Charles Geisler

Charles Geisler is an Ithaca resident and retired sociologist from Cornell. His research before retiring focused on military/security matters. He is a voluntary community correspondent covering the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 trial in Georgia. Read more letters and coverage of the trial here.


BRUNSWICK, G.A. — The Brunswick trial of the KBP7 is over. Or is it? I’m tempted to offer a post-mortem but it seems inappropriate. The seven defendants deserve better. The matters that brought them here in 2018 and led to their arrest and trial are so valiantly about life. Postpartum reflection and hope more aptly describe the defendants’ current mood.

After the trial ended last Thursday, a crowd gathered on the courthouse steps. The defendants, convicted on all counts, stepped forward to speak. Each in their fashion offered gratitude, with notable serenity, to supporters worldwide and to the many assembled in Brunswick. They thanked their attorneys for their diligence and the prosecution for their humanity. Far from being catastrophic, they seemed to be saying, the trial plowed open new fields awaiting new seeds of future commitment.

So in this sense, the trial is part of a redemptive and persevering process. The plowshares forged from modern swords and guns have still more work to do until nuclear weapons are banned.

Since our car arrived from Ithaca on the Friday before the trial, I observed the defendants closely. I was humbled by their stamina, gentle courage, and use of their religion. Again and again, they asked the prosecution, the jury, the judge, and the courtroom to look beyond the confines of trespass and property law and to consider the vast banality of evil embodied in Trident submarines instead.

The prosecution fought—successfully it turns out—to keep jury attention focused on small counts of criminality as if the defendants were vandals or unpatriotic hoodlums. Much attention fell on backpack contents such as tools, spray paint, and cameras. In fact, the defendants videoed their entry and protest action entirely to memorialize what they did and assure that the world would see their message. As the lead attorney, Bill Quigly, put it, in their minds and consciences they were not committing a crime at Kings Bay but preventing one.

The backpack focus reminded me of Tim O’Brien’s revered book on Vietnam, “The Things They Carried.” There’s an obvious parallel. One can focus on the physical items and equipment soldiers (or defendants) carried on their missions and miss what they carried inside of themselves–what they personally thought of the mission that engulfed them and why. Fifty years from now we will look back, not at backpacks and bolt cutters but at the flagrant missteps, our country has taken in erecting Trident temples and excusing the killing fields that will one day follow.

My thanks to the Kings Bay Plowshares 7.