if some unscrupulous smoker were put in there with me later on. So when a guard was passing by, I said that we had found a piece of mirror that we wanted to turn in. He said to slide it under the door. Peter helped me find it in the magazine, and I put it under the door. Although I felt my concern was justified at the time, I think it was probably a mistake to do that. Peter and Tommy gave me a hard time, but in a half-joking way, that I might get my throat slit or that I would fit right in at the federal prison camps where everyone is a snitch and so on. I didn't realize that such a mirror piece was very useful in the hole for looking outside one's door down the hall, even though at this facility the hall was curved making it easier to see.
On Sunday morning Peter and I and the others from the bus were taken out of the hole over to Gamma B, which is a regular facility for holdovers, Taladega being the hub for transfers in the southeast area. As with Beta B, here also the cells which were designed for one person had three people in them, bunk beds and a mattress on the floor so that there was little room to walk around. However, here the cells were not locked until 10 p.m. Most of the people wandered around the dayroom. However, there was a great shortage of folding chairs, only about half as many chairs as inmates. Thus people had to carry their chairs with them and watch over them. Some were playing cards or chess at tables while standing up. I got tired of standing or sitting on the hard floor and finally lay down on some sheets that didn't look too dirty in the big laundry basket while I read.
That night they still didn't have a room for us, so they put some mattresses, and cots if we wanted them, in the two TV rooms. The next morning they did not allow other inmates in our rooms, and I got to watch the movie "Eight Men Out" about the World Series Black Sox scandal on HBO. To use the telephone for 15 minutes one had to sign up the day before. I managed to call Karolyn to tell her where I was.
That Monday I was assigned a cell with Mallory Horton and a young man who was already there. Mallory was going back to Atlanta after having been sentenced by Alaimo; the young man was there for having automatic weapons after having been in a mental institution. He and I couldn't be more different; he was an ex-Marine who loved weapons. Mallory was considerate enough not to smoke in the cell, but Andy naturally just went on smoking as usual. However, after a day or two I asked him if he needed anything from commissary since I had money transferred from jail. He said he would like cigarettes. So we made a deal that I would buy him a pack of Kool, and he agreed not to smoke in the cell.
Mallory was soon transferred back to Atlanta, but I was able to talk to the "hack," as the guards are called in the prisons, about getting a nonsmoking cellmate. As the newcomers were lined up for their cell assignments he asked if there was a nonsmoker. Tony Delyea spoke up and became our new cellmate. Tony was a young cocaine dealer from Wisconsin who had been caught in Georgia with just under five kilograms in his car. He had been sentenced to 97 months, and under the new law he was looking at spending the next seven years in prison. His wife was very devoted and had moved to Atlanta to be near him and visited him two or three times a week. He was concerned about what prison was going to do to him and was even a little suicidal. However, we talked quite a bit, and I tried to help him look at the positive side of things. Soon he was often saying, "I'm a happy camper." We played some chess, and I even won a couple of early games off him in spite of my lack of experience, because my play was apparently so unorthodox. After a while though, I gave it up as a waste of time and too competitive and warlike. He supplied us with whatever we needed from commissary and got several magazines sent in from his wife---Playboys, Hustler, and Newsweeks.
The food was much better here. The cafeteria style had a small salad bar to which we could help ourselves, and people got plenty to eat. We had to line up to go to the dining hall and come back, because at this FCI all movement of holdovers was controlled. On weekdays we got to go outside for one hour for some exercise if we wanted. There was a track, football field, baseball field, basketball court, handball, and bachi ball, which I liked. The first time I played it here I got four points on the first four balls.
The visiting was much better here than in the county jail, although we had to be strip-searched before and after each visit and only immediate family or a minister was allowed. My friends in Auburn, Alabama were not allowed to come see me, but Karolyn came twice. Whereas at the county jail we had to talk on a telephone while looking through a window for only about fifteen minutes, here we had contact visits for as long as we wanted during visiting hours, which were Monday, Thursday and Friday evenings and weekends from 8:30 to about 3:30. Karolyn came to see me twice, and it was very good to be able to hug her and kiss her at meeting and with departure. That was the rule, although we were allowed to kiss at other times anyway. We sat next to each other at little tables and could buy food from machines.
While I was at Taladega, the televangelist Jim Bakker was sentenced to 45 years and brought here in a car. He was put in Beta A, which was just like Gamma B. However, to make sure that the media did not know how overcrowded the federal prison system is, they moved all the third persons out of the cells in Beta A and put them in Gamma B. During Bakker's stay, there were never more than two people in a cell in his building, but always three in a cell in ours. Near the end, I even had to go to the hole for one night, because there was not enough room in our building. I did this under the promise that I would not be with a smoker. They forgot the promise though, but I had a friend agree to replace the smoker who was going over there with me. He was a kind man, and he also liked to eat meat. He was transferred the next morning, and I was brought back to Gamma B as promised. I was put in a room with a black man who did smoke some and said he would not stop for anyone, just like he told the judge he wouldn't stop smoking marijuana. However, he would complain about how inconsiderate people would make loud noises, and after a while he wasn't smoking in the cell. He was then transferred to Oakdale, Louisiana.
Soon after I arrived at Taladega I found out that I had been designated for Lompoc, California. Karolyn and my friends asked if they were sending me there to face the charges in California. I didn't know, but Tony found out that it is against the Bureau of Prisons regulations to help states extradite by transferring people near the end of their sentence. Karolyn and I tried to prevent my being sent there so that she could still visit me, but the counselor said that I could not get transferred until after I got there. Thus I had to face the possibility of going to trial in Concord again on 25 charges which conceivably could have meant as much as another twelve and a half years imprisonment. However, that seemed unlikely, but I realized that my ordeal might go on for more than a few more months. I thought that if it is God's will, then I would do my best to make that trial an important protest also.
Tony, who was designated for Milan, Michigan, and I were anticipating each day being flown to El Reno, which is the hub for the BOP jets. Finally on November 7 when I was watching "Cry Freedom" in the TV room, we were told to get our stuff together. After lunch we were strip searched and were allowed to take nothing with us on the plane. My legal papers were to be mailed to my destination. While at Taladega I had researched and wrote the arguments on the denial of a jury trial and the bias of the judge and on international law violations and the criminal conspiracy of the U. S. Government and Navy. I managed to type them on a broken-down typewriter and send them to my lawyer, Roger Lane.
However, I was adamant about keeping my contact lens container and supplies, because otherwise I would have nowhere to put them when I took them out. As I was saying that this was a health right, Lt. McAlester came in and said, "You have no rights." I replied that as a citizen I did have rights. He declared a final decision that I was not to be allowed to take any of the supplies, and I was not even able to get the little case, even though others had been allowed to take glasses cases. I refused to go and told them I needed at least the case. They threatened me with force. As I referred to their fascism and wondered how they could even sleep at night, the officer putting on the handcuffs decided that I needed the black box. Of course I also told them that I was a political prisoner, not even a felon. It was ironic that I was the only one to go on the plane with the black box. Lt. McAlester lied to me twice, saying before we left that he would check on getting the contact lens case for me and then again at the airport saying that it would be on the plane.
Fortunately I did not find the black box at all painful, perhaps because it was rather loose. At the Birmingham airport I was treated as special and put on the plane first and in the back. I sat next to a man of Greek descent who was in prison for about six years for inside stock trading. He paid a million dollar fine and told me that he had donated $700,000 to Covenant House. He was overweight, and shall we say soft, and found prison conditions extremely difficult. The shackles were constantly chafing at his fat ankles.
At El Reno, which is a prison near Oklahoma City, after another strip search I was put with the minimum security level prisoners awaiting another plane to our destinations. In the federal system the minimum level is 1 and the maximum level is 6. Tony, for example, as a 3 was going to Milan which is a 3-4 facility; he was hoping to be reduced soon to a 2.
I was awakened about 2 in the morning on Thursday November 9 to get ready to go on the plane again. The BOP jet had been confiscated from Columbian Airlines. This time I didn't have the black box and managed to get a window seat. We didn't take off until about sunrise and flew across the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas before landing in Sacramento. After dropping off a few prisoners and picking up some from the San Francisco Bay area, we flew down to Long Beach.
There I sat on the plane and then on the bus at this airport for about three hours waiting for prisoners from other places to get there. For at least an hour I saw that a black prisoner was laying down on the tarmac; finally some sort of an ambulance came and picked him up.
In spite of the handcuffs and shackles it was quite enjoyable to be outside and watch the scenery as we rode up the coast about an hour past Santa Barbara to Lompoc as the sun was setting. At first we were all taken into the penitentiary, but soon the campers were uncuffed, and we walked across the street to the prison camp. I told the staff how I had been in their gym for a week in March, 1983 when I was arrested at Vandenberg Air Force Base with several hundred people, and some of them remembered that.
I was assigned to the medical dorm at first and tried to sleep in an upper bunk amid the chorus of snores in a room with about 50 men. I kept dreaming that the first thing I did there was going to get me in trouble. I like to make the best use of my time, even in prison, and didn't want to have to work at some stupid job. I believe there is an international tradition that political prisoners are not required to work, but I had never tested it myself yet. Once in the county jail a deputy had asked me to sweep the balcony outside the cells, and I refused, saying that I was only required to keep my own cell clean. I said that I didn't throw trash around.
The next day was a holiday for Veteran's Day, so there was no regular work. In the morning I was given a nice tour of the camp by Harry Stern, a lawyer inmate who befriended me. After lunch though, when I had just gotten into a bridge game with Sean, the hack called Pinocchio found me and told me to follow him where I was supposed to wash trucks with the other newcomers. I had hoped that at least I would get through the three-day weekend before I had to face the work crisis. I saw a black guy I met on the bus manage to walk off without being noticed. I started to walk away, but Pinocchio asked me where I was going. He said I had to wash the government trucks. When I said no, I wasn't going to, he turned around in surprise. I said, "As a political prisoner I reserve the right not to work. I'm not going to wash trucks. I will not work for a government that is oppressing me."
He took me into the Lieutenant's office where Lt. Shipp pointed to a chair. I sat there quietly as he did some paper work. They knew I was an anti-war protester. He asked me where I was from, and I said Georgia. He said, "So am I; so you know how I feel about people like you." He wondered what I was doing while he was getting his "ass shot at in Vietnam." I told him that I was a conscientious objector. When he asked me what I thought of his going to Vietnam, I told him that I thought that he had got caught up in something that I thought was very immoral. He said he was giving me two shots (Rule violations are called "shots" by the feds.), one for refusing to work and one for disobeying a direct order. He said that he was going to send me to a place where they would make me work. I said that slavery was abolished in this country by the Thirteenth Amendment.
I was handcuffed by Pinocchio and escorted across the street. Lompoc Penitentiary, I later discovered, is about the second most severe federal prison in the United States next to Marion in Illinois; it is a level 5-6, and I was being put in level 6, the most maximum security in the federal system. First we were locked in an area under the armed guard tower. Then I was escorted inside, as Pinocchio held my handcuffed hands behind my back.
When I got to the hole, I was strip searched. I said that I would need something to put my contact lenses in. At El Reno they had given me two pill containers, and at the camp the same, although I managed to get some solution at the dispensary even though the Physician's Assistant who wore glasses thought that contact lenses were only cosmetic and not a health need. The officer who seemed to be in charge, named Morrison, was especially sarcastic and said that I might cut my wrist with the lenses. I replied that you couldn't cut toilet paper with them. He said that I could not have them in the hole. So Pinocchio got some toilet paper and two envelopes, and I took them out, wrapped them each up and gave them to him. I thought that now I had given up everything for God.
Since it was Veteran's Day and I was opposed to war, they decided to make fun of me. It reminded me of how the Roman guards had mocked Jesus when he was arrested. One guard, who acted a little funny, like he was homosexual or latently so, felt my bicep and said, "Look at these hard muscles---hard to find." (In spite of all the talk about homosexuality in the prisons, I only knew of one inmate who was obviously looking for sex. At Taladega Andy and others referred to him as "her" and "she.")
They questioned me for a while in a little office that had a large photo of John Wayne on the wall. They referred to him as their hero and asked me what I thought of him. I asked them if they knew how he died and explained that he had made a cowboy movie in St. George, Utah where the dust from the nuclear testing in the 50s had given several stars on that picture cancer. Morrison asked me if I ate regularly. I said yes but that I don't eat red meat. I was given non-meat trays; but when there was chicken or turkey, it depended whether the guard was friendly or not whether I got it instead of extra potatoes and cheese.
In underwear, a T-shirt and socks I was escorted down to the cells and put in with another camper named Ralph Hernandez. He asked me if I wanted a cigarette. I said that if he was going to smoke would he please do it over by the bars, and he exclaimed that he didn't smoke either. We were both glad about that. Nevertheless enough smoke floated through the air from other cells to give me a sore throat at night when I was asleep and couldn't fan it away with a pamphlet.
Ralph was a fairly black Puerto Rican who had been in the Army for six years and was now married to a black model who had just had his baby. He had been given a furlough to be there for the delivery but was due back in prison at 12 midnight. A few minutes before that the baby was about to be born but was in danger because of the head position. He reported to an officer and then went back into the delivery room. Another officer, Erica Shields, however, kicked in the door of the hospital room to get him but was ejected by the doctors. After the baby was born all right at 12:02, Ralph reported back at 12:05. He was thrown into the hole for that, but an article in the local newspaper made the BOP look very bad.
Now Ralph was back in the hole a second time because another inmate had attacked him in the shower, throwing a sheet over his head and hitting him with a stick. He reported that, and they both were put in the hole. However, the white guy was sent back to the camp after a few days and allowed visits from his wife, but Ralph was kept in the hole without any charge at all and not allowed to visit his wife who had moved to Lompoc. Apparently the wives of these two men had also had a fight on the outside, and Ralph's wife had injured the other woman. Ralph also mentioned that a note was left on his bed in his six-person room, saying that they didn't want any "niggers" in there.
The Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) told Ralph that he was going to be transferred to Oregon, and he told me that Ralph would still be here when I left in January. Since we got along well, that suited us both just fine. We had three meals a day brought to us in bed, but we were only allowed out three times a week to take a shower, at which time we were handcuffed behind our backs before the cell door was opened and then locked in the showers. We could usually go out for one hour of exercise on weekdays under the same handcuff procedure, but I only did once when we got to go outside in a caged handball court. Usually inmates were just taken to the hallway cage where they could walk back and forth.
I managed to find a few books of value and read Richard Bach's A BRIDGE ACROSS FOREVER, Humberto Eco's THE NAME OF THE ROSE, Leon Uris' EXODUS and some others. My parents sent me some paperbacks; I had requested Barbara Tuchman's A DISTANT MIRROR about the fourteenth century in western Europe. The Unit Manager and Case Manager came over from the camp and said they were recommending that I be given a sentence of 15 days segregation. They asked me to sign a paper with my hands cuffed behind my back which I naturally refused to do. On Monday November 20 I had my hearing before the DHO Razo. I asked to be transferred and showed him a letter from Karolyn saying what a hardship it was for her that she could not visit me in prison. In Taladega I had written to the Region Designators in Atlanta and California, but Mr. Razo said that I would not be transferred, because I was too short, and besides there were these charges I had in California. The report I got later indicated that he had some confidential information which he was not sharing with the inmate. Apparently they weren't going to transfer me, because they wanted to see if Concord would want to pick me up on those charges. He said that if I wasn't going to work, I might as well just stay there until my release in January; but he only sentenced me to 15 more days in the hole; the first 10 days didn't count.
At the same time as this hearing my parents had arrived to visit me, and I was taken to see them after lunch. I asked the officer in the visiting room how to make my visiting list, and he said to just write the names down and send it to my counselor; that was all that was needed. However, I later found out that every person who is not immediate family must send in a form and be checked out by the FBI. I was really angry when I found out that two of my friends had driven all the way from Ojai to visit me and were turned away, because I was not told the procedure.
In addition my money was not transferred from Taladega FCI, and I couldn't order anything from commissary. In fact when I left prison on January 5 that money still had not been transferred. Fortunately Ralph had good connections with other inmates, and we managed somehow to get everything we needed. I asked Mr. Razo about my contact lenses, and he told Morrison to get them for me. Mr. Razo seemed like a fair man. He said my philosophy may be wrong; but when I said that I may in fact be representing the Christ in this action, he admitted that could be true.
On Thanksgiving Day I received my contact lens supplies and legal papers from Taladega and then my contact lenses also. At least I had something to be thankful for. The Chaplain from the camp also had brought me a couple books so that I still had something to read before the Tuchman book arrived.
At the end of November I received a letter from Roger Lane saying that he could only submit the First-Amendment argument on the appeal, because he was afraid of being fined for bringing in issues that were "not legally valid," and because we were only allowed to submit one brief and he had to sign it. I realized then that I would have to write my own brief using his argument as well as the ones I had written at Taladega. I began making requests each day to use the law library and a typewriter to work on my appeal, but during that last week I was in the hole I did not receive an answer to these.
Also on November 30 Ralph was transferred, and Morrison moved over two campers to keep us all two in a cell. In spite of my urgent requests that the non-smoker be put in my cell, he forced the smoker to go in my cell, threatening to handcuff me by force if I did not come off the bunk to the bars myself. I did so, but only under protest. The Lieutenant also refused to transfer the smoker unless I had a written statement from a doctor that I had a bad health condition made worse by smoke. If I was healthy and wanted to stay that way, I had no recourse. They would just say, "This is not that kind of hotel." Some of the guards resented the fact that Ralph and I seemed happy in these conditions as they brought us our three meals a day. Ralph had been writing letters to the Regional BOP, the national BOP, to Senator Cranston, etc., and I think that they wanted to get rid of him.
My new cellmate was friendly though and had a good sense of humor. He was nice enough to smoke by the bars and try to blow the smoke out. I would use a religious pamphlet as a fan to wave the smoke out of the cell, but I had to do this many times a day. His name was Bob Perrigo; his ancestry was French and Cherokee. In his fifties, he had left the camp to go see his parents in Sacramento, because he had been denied a furlough. Under Bush furloughs and halfway houses had become very rare things. When he was discovered there without any identification, he decided to go back on his own, which they allowed him to do. He was able to return to the camp and talk to people before he was put in the hole. They could have given him a charge for escape and another year of time, but they just took away his good time instead.
He would talk to Paul next door and say, "A fine mess you got us into now, Ollie." He and Paul were ordering two cartons of cigarettes each from the commissary, all for Bob to smoke; so I knew he was going to be smoking even more soon. This dislike of the smoke and the need I felt to use a law library and a typewriter to do a good job on my appeal which was due on December 18 made me decide to go back to camp even though I would have to take a job. I sent messages to that effect, but the first day after my sentence was over I got no response. However, on December 6 someone from the camp was there and arranged for me to go back around lunch-time. When I left the hole, I had to carry my books, papers, and other things while both my hands were handcuffed behind my back. The guards were not about to help me out. I was glad to get out of that place where my right to fresh air, which is in the BOP regulations, was clearly violated.
The hacks gave me a late lunch in the dining hall and kidded me about asking me to wash trucks again. That afternoon I talked to my Unit Manager, and checking the computer he found no detainer holding me from being released on January 7. Since that was a Sunday he said I would be released on Friday morning January 5 and be given a plane ticket back to Georgia, clothes, and probably $50.
I was put in the medical dorm again where I stayed for my last month. The next morning I had to report to the labor pool and was asked to pick up cigarette butts and other trash on the grounds. With very white skin and muscles not used to much exercise I did a thorough job of this for about an hour and a half, cleaning the area assigned to me. Then I went and called Roger Lane in Georgia to ask him to call the judge and the prison to tell them to allow me to work on my appeal. When I told this to Mr. Arnold, the Unit Manager, he said that he would let me work on my appeal instead of in the labor pool through December 18 as long as I also did the Arrival and Orientation activities.
That was great, but I soon realized that I could never finish my appeal brief and send it in to Atlanta before December 18. So after consulting with several people, including some lawyer inmates, I decided to send in a motion for a 30-day extension so that I could spend the rest of my imprisonment working on the appeal and doing a really good job with it. I also filed a motion to dismiss Roger Lane as my lawyer and to proceed for myself (pro se). I spent all day Sunday in the Law Library working on these motions and getting them mailed off.
Meanwhile my Case Manager asked me when I was going to pay the $500 fine. I said that I had no money and couldn't afford to pay it and that the judge should have known that from my financial statement when I requested a court-appointed lawyer. The Case Manager said that I at least had to pay the $10 assessment, or they might not release me at the end of my sentence. That seemed hard to believe, especially since the assessment had been ruled unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit. He said that since I was in the Eleventh Circuit, I had to pay because the judge had said it was due immediately. So I asked my parents to send a check, and they did so. Earlier I had asked them if they wanted to pay my fine and assessment since they support the Republicans, but they had declined. The Case Manager had such a hard time with me on the $10 assessment that he gave up even asking about the $500 fine.
I had money problems more pressing, because some money that was sent to me so that I could buy something from commissary was put in my account at the Penitentiary, and by the time I was able to get the Business Office to transfer it across the street to the Camp the store was closed for the week between Christmas and New Year. However, when Paul came back from the hole he gave me everything I needed, even enabling me to pay back what others had loaned me. In the hole he had read some of my book LIFE AS A WHOLE, and I allowed him to keep a travel book on India my parents had sent me. I never did buy anything in prison after being in Taladega, and in my entire six months I never bought a single item of food. I figured the authorities were obligated to feed me.
The Unit Manager Arnold decided that until I heard an answer from the Court on my motion for an extension that he would assign me a regular job on December 19. At least I had a few days to work in the library on my case. The next weekend I talked to the Chaplain about working for him, and he agreed to give me a job. I had tried the law library and education, but they had no openings, especially since I was so short. The Case Manager and my counselor approved of this and put it in the computer for the call outs on the 19th. I worked that day for the Chaplain, but the next day's call out showed that I was transferred to Grounds.
The Case Manager told me that Erica Shields had stormed into their offices and insisted that I be put on Grounds; then she called in the Chaplain and chewed him out for taking on too many people. The camp was so overcrowded that virtually everyone had extra people. Because of charges of corruption both the Warden and one of the Associate Wardens were on leave, and Shields was acting Associate Warden then and really throwing her weight around. The next morning I wrote a cop-out (inmate request) to the Warden saying that I thought she was persecuting me for my beliefs. She came into the Warden's office and told me to get to my job on Grounds. I said that I didn't know what time I was supposed to be there, and she said, "You're no dummy. Read my lips. You're late for work."
During her talk in A and O she had asked me why I was smiling. I replied, "Am I smiling? I guess I just have a positive attitude toward life."
When she was leaving, she said to me, "You must be Beck." She probably knew that I had been Ralph Hernandez cellmate in the hole.
Because of the Christmas and New Year's holidays I only had to work for eight and a half days on Grounds. I was assigned the area around the gym and spent most of my time watering or contemplating, either sitting or walking around looking for cigarette butts and trash long after I had cleaned up the area. There wasn't anything else to do anyway, and the object of the game was to pretend you were doing something or find a place to hide. The first day I had to wear the new safety boots I got a very bad blister, but after the boss called "Cagney" (because he was so much like the late actor) suggested wearing two pairs of socks, I was all right as long as I walked slowly, another way of stretching out the time anyway.
On Christmas Day we had a special lunch. As I sat at a table alone that time I felt sad that I was the only one among the 700 inmates there who was in prison for protesting the arms race. On the last weekend of 1989 I typed the 42 pages of my appeal and mailed it on the first day of the new decade.
My parents picked me up at 7 a.m. on January 5, and we were able to exchange my plane tickets for the same flight from Los Angeles on Monday January 8. I spoke to the Unitarian Universalists in Ojai, California on Sunday on the topic "Life in Prison." On Monday I flew to Nashville and then on to Columbus, Georgia in the new clothes the prison camp had to give me when I left. They also let me keep the army coat, since it was winter, and they gave me $25. I suppose that was to give me a new start in life. I was met at the airport by my wife Karolyn, and we drove home to Buena Vista together. While I had been in prison, she had been visited by her old boyfriend. She soon asked for a divorce.I had missed an opportunity to teach Ethics at a local community college, and my job prospects now were nil.
This has been published in the book PEACE OR BUST. For ordering information, please click here.