A trio of protesters dressed as clowns decided to take nuclear disarmament into their own hands last week when they broke into a nuclear missile launch facility in North Dakota.
Carl Kabat, OMI, a retired Catholic priest from St. Louis, and Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, both military veterans from Duluth, Minn., were arrested after breaking into the Echo-9 missile launch facility, which houses a Minuteman III missile with nuclear warheads and is located in McLean County, west of the town of Garrison.
Staff Sergeant Trevor Tiernan of the Minot Air Force Base told ABC News members of the 91st Missile Security Forces Squadron responded "within minutes" of the protesters approaching the facility's fence. When asked for an exact number of minutes, Staff Sergeant Tiernan again said it was "within minutes." But when ABC News talked to Michael Miles of Nukewatch, the group for which the three men are volunteers, he said the airmen showed up "45 minutes" after the three protesters broke into the site.
Whichever it was, it was enough time for the three protesters to cut through the outer fence with bolt cutters, pound the concrete lid of the missile's silo with sledgehammers and paint "Disarm" on the casing.
The activists were apprehended by the airmen once they arrived and held until local authorities came. Kabat, Boertje-Obed and Walli were all charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief, both Class A misdemeanors, which carry a one-year prison sentence and $2,000 penalty in North Dakota. Bond was set at $500 for each.
According to McLean Sheriff Don Charging, the FBI had issued federal retainers on the activists. And they have each been charged with two federal counts of sabotaging national defense material. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 5.
In a statement posted on the web by the activists the day they broke into the missile launch facility, the men said, "We have chosen to start the process of transformation and disarmament by hammering on and pouring our blood on components of the Minuteman III nuclear missile system." As for their costumes, the men wrote, "We dress as clowns to show that humor and laughter are key elements in the struggle to transform the structures of destruction and death."
All three men are volunteers for Nukewatch, a Wisconsin-based group dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons, which issued its own statement on its website detailing the men's actions. Speaking on behalf of Nukewatch, Miles said the trio's actions are in accordance with the group's purpose.
All in all, there is no time to be clowning around. The Minuteman III missile is an intercontinental ballistic missile developed with three nuclear warheads, although most are now being downgraded to one warhead in accordance with past agreements and treaties, according to several websites. They are contained in hardened silos to protect against attack and are connected to an underground launch control center.