Judge vacates fines for protesters

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Courts > ‘LANL 6’ set to perform community service

By Tris DeRoma

Each side got its share of justice recently when a group of anti-nuclear activists learned the final outcome of a petition they filed with the Los Alamos Municipal Court.

Shortly after they were sentenced in January for blocking the road and disobeying a police officer during a demonstration on the corner of Diamond Drive and East Jemez Road in August of last year, the six demonstrators petitioned the court to drop their fines in favor of performing community service. In February, Judge Alan Kirk informed them that the court vacated their fines in exchange for community service hours. That ruling has freed the protesters to work for an organization of their choosing.

Jeffrey Haas, the attorney for the group dubbed the “LANL Six,” welcomed the change in heart. 

“It was a result of the defendants’ strong principles that Judge Kirk allowed them to convert their fines to community service with organizations with whom they had political agreement in their own communities.  A good precedent.”

Their arrests occurred Aug. 6 of last year, a day known to anti-nuclear activists as “Hiroshima Day,” when nuclear weaponry was first used in warfare. The six protesters were arrested when they walked out into the intersection of Diamond Drive and East Jemez Road to block commuters trying to get to their jobs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. 

The protesters included Catherine Euler, Barbara Grothus, Benjamin Abbott, Janet Greenwald, Pamela Gilchrist and Cathie Sullivan. On Jan. 9, Kirk found them guilty of “obstructing movement” and refusing to obey an officer. They received fines of $100 each for the two guilty charges. He also sentenced the protesters to one year of probation each and charged each one to pay $142 in court fees.

Gilchrist said the judge has assigned each of them 20 hours of community service in lieu of fines. She said that this will allow her to work on her cause, preventing global warming. During their trial, Kirk allowed the protesters to explain their motives and why they were there at LANL. Among the issues that came up was global warming which the protesters equated as the real threat to national security, not terrorism. 

Gilchrist chose to work at “New Energy Economy” an organization that seeks way to aid New Mexico’s economy through alternative forms of energy. 

“Their emphasis is to work on bringing renewable energy sources to our state’s economy,” Gilchrist said. Her job will be to help circulate petitions for the company. Currently, she is helping the organization raise funds to install solar panels on the Tesuque Pueblo Firehouse.

She’s glad that the court was able to render a favorable decision.

“I think they saw that we were very serious about our cause and that we really were trying to make difference,” she said.

Barbara Grothus will work at OffCenter in Albuquerque, an arts studio that works to make art accessible to the disadvantaged. The studio essentially offers space for artists to come and make their art for little or no charge. 

“To be honest, I was hoping we were going to be doing some jail time, but (Kirk) did not want to give us that,” Grothus said. “Anyway, it’s nice to give back to the community in some way.”