Project ELF still casts long shadow

Kathy Kelly, a leader of the Witness Against War walk from Chicago to St. Paul, was arrested Sunday in a nonviolent action at Fort McCoy. In another post, she explains why she and others do what they do. —Xoff

By John LaForge

TUNNEL CITY, Wisconsin — The long history of anti-nuclear protests in Wisconsin caught up yesterday with Kathy Kelly, a founder of Voices for Creative Nonviolence in Chicago, when a group of 13 peace activists walked onto the grounds of Ft. McCoy, the National Guard base near here, calling for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Ft. McCoy is one of the country’s largest Guard bases and is a central training and deployment hub for occupation troops being shipped into Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of the 13 peace activists that were charged and ticketed with trespass, only Ms. Kelly was kept in the Monroe County jail in Sparta, because of an outstanding warrant. Kelly, who has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was being held on a 1999 warrant from Ashland County, Wisconsin. The warrant stems from a protest against the now-closed submarine transmitter Project E.L.F. near Clam Lake.

The Extremely Low Frequency (E.L.F.) transmitter was the object of nuclear weapons protests from 1968 until it closed in 2004. Critics called it a “nuclear war trigger” because of its function in signaling a potential first-strike with submarine-launched ballistic missiles.The Ashland County Sheriff’s Dept. did not return calls inquiring about whether the county would go to the expense of sending deputies 237 miles to Sparta to execute the nine-year-old warrant.

A January 17, 1999 Martin Luther King Day demonstration at Project E.L.F. resulted in trespass fines being issued to 15 people. Kelly refused to pay her $756.00 fine and Ashland County Circuit Court Judge Robert Eaton issued the warrant which is still in effect.

After 1984, when a federal court decision that shut-down Project E.L.F. over environmental concerns was reversed by a federal appeals court, the site was inundated with civil disobedience. Over 44 demonstrations, resulting in more than 660 arrests, took place at the secluded site between 1984 and 2004. On five different occasions disarmament activists temporarily shut down the transmitter, using hand saws to cut utility poles that suspended the antenna. Long prison and jail terms were served by the “Swords into Plowshares” activists as well as by war resisters who refused to pay trespass fines.

Non-payment of fines or war taxes in civil disobedience campaigns is an long-standing American tradition beginning with Henry David Thoreau, whose famous essay “Resistance to Civil Government” or “Civil Disobedience,” lambasted the hypocrisy of supporting with taxes a war that one opposes in principle.

The August 10 action at Ft. McCoy was part of the Witness Against War campaign, a 450-mile walk from Chicago to Saint Paul to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Organized by Voices for Nonviolence, the walk began on July 12 and will arrive in Saint Paul on August 30 for the Republican National Convention. (Witness Against War can be contacted at 312-286-8535, or 773-391-0040.)

The walkers chose a historic day to start their seven-week-long trek. Thoreau was born in 1817 — on July 12.

PO BOX 649
LUCK WI 54853

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