A pacifist nun convicted of using her blood to deface a Colorado missile silo said after her release from federal prison today that she has no plans to stop protesting.
Ardeth Platte, 69, and sisters Jackie Hudson and Carol Gilbert were convicted in 2003 of obstructing national defense and damaging government property.
After a breakfast of wheat toast with jelly at a Danbury diner where supporters gathered to celebrate her release today, Platte left for Baltimore and the Jonah House, a Catholic organization founded by Philip Berrigan that is dedicated to nonviolence and social and political resistance where she will stay for now.
She must serve three years probation, she said, during which she must check in with officers in Maryland and Colorado.
The nuns cut a chain link fence surrounding a Minuteman III silo in northern Colorado, then used baby bottles to draw a sign of the cross in their own blood.
Because she has a long history of such protests, Platte got the longest sentence and was the last to be released. She spent more than two years in Danbury Federal Correctional Institution.
Some of Platte’s fellow prisoners worried that, if she kept protesting, she would die in prison. But Platte said she won’t stop working, even though that might mean a longer sentence next time. And she’s not worried about dying behind bars.
“So be it,” she said. “It’s my religious commitment. I don’t know how long I’m going to live.”
The site the nuns were accused of damaging held weapons that could be launched within 15 minutes of a presidential order, court documents said.
“The charges remain bogus,” she said. “It was, ‘If you’re not with us, you’re against us.’ And be assured, I would never stand with this government in any kind of killing.”
The nuns are members of the Dominican Sisters order in Grand Rapids, Mich. They said their protest was a symbolic disarmament, prompted by an imminent war with Iraq because the United State has never disavowed nuclear weapons.
“God forgives us for what we are doing in this country,” she said.
Platte insists that she will not pay the government any restitution, which her sentence includes, because too much of every dollar is spent on war and defense. A federal judge criticized the nuns, and Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, a Catholic, said their sentences were fair because nobody is above the law.
“These Catholics have not understood, or studied deeply enough, the stance against the crimes of the government,” Platte said today.
A low-security facility with an adjacent minimum-security prison camp, Danbury is home to 1,300 women. Platte lived in the camp, where she said she worked as a chapel clerk and ministered to women of many faiths. She received as many as 30 letters a day, she said, from people offering support and describing their protests.
Mary Novak, on activist from Voluntown, exchanged letters with Platte. And though they had never met, Novak drove to Danbury for Platte’s breakfast today. She said Platte’s long history of protests inspires others to follow similar paths and to be strong during the difficult times.
“One of the difficulties with the work of peace and justice is seeing yourself through the long haul,” Novak said. “There’s not the same system set up to support you the way there is in corporations or the military.”