Renowned peace activist and Jesuit Priest, Father Bill Bichsel, was recently placed in solitary confinement at SeaTac Federal Detention Center south of Seattle for violating his visitor privileges.
His guests? A pair of Buddhist monks.
Bichsel – who has a history of participating in nonviolent protests at military bases and nuclear weapons manufacturers – was arrested recently after protesting the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (the future home of a new nuclear weapons plant).
The activist priest, who suffers from a heart condition, was moved from the federal facility to a halfway house due to concerns about his health. The facility apparently has a rule prohibiting visitors during a prisoner's first 72 hours on site. However, according to the Disarm Now Plowshares' blog, when a pair of Buddhist monks and a group of students converged on the facility to drum for him and support him, Bichsel ("Bix") was removed from the facility and placed in solitary confinement back at SeaTac for violating his visitor privileges:
Bix was very happy to see and hear all who came to visit and wanted either to invite everyone in or go out and be with them.
His captors, on the other hand, had a slightly different experience. First reprimanding him for being out of compliance (whatever that meant), he was told he was going to be “written up." The rest is history – in early morning he was suddenly awakened, grabbed out of bed, shackled, and returned to SeaTac by the marshals.
Bichsel, who was placed in solitary confinement on January 10 and, as of January 24, remained there, has been fasting to protest his treatment. For Bichsel, the treatment has been severe. On a recent call to an activist friend, he said, “I cannot sleep at all, 24 hours a day without sleep, fighting off the chill. I have asked for a jacket or a pillow or a mattress; they do not comply.”
According to Solitary Watch, Bichsel is not the only peace activist to be held in solitary confinement at the facility:
Several other religious peace activists have been held in solitary confinement at the SeaTac SHU in recent years. They include members of a group of others (all of them over 60 years old) who in 2009 broke into the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base outside Seattle, where nuclear submarines are kept. At their trial for trespassing and conspiracy, the judge criticized the defendents’ “lack of remorse” and called their protest “a form of anarchy” that could lead to a “breakdown in the social order.”
Father Bichsel's treatment, and the practice of placing of peace activists in solitary confinement, should be strongly condemned. You can contact Marion Feather, the Warden at SeaTac, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-870-5700 and express your views on the matter.
From Occupy Wall Street protesters fighting corruption to elderly religious leaders fighting against nuclear weapons, the disproportionate use of force and punitive measures against those fighting against injustice continues to grow.
All the while, the true criminals remain free.
Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG
Author's Note 1:
The following entry was just posted at Disarm Now Plowshares, which relays a letter recently written by "Bix" on his condition:Yesterday I received a letter written by Bix on January 24. I believe Bix’s own words best describe how he is doing; so, here they are:
On fasting and Intentionality: “I don’t ask that I be removed from the SeaTac SHU. I find peace and connection with all of you in here. I feel a real sense of God’s presence and a calling to nurture and live out this freedom God has given me. I’m more weak today from the fast and have decided to end the fast tomorrow in the evening. “
On gratitude and community: “Thank you hugely for the vigils – in the arctic weather – and for the tremendous outpouring of help and consciousness you have brought about. Overwhelmed and humbled am I.”
On health: “I would like to express my heartfelt love to all of you working to better my condition. I now have four blankets and some itching cream. I did not sleep, but am not out of shape by it. I am deeply sustained by my liquid-only fast.”
Author's Note 2:
From jpmassar:Disarm Now Plowshares has provided addresses for public officials (scroll to bottom) to whom supporters can write, as well as the prison address of Fr. Bichsel.