Imprisoned Radical Anti-nuclear Activist Sister Megan Rice Living in Brooklyn Lockup Hell

Swords into plowsharesOne hundred and eleven of the nun’s ‘roommates’ are living in degrading and inhumane circumstances as well. You may remember that she and her magnificent allies were sentenced in Feb. 2014 for their crimes of conscience; Megan to 35 months, her two allies to 62 months in prison. The over-zealous charges could have brought them each 30 years .

America the beautiful

What was then 82 year old nun’s crime? And those of her two friends Michael Walli, 65, and Gregory Boertje-Obed, 58?

Oh beautiful for patriot dream

The three were sentenced on charges of interfering with national security and damaging property at the Y-12 National Security Complex in July 2012, the Oakridge, Tennessee facility that once provided the enriched uranium for the Hiroshima bomb. In order to bring attention to the dangers of nuclear war and increased proliferation, as well as how simple it looked to break into the grounds of the facility, these doughty senior citizens from Transform Plowshares Now were dropped off nearby, and hung banners on the steel fences, then proceeded to use bolt cutters to cut slits in the fence for access. Once inside, they threw a bit of human blood around, wrapped some pylons in yellow crime scene tape, and spray-painted Isaiah 2:4, ‘They shall beat swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks’.

Their express intention was to get arrested, and they knew, and welcomed the fact, that they would go to prison for their crimes. They neither tripped alarms or met security guards as they walked about the grounds. This…at one of the largest storage sites of highly-enriched uranium are stored, in this case: 100,000 tons of it. A whale of a lot of conflagration power open to anyone with a will to get some for their own.

Eventually they grew restless at their failure to be apprehended, and began banging on metal buildings until a rent-a-cop arrived to arrest them.

O beautiful for pilgrim feet, Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat…Across the wilderness!

In an exclusive interview with Linda Stasi of, Stasi describes the Metropolitan Detention Center, which was designed originally to hold male prisoners until trial, not to hold women after conviction, reporting that the thousands of males incarcerated there are housed far more comfortably and humanely in comparison, and not in one giant dormitory from hell.

“Sister Megan’s “cell” is a gymnasium-size dorm unit with 60 bunkbeds for the 111 women, placed a few feet apart. Along one wall are six half-enclosed toilet stalls, six sinks and six shower stalls, and in the middle of the room, 10 dining/work/play tables that can seat 60 women. There is no outdoor courtyard and no mess hall, and food is passed on trays to the women individually through a small window. Little occupational or addiction therapy, no real shot at education other than a GED.

The women eat in the same unit in which they defecate, sleep, shower and wash.”

The good nun is scheduled to be released in November. The three are still mandated to pay a fine for ‘damages to the facility’ of nearly $53,000.

Given that her sentencing in early 2014 didn’t add up to being release at the end of this year, I did a bit of sleuthing to make sense of it. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I found this piece from December 16, 2013, meaning her sentence must have included time served from some time back. It’s an Al Jareerza interview with the good nun at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, GA that includes Sister Megan’s fascinating account of her evolution to radical peace and anti-nuclear-proliferation direct actionist. One might say that it was almost the family business. This section is inspirational, the Occupy solidarity unknown to me previously:

“Occupy Church

Rice doesn’t expect much from the establishment — not even from the new pope, whose recent pronouncements have raised many eyebrows. She isn’t interested in institutions but swears instead by a grass-roots church. “The church is where the people are,” she said. The church matters only “on a local level.” She is skeptical of Pope Francis but feels encouraged by his choice of a less extravagant lifestyle than those of his predecessors, who she said had been living like “princes in their palaces.”

Her order, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, offered the lone voice of support from within the Catholic establishment.

“American Christians have been far too polite, too quiet and too accommodating of both the injustice and the blasphemous use of Jesus’ name in committing atrocities in our nation and our world,” wrote a group styling itself Protest Chaplains in a manifesto that coincided with the Occupy movement of which they formed a part. “That’s why we want to protest with all those who, like us, know in the deepest places of our souls that another world is indeed possible.”

Rice met with Occupy activists discussing nuclear issues in New York City, “when it began in September.” She described their work as “religion doing what it’s meant to be doing.”

“The church is where the people are,” she said. “It is the people.””

As she awaited final sentencing, she apparently quoted Martin Luther King in a letter she’d sent to A Jazeera, knowing that she might die in prison.

“On some positions, cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ And vanity comes along and asks, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?'” she wrote.

“And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but one must do it because conscience tells one it is right.”

At a court hearing in May, she’d told the public prosecutor her only guilt is that she waited 70 years to break into the facility “to be able to speak what I knew in my conscience.” Seven months later she said, “This is a very positive experience. It’s getting better and better.” What a woman;  what a human being; my stars.

Do look at the photos on Stasi’s post if you have the time.

“…Sister Megan is incredibly serene despite the horrifying conditions that are impossible to comprehend in America in 2015. She says she’s content to live her life among the “beautiful women here who are my friends,” doing God’s work. The only thing she needs is a dental bridge so that she may once again have a front tooth.”

You can read more at Transform Plowshares Now’s website, including their messages from prison. This poem was written by Michael Walli:


by Michel Walli, with thanks to Robert Frost

Whose world this is
I know altho
The CIA thinks it
Is the Federals’ so

Surely they see us
Stopping here
To fill the jails
With empty show

The Founding Fathers
Must think it queer
To adjudicate without
A Constitution near

Between the paychecks
And frozen chosen
The biggest hypocrisy
Of the year

They give their burial
Shrouds a shake
To ask if there
Is some mistake

The only other
Sounds you hear
Is contractor money
And greedy take

The Constitution is lovely
Dark and deep
So many promises
You do not keep

Winter’s coming
When no one can sleep
Arise! Awake!
Forsake your sleep!

Below is one of the videos of her speaking post-2014 sentencing; there’s a lot of background noise, but her message rings like a bell. Bless her, and bless her comrades in peace and justice.

(cross-posted at Café

20 responses to “Imprisoned Radical Anti-nuclear Activist Sister Megan Rice Living in Brooklyn Lockup Hell

  1. Hi…


    Looks like firedog lake is down for the count

  2. hi, mark (mafr), yes, it’s disgusting, and it brought her awareness that most of the prisoners did not deserve to be there, which she may parlay into further prison activism.

    i got into fdl once today, mr. wd did once last night, and i saw a few comments, one from thd reminding readers of other anti-nuclear activists from the past. i seem to remember that you had mentioned their histories on the thread of my 2014 sentencing post. but his assumptions brought me to realize that i’d somehow failed to link to this 2013 piece about Sister megan and their interview with her. it not only told me that she’d been in prison before the sentence (no bail, i’d guess?), but the genesis of her activism by way of it not only being the family business, but where she’d been between age 18 and 2003. fascinating stuff. although she blames capitalism, she may be a bit off-track that it’s the military budget that precludes social spending.. i think it’s a con, knowing that they can create money out of thin air for war and the implements of war.

    i’ll edit this link this into the OP, too, but my guess is you’ll love the read.

    nice to see you; hope you’re makin’ music, and are well.

  3. thanks will read it, here’s another one in jail for anti nuclear protest

  4. a beautiful piece by another extraordinary woman, mafr. had you brought other kathy kelly writings, mafr? her style seems so familar, as does her name.

    just imagine that non-violent protestors of many stripes are considered ‘terrorists’ by the state and their enforcers.

    she is living the MLK quotes and reasoning that she used, as are the many #BlackLivesMatter protestors and their affinity alliances. basing their lives on shared love, respect, and community, in whatever ways they can manage.

    like sister megan, she feels no pity for herself, but reaches out imagining those she will leave behind in that decaying prison, formerly a ‘maximum security’ one for women.

    yes, close the prison systems down, rebuild ones that might actually be useful in helping people create better lives. and whenever possible, use principles akin to fania davis,’s “restorative justice”. but for certain, no one should ever be in solitary confinement, three more notches of hideous, all the way to…Torture.

  5. it looks like whoever was paying for FDL decided it was time to close it.

    two days with nothing.

    wonder where all those people will assemble. and Kevin.

    too bad. specially for you, and a couple of others.

  6. one wonders, eh? one question would be: if no one paid for the bandwidth, would it have blinked on twice that i know of? i really dunno how it all works. my best guess is that they will say that it’s another denial of service attack (ddos?), but i dunno if that would hold water. a couple friends in tech have said that the site’s techhies are not as capable as they might be, but i have no idea of the truth of that.

    the ‘hiatus’ has now been four and a half months, and when they changed the Reader Diaries into one great blogsite much like this wordpress one, and allowed only some folks to post (and yes, some are very vexed), said that would change, and our diaries would show up in our my.fdl *oeuvre* (archives) post mid-september…none of that has happened.

    in the end, so many good people have either been banned, or left dispirited, that they finally took down the site meter. now teddy p and friends attribute the dearth in clicks to me, others to tbogg having moved to rawstory. i have my own theories, of course….

    kevin. it’s hard not to think that he’d hoped to have been hired by ‘the intercept’, but he also has strong bonds to miz hamsher. and they have hired a huge stable of writers (post-taibbi resigning), and handed off the snowden docs to most comers (some sort of reading room, virtual or otherwise, i’m not sure)

    but they may get it all together again, and it will pop up, who can say? i’m tired of trying to boot it up. but unless the business model changes, it will be rather moribund. a well-commented post of mine might have 50 comments, where in the past, 150 or so was average. and all over-easy authors go thru the front page; chat rooms i can live without, although…those are the folks who pay the bills.

    even kevin’s posts garner few comments recently. sigh.

  7. No, y’all. Jane and the Hamster youth sold out to Nutelaa and have adjourned for “Pancake Day” next Tuesday:

  8. oh, my starz. even with adblock, yes, the one time i got in featured an enormous nutella screen.

    now mind you, i like it too, esp. the hazlenut factor (even though i don’t care for sweets and need to watch chocolate). but the year (last?) i sent sandwich cookies i’d squidge nutella into, the crowds went wild!!! (too bloody much work, though).

    i loved the ad, bruce; thank you. (fdl is still down)

  9. mornin’; this morning there’s a notice at fdl that says the site’s offline, but as ‘the site uses CloudFlare’s Always Online™ technology’, the page has a snapshot from feb. 6, etc. but earlier i’d remembered that a couple years ago, fdl’s *server* went down. it was something of a kerfuffle, and miz hamsher looked around for a more stable server (whatever that means). ;)

  10. Here’s the hacking Nutella ad which pops up and fills the entire FDL screen for about 10 seconds before fading out:

  11. WIN one entire free jar??? such a prize!

  12. ack! cottage cheese for brains me forgot to include: mr. wd wondered what i might find out about whassup on twitter. what i found on kevin g’s, peter van buren’s, and ds wright’s accounts was: NOTHING. does that strike you as odd-bodkins? it wasn’t as if they weren’t all tweetin’ up storms of stuff, either….

  13. yeah I checked Kevin’s twitter, and no mention. so I guess they will try to get it working, is all I can think of. first time I ‘ve seen a prominent site just stop working, with nothing from anyone. pretty strange.

  14. I don’t comment there much, but I still have enjoyed reading some of the comments, for the cynical comedy if nothing else.

    as goofy as some of them are, still funny.

  15. some of the words from the commentariat can be fairly…odd; funny may be in the eye of the beholder, yes? ;) the one who types like a telegram being charged per word cracks me up; a few others.

    i wondered, as in: coincidence theory, if the front page authors been told to: shhhhhh; but of course, that’s just me. ;) Editing in: it strikes me as odd, too, that given all the peeps at FDL whose e-addresses I have, and have communicated with, even in the past…that Ive only heard from three of them wondering whassup.

    i’ve never emailed brian; can’t say that i’m keen to. but i reckon he’s been deluged with emails from the place. waiting is, as they say. i may use this sometime to anchor a diary, but i stumbled upon it recently, and am/was enthralled. bruce cockburn covers mark heard; it’s what underpins all the best activism, community and civil projects, and imagining and working toward a better world:

  16. FYI
    Firedoglake 19 hrs ·
    Sorry about the outages folks, we’re doing as much as we can to fix it.

  17. That sounded abrupt, and looks poorly spaced. Sorry. Making coffee now.

  18. ‘abrupt’, lol. so was their facebook announcement, but…better late than never, i reckon. poorly spaced doesn’t count off on your grade though. the commenting software doesn’t help one bit.

    thank you, marym

  19. Kevin Gosztola @kgosztola · 3h 3 hours ago
    Yes, @firedoglake has been down for couple days due to unusual activity overwhelming servers. Tech support on it & we’ll be back soon.

  20. allow me to quote a hobbit homily:

    “need brooks no delay…yet better late than never.”

    (i’ll keep my own counsel on where i reckon this is heading.)

    thank you again, marym.

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