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Clowns for Peace

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Protest can take many forms. From a singular person starving on a doorstep to thousands flooding the streets, people have many ways of making their voices heard. One interesting North Dakota protest occurred on this date in 2006, involving three men dressed as clowns at the site of a nuclear missile silo near the Minot Airforce Base.

Retired Roman Catholic Priest Father Carl Kabat and veterans Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli were arrested after they marched to the missile silo, which housed a 40-ton Minuteman III first-strike nuclear missile. The protestors wrote on the silo, “If you want peace, work for justice,” signing it with “Plowshares.” They also hammered the dial lock to make it unusable and poured blood on it. They also hung a sign on the fence that read, “Weapons of mass destruction here,” and spray painted: “It’s a sin to build a nuclear weapon.”

Mike Walli enlisted in the army as a young man and served two tours in Vietnam. He had issues with the war-centered U.S. economy. He said, “Martin Luther King, Jr. preached that the United States is the chief purveyor of violence in the world. We must become a people-oriented society rather than a thing-oriented society.”

Greg Boertje-Obed served as an officer and he reflected on that time saying, “When I was in the military…It became clear that all the preparations for a nuclear war were wrong. In contrast, Jesus taught “Love your enemies…don’t fear those who can kill the body… those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

Father Kabat was slightly older than the other two, and had been a child when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was quoted as saying: “When these bombs were dropped…I was too young to realize what had happened. Those bombings were war crimes…The indiscriminate killing of children, women, old people and everyone else certainly cannot be accepted under any just theory of war.”

On November 15, 2006, Kabat, was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Boetje-Obed was given a sentence of 12 months and one day. Walli received 8 months. All were ordered to pay $17,000 in restitution. Despite those penalties, the three men would be arrested at multiple other protests against nuclear weapons in the following years.

Dakota Datebook by Lucid Thomas


Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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