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Anti-nuclear activists' trial continues

Federal attorney: Case a matter of crossing a line

By Matt Lakin

May 9, 2011

Prosecutors say the trial amounts to a simple case of crossing the line.

The defense says it's about the survival of the human race.

Testimony continues today in the federal misdemeanor trial of a dozen anti-nuclear activists accused of trespassing on the grounds of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. Another protester will be tried separately because of illness.

The activists, whose ranks include academics and Catholic nuns, don't deny they crossed the blue line in front of Y-12 during a peace rally July 5. They say they were obeying a higher law.

"These arsenals are not safe," said Bradford Lyttle, one of the protesters who's acting as his own lawyer. "A mathematical probability analysis shows they will be used, accidentally or intentionally. That use will mean the end of civilization. What we did was not something that should be condemned, does not deserve the word of guilt and does not deserve punishment."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore said the whole case comes down to a line on the pavement.

"They exercised their First Amendment rights," he told the jury. "That wasn't enough. They decided to cross the line. They openly and intentionally broke the law. They knew what they were doing. They wanted to be arrested."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton ruled last month the activists can't argue U.S. nuclear policy violates international law. That didn't stop the defense from comparing their clients' protest to the Boston Tea Party, civil-rights pioneer Rosa Parks' refusal to sit at the back of the bus, and other acts of civil disobedience from biblical times to the present.

Y-12 manager Ted Sherry testified the protesters didn't put up a fight but couldn't have overlooked the warning signs and orders from guards to stop.

The case could take two to three days.