On Tuesday, a federal judge sentenced three peace activists to three and five years of prison time and a joint fine of $53,000 for basically…embarrassing the government. With no experience in security, they managed to break into a nuclear plant in Knoxville, Tennessee. They set off alarms, but they still had two hours before they got caught, in which they spray painted, hung banners, and hammered off a chunk of the Enriched Uranium Metals facility, among other activities, to protest America’s reserve of nuclear weapons. The demonstration exposed a flawed security system. The contractors were replaced, security forces were retrained, and The National Nuclear Security Administration added several security measures.
U.S District Judge Amul Thapar said, “If all that energy and passion was devoted to changing the laws, perhaps real change would’ve occurred by today,” and that he hopes the threat of jail time will “lead people back to the political process I fear they’ve given up on.” It is certainly preferable to change the laws legally, but I think this situation is one of the exceptions because it is against international law to not have proper security at a nuclear plant, and a threat to the public safety. Going through the political process may have taken a lot longer; the activists were able to get the government’s attention quickly, which is the most important thing in a potentially hazardous situation. The government was far more in the wrong here, and they are going even further in by punishing peaceful citizens who have done our country a favor.