The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 are seen in early April 2019, before they entered a naval base in southeastern Georgia and symbolically damaged weapons systems. Elizabeth McAlister is third from left. (CNS photo | Kings Bay Plowshares)


By Renée K. Gadoua | Contributing writer

Catholic peace activist Elizabeth McAlister will not spend additional time in prison for breaking into a nuclear submarine base in Georgia in April 2018. McAlister, 80, was sentenced today to time served, ordered to pay restitution and was placed on three years supervised release, Kings Bay Plowshares 7 announced on Twitter. 

The longtime Catholic Worker served nearly 18 months in a county jail in Georgia and faced up to 25 years in federal prison. She and her co-defendants were charged with conspiracy, depredation of government property, destruction of government property, and trespassing.

McAlister told the court during the sentencing hearing she was motivated to act by Jesus’ call to nonviolence and the Bible.

“I’ve tried to follow the instruction of the prophet Isaiah who clearly says we have to beat our swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and to stop teaching war,” she said, according to Catholic News Service. “All my life I have spoken and written against nuclear weapons. I believe these are contrary to life. These are destructive to life on every single level.”

McAlister, of New London, Connecticut, is the widow of Phil Berrigan (1923-2002), a former Josephite priest and longtime peace activist. She and six people known as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 were convicted in October 2019 of three felonies and a misdemeanor in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia in Brunswick, Ga. 

The group includes Martha Hennessy, a granddaughter of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day, whose cause for canonization is underway; Jesuit Father Steve Kelly; Patrick O’Neill, of Garner, N.C.; Mark Colville, of New Haven, Conn; and Clare Grady of Ithaca, Diocese of Rochester.

McAlister and Grady participated in the 1983 Plowshares action at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome. They entered the base in the early morning and hammered dents into a B-52 bomber. Both were found guilty and sentenced to federal prison after a trial in Syracuse.

McCalister was sentenced June 8 from her home by video conferencing because of the coronavirus pandemic. The other defendants are scheduled for sentencing June 29.

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