The Things I Carried

On Friday, October 2nd, the AlliantACTION vigil group celebrated Gandhi's birthday again by a nonviolent presence at the entrance to Alliant Techsystems, Minnesota's largest "defense"[sic] contractor and Merchant of Death. Bret Hesla led us in song,we read excerpts of passages from Gandhi's writings, and talked about the choice which confronts our nation: will we choose health-care or warfare?

As the gong was struck 141 times for the years since the Mahatma's birth, four of us chose to carry the message to the building's entrance, asking to meet with the CEO, retired Admiral Dan Murphy. We carried with us a notebook entitled, Employee Liabilities of Weapons Manufacturers Under International Law which included a letter signed by the four of us to the CEO. With me were Roger Cuthbertson, Geri Eikaas, and Sister Kate McDonald - making me the youngest of the quartet!

Because I had spent the previous two weeks with visiting delegates from Minneapolis' new Sister City, Najaf, Iraq, I also carried a more personal letter to explain why I was risking arrest (again). Here is what I carried:

October 2, 2009
Admiral Daniel Murphy, CEO
Alliant Techsystems
Eden Prairie, MN

Dear Admiral Murphy,

I come today to Alliant Techsystems at the behest of my new Iraqi friends, members of the Sister City delegation from Najaf. They have told me of the plague of disease and death wrought on their nation from the US military use of depleted uranium weapons, both in the 1991 war as well as the present war. Because ATK manufacturers, sells, and profits from making these toxic and illegal weapons, it is incumbent upon me to remind you of the illegality of indiscriminate weapons under treaties signed by our government as well as reminding you of the human cost of the use of these weapons.

Dr Najim Askouri, one of the members of the Sister City delegation, is a nuclear physicist and he has helped further educate me in the effects of this weapon on both humans and the environment. Doctors Al Janabi and Al Radhi, also distinguished members of the delegation have told me of the increase of cancers and birth defects in their country which they believe is related to exposure to your radioactive and toxic depleted uranium munitions. Other members of the delegation share the sense of urgency in the need to stop producing these weapons and the need for your company and the US government to pay for the clean-up of the contaminated areas and to set up medical treatment facilities to deal with the civilian casualties caused by DU. Members are especially concerned about contamination of the water systems in Iraq, including contamination from the particles of uranium tri-oxide from DU munitions used in the wars.

I bring with me today a notebook, Employee Liabilities of Weapons Manufacturers Under International Law in hopes that you will understand the legal obligations your company faces in manufacturing and selling these illegal and immoral weapons. I ask you to sit down with members of the AlliantACTION group which vigils every Wednesday in front of your headquarters to discuss our concerns. We remain nonviolent in our words and actions on this, the anniversary of Gandhi’s birthday.

In hope for peace conversion with no loss of jobs,

Steve Clemens
2912 E. 24th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55406-1322

With the above letter, I also carried highlighted excerpts of Treaties and laws documenting the illegality of depleted uranium and other "weapons of indiscriminate mass destruction" made by ATK. Included were:
1) Constitution of the United States, Article VI (Supremacy Clause).
2) Excerpts from Hague Convention (1907), Section II
3) Excerpts from Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 …, Parts III and IV
4) Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)
5) Agreement For the Establishment of an International Military Tribunal For War Criminals in Europe. (Nuremberg Tribunal) and Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal. (Nuremberg Principles)
6) Excerpts from International Committee of the Red Cross publication International Humanitarian Law: Answers to Your Questions 31-10-2002.
7) UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1996/16: International Peace and Security …

We were met at the front entrance to the building by ATK security and we asked permission to enter to deliver our documents to the CEO or other corporate officers. The security officer refused, stating he would not accept any documents from us and were told we were trespassing and should leave.

After being notified a second time that we were trespassing, the police asked us if we would voluntarily leave to which we politely refused. We were told we were under arrest and treated respectfully by the Eden Prairie Police who were present. As we walked back to the squad car to be processed for our arrest, Lt. Tracy Luke, asked me if I wished to have the documents we carried placed into the case file for this arrest. It showed a profound respect for the relationship we have developed since ATK moved from Edina to Eden Prairie a couple of years ago. While she is willing to enforce property laws, she also has listened carefully to our vigil group and clearly understands our commitment to nonviolence even if it leads to what is considered civil disobedience.

We, in turn, believe we have a "claim of right" under International Law and Treaties, and thus are innocent of the charge of trespass. It will be up to a jury to decide in the coming months. For me, this act of resistance was a parting gift to my new Iraqi friends. Over the past two weeks they've asked those they met for tangible, specific commitments of what we will do to help rebuild Iraq. I told them I will continue to nonviolently struggle to stop the use of DU and work to insist that those who have profited from this illegal and immoral weapon pay for the clean-up of the radioactive debris and fund a cancer research and treatment center to help heal the victims.

Please friends, add your voice and body to ending this scourge of war and inhumanity.

[photos courtesy of Tom Bottolene]. For link to photos from the event go to:

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