7 June 2003
Sister Ardeth Platte's weekend will be full of happy reunions with Lansing-area friends and family she hasn't seen in almost a year.
The visits are bittersweet, though, because she won't see them again for a while. The 67-year-old Dominican nun is headed to prison.
In a controversial case that has garnered national attention, Platte and two fellow nuns face a sentence of up to eight years for breaking into a federal missile silo in Colorado.
"We broke laws, and when we did it, we expected it would be punished," Platte said. "We decided we would accept the consequences of our actions joyfully."
Platte , who was born in Lansing and grew up in Westphalia , joined fellow protester Carol Gilbert on Friday to speak to about two dozen supporters at Central United Methodist Church in downtown Lansing.
The three peace activists smeared their own bottled blood on the silo and pounded on it with hammers after breaking in Oct. 6. The act symbolized that they would rather lose their own blood than have American missiles take the blood of another, they said.
The nuns had assumed they would be charged with misdemeanor trespassing - as a priest was for a similar act in 2001. They have been jailed for acts of protest many other times.
Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Colorado , said that was a key factor in prosecuting the nuns for obstruction of national defense and injury to government property, a felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
The nuns served nearly seven months in jail awaiting trial. A jury convicted them in April, and they are free until sentencing July 25, when Dorschner said he expects them to receive sentences of five to eight years.
The sentences will serve as a warning to others who hope to commit similar crimes, he said.
Anabel Dwyer, a Cooley Law School professor who is coordinating the nuns' defense, said the sentences are far too harsh.
"To even think about putting away these ladies for eight years, let alone 30 years, is insane," Dwyer said. "It's stupid. It's crazy. It shows the upside-down thinking of this country."
Platte said after they broke into a missile silo on federal land, members of the bomb squad, the FBI and other departments swarmed the three nuns "like storm troopers," surrounding them with M-165s, grenade launchers and guns.
The three were handcuffed and forced to lie face down on the ground for hours.
"There's some butterflies in your stomach, but there's a lot of trust in God," Platte said. "At that point, we were pretty much at peace. We had accomplished the action."
Bill Lugger, a pastor at St. Casimir Church in Lansing , said he admired the nuns' courage.
"I think it's a very powerful witness of the gospel of social justice," Lugger said. "But there are other ways to show criticism of the way the government is spending money."
After visiting relatives that she hasn't seen since the incident, Platte will push on to Traverse City , Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo to continue thanking the supporters who sent them 30 to 50 letters a day in jail.
She said some local friends and family members who are ill or elderly won't be alive when she gets out.
"I know it will be a long journey," Platte said. "But we're not afraid.
"We're just hoping and praying that this work for peace will not be in vain, that God will hear our prayers as a nation and a world, and that people will continue to work for peace."
Contact Dan Kittle at 377-1194 or firstname.lastname@example.org