Catholic Workers attending the Midwest Catholic Worker Faith and Resistance Gathering were among dozens who participated in nonviolent direct actions at Truax Air National Guard Base and Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ office on Monday to oppose the deployment of F-35 fighter jets to the base.
More than 40 activists gathered in the pre-dawn cold to block the shift change at Truax ANG Base to protest the F-35 fighter jets that are scheduled to be deployed there as early as April. The jets were opposed by the MMSD School Board and the Madison City Council. The activists called for Gov. Evers to change the mission of Truax ANG base to a peaceful one.
While most vehicles turned away from the gate, two vehicles struck protesters, according to Justin Novotney (Great Turning Catholic Worker, Madison, Wisconsin). One vehicle traveling about 20 mules per hour struck a protester while moving through the gate. Another vehicle was stopped by protesters but knocked Novotney down as it inched forward.
In audio captured by Helena White, a reporter for WORT radio, Novotney and others can be heard attempting to de-escalate the situation.
The group issued the following statement:
We come here today, March 27, 2023 to say: ground the F-35 fighter jet and abolish war! The F-35 fighter jet is a threat to the planet. It should not be based in Madison or anywhere.
Under state law, the Air National Guard provides protection of life and property and preserves peace, order and public safety, but the ANG at Truax violates that mandate. ANG bases in several states provide emergency relief during floods, earthquakes and forest fires; search and rescue operations; medical missions. Fighter jets can’t “preserve peace, order and public safety.” They are worthless in a natural disaster. They are not effective for search and rescue. They can’t help maintain vital public services. The F-35 is only an instrument of war and more than ever before, the ANG at Truax will threaten the lives of civilians abroad and degrade the quality of life in Madison.
The F-35, wherever it is deployed, will degrade the environment, intensify climate chaos, intensify the horrors of present wars and precipitate new ones. Due to the expansion of NATO and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the threat of nuclear annihilation has never been so grave as now. Placing the F-35 at Truax will make Madison a target in any nuclear confrontation with Russia. But in reality, nowhere on earth will be safe.
We urgently call on the governor of Wisconsin, on the Adjutant General of the Wisconsin National Guard, on the commander of Truax Field, on the state’s legislature and congressional delegation to change the mission of Truax. We call upon world leaders to disarm and abolish war and on the world’s people to join us in this demand.
“We came to block this base and stop war crimes in progress,” said Brian Terrell (Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker, Maloy, Iowa). “It’s a very small thing, but it’s not insignificant that people coming into the base, they’re stopped in their tracks and they’re having to see that there are people speaking out here. It’s not dramatic, but I think it’s a good morning’s work.”
Later in the morning, a group of protesters entered Governor Evers’ office to deliver a letter and ask for a meeting between the governor and the Madison residents who will be most affected by noise from the jets at the base. A spokesperson for the governor told the protesters that no one was available to speak to them, but the protesters occupied the office, singing anti-war songs.
The F-35 is the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history, with the Pentagon projecting the cost of development, procurement, and deployment at more than $1.7 trillion over its 60-year lifespan. The jets are also four times louder than the F-16s they will be replacing at Truax ANG Base, raising concerns about the impact on nearby residents and children at nearby schools and daycare centers.
The action was covered by local media, including WORT radio and television stations WKOW and Channel:3000:
Theo Kayser, a St. Louis-based Catholic Worker, live-streamed the event on his Facebook and Instagram accounts:
Cover photo: Catholic Workers attending the Midwest Catholic Worker Faith and Resistance Gathering carried signs and banners Sunday as they walked to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church for breakfast and Mass. Photo credit: Jerry Windley-Daoust