Page 6


Sheriff Connie Reed Pho to by Te rry Fitz Pa tr ic k Amarillo NO ONE WAS ARRESTED at this year’s Pantex peace encampment. No one sat on the tracks to block the “white train” that carries assembled nuclear warheads to military installations across the Republic. No one interfered with the trucks that carry components of nuclear warheads onto the 21-square-mile site. No one chained herself to a gate. Peace activists came here this year to accomplish other things. “We feel like we’ve come to the point where we don’t have to be arrested to make a statement,” said peace camp organizer Cindy Breeding of Amarillo. For several years, activists have observed the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings with a vigil at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant, the final assembly point for all American nuclear weapons. Recently there has been a gradual escalation of confrontational tactics here, culminating in last summer’s arrest of seven demonstrators whoblocked the road outside Pantex. This year things were different. Demonstrators avoided a stand-off with police. They moved the site of their tentcity peace camp from a ditch beside the plant entrance to a 20-acre tract of land purchased by Les and Cindy Breeding. “We have found over the last three years that there is a lot of educational value and a lot of community-building value to getting together at Pantex every year,” explained Cindy Breeding. “Here at the farm, we have the opportunity to facilitate those two things more than in a long line at the ditch.” The peace camp this year was located just across the highway from Pantex, but in a lowland area where campers could not see the weapons factory. That was seen as a disadvantage by Houston resident Bob Henschen, who was among the seven arrested at Pantex last August. “We don’t have the presence at the gate that we would like,” Henschen said, “and we can’t see the plant from here. It’s not there as a constant reminder.” Terry FitzPatrick is a television reporter in Amarillo But Pantex officials were pleased with the changes in the placement and conduct of this year’s peace camp. Some work inside the facility was halted while protesters were in Amarillo, but the smaller vigils at the Pantex gate throughout the weekend posed fewer traffic headaches than past peace camps have created. “I just never thought it was too safe for the people to be in the bar ditches along here,” Pantex spokesman Tom Walton said. Carson County Sheriff Connie Reed was relieved that the peace pilgrims have decided not to organize civil disobedience every time they gather at Pantex. “Frankly, I think they’re trying to use some better judgment,” Reed” said. “You can’t hit a fellow in the face and make him like you. The more that they fight at those people [Pantex workers] or the more trouble you give somebody, the less that you can get them to see what you’re trying to do and what you want them to do.” Carson County Attorney Ed Hinshaw thinks his tough stance on prosecuting civil disobedience participants discouraged any direct action at Pantex this year. Hinshaw sought stiff fines for last summer’s sit-in members, prompting a 24-day jailhouse hunger strike by three demonstrators who served time rather than pay their fines. Hinshaw says he will seek the maximum six-month jail terms for Les and Cindy Breeding, who blocked the plant entrance in April. Their case is scheduled for trial in September. “I think our position has been a deterrent,” Hinshaw said, “because money hasn’t seemed to be a problem to them but jail time is.” “It may influence individuals,” Cindy Breeding admits, “because once you go into a civil disobedience action you have to be willing to carry it through to the end, whatever the consequence is. This year, there is a wider diversity in what people want to do at the gate.” Peace camp activity focused on Star Wars and land use discussions and concluded Sunday morning when protesters gathered at the main Pantex gate. John Corry of Austin helped coordinate a dramatic presentation and balloon THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17 4416eiriorimiammismaumwesp Keeping the Peace at Pantex By Terry FitzPatrick